Amy Poon

Surviving the holidays as a divorcée
The Times Online, December 2009

I have to confess upfront, I am not and never have been a big fan of Christmas. Surviving it, whether young and single, blissfully smugly married, glowing and pregnant – and therefore with every excuse to be fat and eat all the pies - and now divorced as a single mother, has always required some fortitude and a great deal of Dutch courage. All that busyness in the run up, the pressure to be engaged for the entire month in festive cheer and celebration, the excess of it all not to mention the expense, the shameful extravagance and the anticlimax of it all. It’s enough to send any rocky relationship over the precipice. Having a child however necessitates some adherence to tradition so dutifully, albeit reluctantly, we bought a tree today and dug out the box of tangled tree lights, ornaments, stockings and other Christmas paraphernalia.

For the first time since I got divorced, I am spending Christmas this year without my daughter, without my ex-husband and without the immediate members of my family. Although I will miss seeing the uncontained joy and excitement on my daughter’s face on Christmas morning when she reports that Rudolf knocked over the milk and Santa must be very drunk, I have to say I am rather relieved at not having to put on the whole Christmas panto. Call me scrooge – my daughter does, but I suspect I am simply saying what a lot of people think and feel.

So my top 10 tips for surviving Christmas as a divorcée on your own are:

  1. Go away.
  2. Go as far away as you possibly can.
  3. Go, preferably, to a non-Christian destination where Christmas is not celebrated.
  4. Go somewhere with a purpose so you don’t feel aimless – voluntary work abroad, active holidays involving horses, boats, skis, things that require you to concentrate and be physical. Diva Ski runs amazing girls only all inclusive ski programmes. Spa breaks for “me-time” are over-rated, walking around perfectly manicured gardens in a white bathrobe with oil in your hair bears an uncanny resemblance to asylum grounds, insanity and straightjackets.
  5. Buying Christmas presents is a horribly expensive exercise. If you are still in possession of wedding presents which you didn’t ask for and never liked and which, like cheap sunglasses, refuse to be lost or broken, re-gift them to the people who sent them in the first place with a note reading “Too painful a reminder of happier times, I hope you understand but this is so beautiful I couldn’t bear to give it to charity or just anyone.”
  6. Under no circumstances, cook turkey for one – you might as well celebrate with cats and grow a moustache
  7. Don’t leave plans to the last minute – find out as far in advance as you can what people are doing, when and where so you can decide whether or not you want to be part of someone else’s family Christmas of 16 children or, given you don’t have your own, enjoy some grown-up only company.
  8. Don’t cave in to pressure. All year you have probably wanted a little time of your own. Do not treat the Christmas holidays any differently than you would do any other holiday. So, if all you want to do is sleep late in the mornings, potter around, go to the gym and do perfectly ordinary, not particularly exciting things then do them.
  9. If this is your first Christmas as a divorcee and you are missing essential household items or in need of proper lingerie, disguise your divorce registry list as a letter to Santa and send it to all your friends.
  10. Buck tradition, instead of a Christmas drinks party throw a recycling party – get everyone to bring an ex and see if anyone else wants them. Very green, sends all the right messages to small people regards recycling and you never know, one woman’s trash could be another woman’s treasure.

If all the above fails to bring relief, close the curtains, lock the door, unplug the phone and drink heavily until you pass out. By the time you come round, Christmas will be over and like everyone else, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about!

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