How to survive Christmas when you’re single – and reshape the conversation

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  • With romance the last thing on anyone's mind, fielding pitying questions from smug marrieds is not what we need ever – let alone in the middle of a global pandemic. Luckily, author Lucy Vine has a wealth of witty comebacks to help you navigate Zoom party season as a singleton...

    There’s a running joke in my family about how, whenever I see my grandmother, she tilts her head at me and asks in a sad, sad voice, ‘Still no boyfriend?’

    It doesn’t matter how many things I achieve in my life – how many books I write, how many places I visit, how many other loved ones I’m surrounded by – none of it matters, because I’m still single. And it’s not just my grandmother who thinks my relationship status is paramount: work colleagues pat me sympathetically and tell me ‘it’ll be your turn next’. Friends set me up with their dad’s divorced golf partner. Drunk men in pubs offer to ‘pity bangme. And, come Christmas – with its schmaltzy, cosy matching jumpers – all this gets ten times worse.

    But times, as they say, are a-changing. New research has found single culture is on the rise, with a study by Lloyds Bank revealing 60 per cent of Brits are now choosing to be single, with 66 per cent of women stating they’re happy with their single status. Let me just repeat that for those of you still muttering ‘desperate spinster’ at the back: women are choosing to be single and we are HAPPY about it.

    So, as someone who’s been self-partnered (thanks, Emma Watson) for eight years now, here are the most common questions you should expect to be asked if you’re heading into this festive season as a singleton – and the best way to answer them.

    how to be single at Christmas

     Q1: Are you putting yourself out there enough, though?

    Because you must be doing something wrong, right? It can’t possibly be that you actually enjoy all the freedom and independence that singledom affords you.

    Answer: What an odd expression. Out where, exactly? If you could provide me with coordinates, I’ll be sure to get myself there with immediate effect.’

    Q2: Don’t you miss cuddles?

    OK, we all know that ‘cuddles’ is a euphemism. And, sure, this can be a downside to being single. But that’s what friends with benefits are for.

    A: ‘Being single doesn’t mean I’m not getting any, Grandpa Joe. I’m actually working my way through the UK’s penes and very much enjoying it, thank you for asking. How’s work?”

     Q3: Where’s Mark?

    Or, y’know, whoever your last ex was from a hundred years ago, who your relatives miss far more than you ever have.

    A: ‘I assume he’s still locked in my basement where I left him tied to a radiator. Let’s see him move on with someone else now, eh?’

     Q4: Do you think your standards might be too high?

    This is a particularly biting one, since it implies you’re uglier than you think you are.

    A: ‘Actually, my standards are super-low, as you can see from the fact that I’m talking to you.’

     Q5: But don’t you want a family?

    Popular with overbearing and overly familiar women of a certain age (hello, Joan and Jericha), it’s hard not to scream when this one rears it’s ugly head. Not only is it incredibly insensitive – with the potential to cause a lot of pain – it also makes some pretty huge assumptions about your life and long-term goals.

    A: ‘Oh, wow, maybe you didn’t realise what an incredibly personal question that is. Also, can we talk about your very narrow definition of “family”?’

    how to be single at Christmas

     Q6: Can I have a go on your Tinder?

    I swear, if I hear this more than once this Christmas, there will be a tinsel massacre. TINDER IS NOT FUN. STOP SAYING IT LOOKS FUN.

    A: ‘You can, but they do now require a blood sacrifice to log in. Your boyfriend over there didn’t seem to mind, though. Interesting…’

     Q7: Can I set you up?

    Everyone has one single person in their lives, at least peripherally, and obviously you’d be perfect together. He’s 45 years older and picks his nose while his mum hovers with a tissue, but he’s SINGLE! And therefore ideal.

    A: ‘Yes’ (come on, why not? It’s all good pub-chat fodder).

     Q8: Why are you single?

    Ah there you are, my old friend. If I had a pound for every time someone’s asked me this, I’d finally have enough money to get a really good-quality sex doll. The implication, of course, being that there’s something wrong with you. And there’s only so many times you can quote Bridget Jones about having scales under your clothes, right? So given the honest answer, instead.

    A: ‘Because I like it. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I can eat what I like, watch what I like, and focus completely on myself without feeling selfish. I can travel, plan adventures, spend my money on stupid things. And I don’t have to visit the in-laws on Boxing Day or ever wash someone else’s pants. Plus, I get all the purple Quality Streets to myself – in fact, pass them over.’

    Lucy’s latest book Are We Nearly There Yet? (Orion) is out now

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