Mary Stanik

Mary Stanik
Minneapolis, Minnesota,
September 22
Communications consultant. I hike, I skate, I love Canada, and I think every life should have some wild child left in it. I'm @mstanik0 on Twitter. And I soon will publish my first novel, which involves a psychic, an Icelandic volcano, and a young hospital spokesperson desperately in need of a life less ordinary.

Mary Stanik's Links
Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 16, 2011 9:43AM

Holidays and the Single Girl

Rate: 39 Flag

So the major holidays are nearly upon us.  For single women such as myself who won’t be able to be with family because they live thousands of miles away (and whether this is a good or bad thing can be debated at another time), it might be a time for tears, whisky, Cosmopolitans, or marathon viewings of (pick one or all):  The Twilight Zone, That Girl, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sex in the City or Law and Order. 

Now while I’m a real fan of whisky, especially the Canadian variant, and have often justified and explained my single life, if only to myself, as a mix of some Marlo Thomas, a bit of Mary Tyler Moore, some Sex in the City Samantha and Charlotte, and a little Jackie Kennedy minus Jack, Ari, Maurice or many millions of dollars, I shall shed no tears this Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Nor will I indulge too much in said Canadian libation.

It’s not that I won’t miss my mother and two brothers.  But given the fact that they live in Arizona and I’m in the Great White North of Minnesota and my experience as a spokesperson for a big airline taught me to never travel through American airports during any holiday (as well as to never use the pillows and blankets that used to be routinely offered during flights), I’ll be making my own sort of merry this holiday season.  Don’t worry, I’ll go and visit them between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when airports and planes are less full of people and their blanket and pillow germs.

Of course, I have received a few invitations to join friends and their families for Thanksgiving.  The Christmas asks have yet to arrive.  Now some of you might think, oh, how nice, she’s not that alone, she has friends and isn’t living in a cloistered somewhat convent crocheting doilies while six cats loll about the place amidst silver-framed portraits of past loves gone wrong or dead. 

But if any of you, male or female, have ever gone alone to someone else’s family holiday gathering, you might have very much sympathy for my wish to avoid such events. 

It’s not so much that such gatherings are like the sorts of whack gatherings you see in some movies.  It’s that such gatherings are often even worse than what is depicted in some movies.

First there are the parties where people are just plain nasty to one another and dinner is not so much about stuffing and pumpkin pie but about how she became a fat bitch or he’s been a total bastard since the Kennedy administration and she should have divorced him back when he had enough money to pay her decent alimony.  I’ve been to holiday celebrations where (pick one or several, and sometimes at the same party) someone’s uncle, grandfather, brother, father, husband, boyfriend or building superintendent hit on me.  Often the offending party was beyond fragrantly drunk and more offensive than a dead dog at the state fair but much of the time they were just frat boy stupid and completely full of themselves.  Such people don’t mix well with alcohol, overcooked turkey or wives and girlfriends who “just don’t understand” them and their complicated ways. 

I remember one quite crowded party I went to while living in Washington, D.C.  The boyfriend of an acquaintance moved in on me while I was trying to move in on some of the creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve experienced in this life.  Now any guy who really wants to get through to me doesn’t get in between me and some great mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving or Christmas, especially when they come with smooth gravy that doesn’t taste of cornstarch.  He damn near knocked my plate out of my hands while explaining to me, in between labored and fermented breaths, that “she’s used to me getting around at a party, because she knows I am just not made to not explore.”  I remember telling my acquaintance a few days later that she really ought to either dump the guy or get him a subscription to National Geographic. 

Then there are the gatherings where unattached women are pretty much put in the kitchen and asked to help out.  You do end up washing pots or whatever but you also get to hear other women, either happily married younger women or bitterly married older women (or reversed) ask you why in God’s name you are still unmarried.  Once an older woman, after having been assured by me that I was not one of those lesbians (not that such would be wrong in a modern world), told me that “you know, honey, men like women who don’t think too much.  You think too much.  And maybe don’t go around looking quite so dolled up for Thanksgiving.”  I think I went home, put on more eyeliner, and read some Sartre.

So what will I end up doing this Thanksgiving?  Actually, I think it will be a pretty good day.  I’ll get up early and do my Pilates and weights workout while watching some of the big balloons in the Macy’s parade.  I’ll make myself some creamy mashed potatoes in the style of “America’s Test Kitchen.”  Of course, I’ll do email, see if anything worthwhile is going on in the worlds of Twitter and Facebook, and see what my friends on Open Salon have to say about the day.  If the weather is decent, and it could be, we have had decent weather in this part of the world at this time of year, I’ll go out for a long walk along the Mississippi River after lunch.  Even if it is cold and snowy, I’ll still do some hiking.  Creamy mashed potatoes do require as much.  I’ll talk on the phone with my mother and brothers and probably some distant friends and then I’ll see if anything decent is on television.  I have two new Jackie Kennedy books to read as well.  And maybe I’ll write something.

So while no Donald will come over, as was the case with That Girl Marlo Thomas, I am not expecting a maudlin holiday season.  I don’t have to work in the newsroom on Christmas as Mary Tyler Moore did, even though Lou, Murray and Ted came to visit her anyway.

A toast of good Canadian whisky to everyone from this single girl this holiday season.  You never know.  We might just make it after all.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Aww! Great post! It sounds like you have the holiday thing under control. Some of the stories you related were more than awful.
Hey! Friend request me on Facebook and follow me on twitter~
: D
LOL from another single girl. I've heard that bit about women that think too much, too. The most recent advice was to let a guy know that I needed him to do something for me besides be there. Apparently inspecting the crawl space and cleaning the gutters aren't sufficient need.

My Thanksgiving will be spent with family this year. There have been years I wished they were far away, and my first holiday season in Indiana I spent at my Grandparent's grave site because none of the cousins wanted me around and my parents and sisters were far away. I know, but different years.

I hope you have a perfectly wonderful time on Thanksgiving. See you on OS then.
Such a well written piece about an emotional subject. My mother and I are it on holidays now. My boyfriend of the last four years was a good sport to join us but since he died I am realizing again what alone means. I don't really like it. But it is better than trouble. So I raise my glass to you and hope for lots of great holiday writing. Thank you for this.
What a coincidence I was just thinking getting "That Girl" reruns. In my post op recovery I have been binging on the 60s and 70s culture of the single woman ( AN Unmarried Woman and Rona Jaffe) It is so interesting to see how we have moved past wanting to get a husband...and yet. I always invite my single friends for the holidays only because they are more fun.
Eh, holidays. One of the blessings of the (now) single life is I can ignore all that crap. Family holiday get-togethers were bad enough, but the pity-parties thrown for a gaggle of single loners were even worse, shudder.

Of course, I will be going to a couple of Yule parties - but they're actually with people I enjoy and who (hardly ever) get bad-crazy at these things. I guess it's the difference between voluntary chosen parties and those family obligation things...
Well done. I was single for many years and I got so I HATED holidays. I hated always being in some one else's home and never being able to do my own thing because I had a tiny apartment.
I'm going to be in Canada all of December, so I'll make sure to throw down some of their fine whiskey. But I love Thanksgiving, and even if I was alone, I'd still cook a turkey with all the trimmings, and then subsist on leftovers for the next week.
For Frank and everyone else who might want some Canadian whisky, I have to say you have to go with the best: Crown Royal.
Sounds like you've created a great life for yourself, and shouldn't worry about all of the rest. Salud, amiga. It would be fun to share a bottle of Crown Royal with you and taste those mashed potatoes. BTW: Has anyone ever told you that you look a lot like Venezuelan actress/singer María Conchita Alonso (when she was in her heyday)?
The holidays are much ado about nothing! Single or married, I've never liked the huge deal people make about them, almost always leading to some sort of family drama. Ugh! Hilarious piece!
I take my VO with ginger ale and my CC with 7-Up but never the other way around, thank-you! I did a bunch of single girl holidays in my mid-years (36-46), in a strange town far from friends and family. One of the best was in 1996 when I spent the entire day in my chatroom at the time, regaling visitors from around the globe (well, Australia, Ireland, and England) with the story of the first Thanskgiving. I ate a Lean Cuisine turkey dinner and sipped VO & ginger all day. And yes, I had turned down several well-intentioned invites to other people's family dinners . Holidays as a single gal just never did bother me! We don't do much more now that I have become a couple, either!
Mary, a thought provoking post about the holidays and being single! Having been in that spot in my earlier years I remember being not so thrilled. As an example, I remember going to various clients' holiday parties where there were lots of spouses present and being single really was on my mind in that type of situation. It sounds like you have a wonderful approach to this and I applaud your ideas and positive outlook! Kudos on the EP!
We like to extend the invite to our waif and stray friends, but we don't have one of those maudlin families steeped in tradition (other than the whole dining room table/silverware/family on the mayflower stuff). If anything, we already know we get boring, so happy to include others and make it more interesting. There aren't any drunks or lechers, and if there were, they'd be uninvited. We're in Phoenix too, so you can join us instead Mary. :)
Actually, those Thanksgiving dinners sound like a lot of fun! I could get a month's worth of blogging material out of it.

Have a great holiday, Mary, and I'll remember to raise a glass in your honor.
I am thinking along the same lines. I have had one too many holiday dinners that were nothing but eating because it was required. I love my family, but this year I may just hang out at home and pop a Trader Joe's Tarte D'Alsace in the oven. Thanks for a game plan. A well deserved EP indeed.
rated with love
What a wonderful post, Mary, simply wise and beautiful. Even though Preferring Canadian Whiskey over Scotch hurts my feelings! R
THANK. YOU. You've summed it up, although, I haven't been invited to another family's holiday dinner since I voted for Obama...
Mary, if you haven't tried it, I highly recommend "Alberta Springs". The 10 year vintage rye is extremely smooth, with a lovely finish. It's 40% alcohol and comes in a nice bottle (not plastic). I am noting, on my Google reminders, to turn to Minnesota on the November holiday and raise a glass of this Canadian rye whisky to you.

*Cheers, Mary!*
I just love this. I love that you don't feel the pressure to "be" somewhere on a holiday. I love that you have a plan that includes pilates, mashed potatoes and a walk along the Mississippi River. Oh yes, and I love the writing! ~r
I've spent plenty of "holidays" by myself and altho a twinge of lonely nostalgia may drift thru the day I much prefer the solitude to the kinds of forced bonhomie that dutiful gatherings often bring. It might have something to do with being raised in the Midwest where family ties don't seem to be as tightly woven as in the South. I enjoy reading about Southern family gatherings, such as those described her so exquisitely by Bellwether Vance, in which everyone seems to accept everyone else despite their imperfections and, at times, their obnoxities. I'm Midwestern raised and Southern living going on four decades. Even tho I'll probably never completely fit into the Southern family comfort zone my sensibilities have softened to these Dixie style gatherings.

I'll think of you, Mary, when one of my in-laws, after a tad too much Thanksgiving wine, starts boring me with predictions that The Newt shall riiiiiiise again.
great post! if you lived closer, we'd invite you over for pierogi night. nothing says holiday like making pierogi's with friends and a glass of...something. i think working with the dough just brings people together. we cook a batch and everybody takes some home. let me know if you need the receipe.
Mary, Just for fun, check this out :)
Hey great post, sounds like a wonderful holiday, can I ditch the family and come by for whiskey?
I love being curled up and having favorites foods and old movies for the holidays. Somehow, no one I know what to do this?
To each her own, I say! Personally, I like a Thanksgiving gathering and I'm happiest when hosting/cooking. 10-12 is the perfect number of guests in my mind. I shall think of you when eating potatoes and drinking whisky, though mine is apt to be bourbon on that day.
Geez Mary, between you and Dear Prudence in Slate, it's a wonder that anyone wants to get together for Thanksgiving. Still, you sound pretty well grounded so bottoms up and please work on some airline or Washington stories.
"If the weather is decent, and it could be, we have had decent weather in this part of the world at this time of year, I’ll go out for a long walk along the Mississippi River after lunch." This sounds divine. I have been known to walk even if the weather isn't decent. Happy holidays!

If my ill-fated 15-mo marriage taught me anything, it was that my own single life was better, and a lot more interesting. Not to mention that, single, I have more $$, more privacy and the sex is better...

The trick to flying solo is PLANNING. You can never be w/out a strategically-laid roadmap so you know exactly how to handle the situation at hand, be they holidays, family gathering, whatever.
Both my parents are gone, and my sibs aren't worth the heartache (one of them is the reason I'm divorced). So I've spent what have been the best 8 past holiday seasons that have been the most content of my life.

Single, alone and lonely are not mutually exclusive. I was never so lonely as I was while married. Being single is an art, and not everyone can do it and do it well--and I have. I never plan to remarry b/c life is so much better on my own. Not that I exclude male company, but just b/c they come over doesn't mean I have to keep 'em.

But once one resolves to be a solo flyer, reconcile oneself to spending a lot of time by yourself. You can either be BY yourself, or WITH yourself; how you see the show depends on where you sit. I've really come to enjoy my own companionship--and my cats and dog are there w/me too.

As for Ms Marlo--the only problem I had w/her is that she wasn't technically "single," but engaged--but she was still the first example of Young Woman On Her Own. MTM was truly single, and she was the one that I think represented single women. SATC not so much; in retrospect, those women were more "wealth porn" than anything else (did you ever meet a journalist who lived the way Carrie did?).

BTW--great post!
HA!! You are sooo like MTM!! I don't think you qualify as a single girl...since you are always with others. Your incredible personality shows through in this proud of you. Want a fun Thanksgiving?? Come and see Us here in South Africa!!
Another great post, Mary. Creamy mashed potatoes and Canadian whiskey sound much better than creepy enforced levity any day.
What is there to say...? LOVE, LOVE, LOVE YOUR WRITING! :-)
What a great piece. The line about thinking being a liability - hmm kind of reminds me of Mulan and the undervalued place of a thoughtful woman - "how bout a girl who's got a brain who always speaks her mind ? "

Give me a person where the lights are on over a sorority airhead anyday. Sounds like you have a plan - just deciding to be positive and avoiding the nutcases, family or not, is the key to enjoying the season. Those of us with families have to avoid too much politics, religion, etc. and have to be careful not to regale the same stories we've told the last 10 holidays. - I need an Iphone app for that to remind me who I've told what. Those without have to avoid weirdos and decide to be gentle with all they deal with including themselves. Hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a great time. DC9
Your truely insightful and deeply moving and seem to have a grip on somethings others just do not catch.
Holidays alone, oh yes. When I was single I was always invited to someone's house and it was always a great treat. More often, as an airline ticket agent, I was working that day. Then I was married and raising kids for a couple of decades and I loved those years a lot. Now I'm single again, working today, and I'll get a free Thanksgiving dinner at the cafeteria of the hospital that employs me.

The holidays are always what you make of them, and there's not just one way to do it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!
Excellent story. Many people underestimate the single life. Or want us to share their misery. Celebrating 25 single years.
My own Canadian preference would be Forty Creek, but I'm really more of a Scotch single-malt sort of fellow. Still, they both have the good sense to drop the "e" from "whisky", right? Huzzah! Vive les Canadiens!
Reading this is like savoring a box of chocolates...I want it to go on and on. A bit of Dorothy Parker, a dollop of Jean Webster...scrumptious!