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DECEMBER 4, 2006

This being my first holiday season spent single in several years, a thought occurred to me as I listened to Christmas music sans significant other last weekend.  The thought was: “this sucks.”

I really liked the idea of being single when I had it back in August.  Going on first dates (even unmitigated bombs) amused me; there was no pressure to have a late summer or early fall evening filled entirely with love.  Lust – or a good war story (“And then he humped my leg!  No.  Seriously.”) – would suffice.

But the same leg humping that was so entertaining in September is just depressing in December.

Why?  SSAD – Single Seasonal Affect Disorder, of course.  In my haste to trumpet the joys of bachelorette-hood, I forgot all about it.  You know, that ineffable casual-dating malaise that begins just in time for Thanksgiving and lasts through the New Years hangover (at least).

You feel it when you buy a wreath – alone – or a tree – alone – or venture bravely down fifth avenue on Black Friday – alone.  You feel it when you go to holiday parties minus one.  You feel it when you think of your New Years plans.  Or lack thereof.

It’s not that it’s harder to find dates.  It isn’t (hello, holiday parties?).  But really, who wants to ‘grab sushi after’ with some random guy when it’s (supposed to be) snowing and you’re (supposed to be) snuggled with your true love under a blanket and he’s (supposed to be) thinking of ways to take you ice-skating or egg-nogging or Rockefeller-tree-gazing?  (Or, er, diamond-ring-buying?)

Sushi suddenly seems anticlimactic.  Unseasonable, really.

And then there’s the Holiday Hibernation, a theory espoused by my friend Christine.  “If you’re single on Thanksgiving, you’ll be single through Valentine’s Day,” she says.  “If you’ve got someone to curl up with at Thanksgiving, you’ll hold on to them through February.   Of course, then Spring Fever sets in and who knows?”

Great.  So if you’re sans S.O. and SSAD now, get used to it.

In spite of that, many people insist there are upshots to avoiding serious relationships during the holidays.

“That’s one less person you have to worry about getting a goddamn present for!” says Jennifer Chick, 23, a paralegal.

Good point.  Of course, that’s only if you’ve gone on a date or two.  What if you’ve gone on four dates – do you get a present then?  Send a card?  Dress up in a Sexy Santa Bikini Suit and do holiday-themed role play?  Do you invite them to Christmas dinner?  What are the RULES??

Actually, I think I can answer those: yes (a small one), if you want, absolutely, no and as far as the “rules” of holiday dating go, see below.

“One rule and one rule only, derived from bitter experience,” writes college professor Jeremy Mayer in an email message, “Do not, under any circumstances, short of physical abuse or voting Republican, break up with someone on Dec 31st.  MUCH better to break up on January 3rd, or even Jan1st, as some sort of twisted New Year's Resolution (‘Sorry, I resolved to stop dating psycho hose beasts’).”

If you haven’t yet entered into such a relationship (with psycho hose beasts or anyone else), Sean Smith, 39, has an idea.

“There should be a “New Relationship” time requirement where it’s understood that ‘hey, we just met and I really like you so please don’t be offended but let’s have a holiday ‘time out’ and I’ll see you on New Year’s Eve’… How’s that?”

That, my dear Sean, would probably not go over well with the “Santa, baby” crooning ladies.

Those are the types of ladies another Sean, Sean Evans, 25, seems to date.  “You always end up with someone who thinks the relationship has become more serious than you do,” he explains via email.  “This leaves you in a lovely predicament as she will inevitably invite you home to her house for the holiday, or out to dinner with her parents when they come to the city.  Then you stand there, with your mouth slightly agape, quickly trying to come up with an excuse to bow out.”

What sorts of excuses work in this situation?

“I’ve used such past beauties as ‘My mom needs help stuffing the turkey so I have to go home’ or ‘My dog has separation anxiety and cannot be alone for that long’ and my personal favorite: "What?  And miss the 24 straight hours of ‘A Christmas Story’ on TNT?  I think not, woman.”

Of course, some people think there’s nothing that makes the season brighter than a little casual holiday sex – enough sex to make the SSAD go away, perhaps.

“The holidays are gruesomely bleak and the only thing that can pick them up is a deliciously regrettable holiday hook-up,” says writer Jim Behrle.  “They expire in early 2007, no need for holiday gifts, and love should be made at least once during Snoopy’s Christmas or It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Hmm.  You could even make a game of it.  You know, “every time a bell rings …”

Merry Christmas, everyone, indeed.

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