Friday, December 12, 2014

Kris Single

I hope you caught that title pun.


A year ago, at Christmas, my sisters’ expanding families continued to flood the house with burps and breast milk and more little humans. I questioned aloud – half in jest, half honestly – “how long before I lose my room and am relegated to sleeping on the couch?”

“Don’t be silly. That’s not going to happen,” my mom replied.

I got a text from her the other night. This Christmas I’m sleeping on the couch. In the basement.

She told me that my sister’s kids need my room and my sister and her husband can’t sleep on the pull-out couch because there are two of them and only one of me. The other sister, pregnant again, somehow smashes all of her family into another small room. I know my mother does her best and the house is small and my sisters’ are ever expanding their families, but this makes me feel incredibly less important. And the logic of saying her kids take my room and so she gets the other bedroom and I get the couch, is lost on me. Why do other people's life choices mean that they deserve preferential treatment as I become second class?

And I’d like to point out that this is less about complaining and more about understanding – and commiserating. I debated writing about because I don't want my family to read this and get upset - or think this was somehow slighting them - but then I saw this bit of brilliance. And realized it's not just me. Singles aren't the ungrateful or complaining or unloving other child, we’re just a human...with feelings. It has greatly deepened my understanding of why Christmas time invites the highest rate of suicide. (Not that I’m suicidal - I just understand the adult magnification of these things now.)

When my mom texted me to tell me that my Christmas was as lowly basement dwelling couch-surfer, she said that I had a choice: Sleep in (what was previously) my small bedroom with two toddlers in a trundle bed or take the basement couch with partitions for “privacy”.

I replied, "I pick that [my sister whose kids took over my room] sleeps in the room with her kids. And I get my own space instead of being relegated to the couch. Like the one person who is used to her own space, gets none. That’s where I get anxious." It's important to note that single, childless people are used to their space and their quiet and putting them in a house with 12 people, including 5 kids, is like taking someone from a quiet white sand beach, throwing them into a squall and watching as they spin around going: WTF I WAS JUST ENJOYING MY FUCKING FROZEN DAIQUIRI IN PEACE?!

My mother continued by asking where my sister’s husband would sleep. I responded with something resembling: How about the sofa bed I'm being relegated to. "Since, you know, I don’t bring any extra people." She explained her reasoning to giving up my room to my nieces, which I understood. And I responded, done hiding all the bad things with, "Sometimes I feel less important because it is just me. I try to be flexible but sometimes that’s easier said than done."

Her advice was to look at it as “one big happy family,” instead of frustrating and she actually ended up being incredibly understanding, to the point of my near-tears.  However, just calling my new citizenship another name doesn't really work in the reality of December 25th: A sad clown with a painted smile is still sad. And on top of that, that 'big happy family' has all had children, so they have decided that they don’t want to buy adult gifts, because Christmas for them is about kids now. Which is also fine, but I am still expected to buy gifts for the kids. So then Christmas morning looks like this: Everyone is with their families, opening gifts. The single aunt is by herself in the corner - clandestinely crying into her coffee. (Just a little hyperbole.)

It’s not that I want things (I actually hate the consumerism of Christmas), but I want to feel like someone thought about me. Like fuck, we’re the only family she has, maybe we should get her something to show her someone loves her too. Or, nobody buys anyone anything and we just eat all day like Thanksgiving. I would be happy with that. Instead, it becomes: go spend money on half a dozen people and then nobody gets anything for you. (But...isn't this why I haven't had kids yet?!) 

I have come to realize that nothing makes you understand how very alone you are in the world quite like your family on Christmas if you’re the only solo one left. It is so incredibly possible to feel more lonely in the wrong room full of right people, than in any room alone. And I think this is particularly poignant for women. Men are bachelors. Savvy. Sexy. Whatever. And for women it’s like: Look at you with no kids in the corner with your coffee and your 200 pairs of shoes and "aw, old maid that's funny." It can be particularly difficult for women because society pressures and defines them by these fucked up standards - to be deemed worthy by husbands and motherhood - which Christmas magnifies.

In any case, it is an uncomfortable situation when that aunt/uncle/cousin/sister/brother/daughter/son is sitting quietly alone with their coffee, trying not to disturb the familial merriment they're subject to witness and their unaware family is just like, “What’s their problem? Did s/he want gifts?" No. That person just wants to matter still. Bridget still wants to be included in her family’s Christmas card. Why should she matter less for making decisions different than that of family members'? This isn't about the space in a house. It is about how much it hurts to feel less-than for choice not of your own -  probably more than mastisis.

I like the different-than-my sisters' choices I have made. I don’t want my worth to have to be defined by having a partner to bring home to family to get my own room - or just a bed. I don't think it is fair to say that having kids to feed makes the worth of my time or money or energy any different than that of a parents'. I get parenting is hard. Oh trust me, I do. But being single isn’t easy all the time either. Well, it is – except for Christmas on a lumpy couch and a cup of coffee as your new immediate family.

So this Christmas, think of the singles. They're just really, really big kids. And they depend on you too.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you!

I am a big fan of your blog. The way you write is funny and has a way of being accurate in regards to so many things.

But, I was wondering, what happened to the Turk?

Hatching West said...

Thank you!

An update or two on the Turk forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Um, clarification I agreed with jill on no adult gifts not u.

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