Christmas for One — CHECK!

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Ahhh the holidays! Rumor has it it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But, what about if you’re alone? Can the holidays be wonderful if you spend Christmas by yourself? If you’re 35, single and just short of being the crazy cat lady, can you pull off a solo holiday without it being rather sad and pathetic? I decided it was a challenge I was ready to take.

First up — I may be single, but I do have a crush (Sidebar: Long story short — we’re back to one crush. After all is said and done, it’s OC who is left standing). SO, the week before Christmas I invited my crush over to watch one of my favorite movies — Love Actually. It was really nice to snuggle up on the couch with him and share one of my holiday traditions. AND it worked in my favor — I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to get OC for Christmas and during the movie he pointed out a sweater one of the character’s was wearing and told me he really liked it. Obviously this meant I spent the next three days scouring the interwebs, with a picture of the sweater from the movie to compare to any sweater I found that was close to it. Did he like the colors? The style? Man, I REALLY should have asked more questions during the movie… Alas, I finally found a sweater that was similar enough so I put a RUSH order on that bad boy. Perfect gift for my crush — CHECK!

As Christmas day neared I was feeling pretty good. Things were going well with OC, I had all my gifts ordered, though they were yet to arrive, and I was figuring out what I wanted to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day in order to ensure I didn’t feel lonely. I thought the best approach would be to include some traditions I’d grown up with. Christmas Eve was always our bigger of the two days — we’d go to a candlelight service, have a lovely meal, do presents… Yes, I decided I would attend a candlelight service on my own, then come home and enjoy some wine, some snacks, maybe watch a holiday-themed movie… It’d be great.

As I thought about what I’d want for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas I decided to try Google for ideas. “Christmas Dinner Ideas for One”  <<GOOGLE SEARCH>> Lots of results popped up — see, I wasn’t the only one doing Christmas alone, lots of people do it… But then, several of the sites the search directed me to had links for “Surviving the Holidays Alone”. Um, I am CHOOSING to be alone. There’s kind of a difference between being alone on a holiday because you have no where to go and being alone on a holiday because you choose to be. But, more on that later. For now my inner chubby girl had din-din on the mind! I finally decided I would just get some cheese, crackers, summer sausage and grapes for Christmas Eve — delicious, no fuss, perfection! Then on Christmas I’d have ham. Very traditional.

The day before Christmas Eve I went to the grocery store after work to gather my items — a simple list: cheese (ooo, I should get a few different ones, the good ones), summer sausage (turkey though, I like that best), grapes (but only if they look good and aren’t outrageous), crackers (eh, nevermind… I mean helloooo… carbs? gross), ham (ooo I should get the spiral cut kind, with the brown sugar, mmm), green beans (let’s go steamed instead of casserole, again… who needs the extra calories), sweet potatoes (yeah, I can coat them in brown sugar and cinnamon and bake them, mmm), some spinach salad with all the fixin’s… OH, and since I’m saving on all these carbs and calories I should probably get egg nog. I mean it IS the holidays. Oh, and speaking of, I should get some champagne — yeah, that’d be nice for Christmas Eve. A little Happy Birthday Jesus toast. OH and maybe some orange juice for mimosas in the morning… shit. I need something for breakfast… Hmm… bacon. Yes! Bacon, and eggs, no— strike that, french toast. Mmm, yes. So I need syrup. And ice cream. Yeah, I should get some ice cream. Well, maybe I need wine. Red? White? Probably both. No, wait. I need my Apothic Red. Oh, and maybe a Malbec. How about just a box of white wine… and don’t forget the champagne. Ooo, are those brussel sprouts? And artichoke? Maybe since I got the Malbec I should do a filet? Yeah, I’ll get that too. Hmm, the pork tenderloin is on sale, I should get that in case I want it. Now what am I missing? Oh yeah — the ham!

Did you know hams are HUGE?? Like I’m talking ginormous. As in if I were to purchase a spiral cut ham, the smallest one I could find, I’d be eating ham for a month. Maybe longer. BUT, it’s a tradition… Ham steak. That’ll work.

Okay, looks like I have everything. And then some. Anything I can possibly want the next two days I have. And it looks like I won’t need to go grocery shopping for two weeks.

Groceries — CHECK!

Christmas Eve arrived and I was able to see OC to give him his gift before he headed home for the holidays. I wasn’t entirely sure by his reaction if he liked it, so I explained about the movie and the sweater and finding one similar… This is when he started laughing.

OC: “Ahh, I said I liked that sweater because I have it.”

Awkward Jean: “Oh. Um. I guess I just thought you were pointing out that you liked it and I wanted to find you one like it.”

OC: “No, I was joking because I thought it was funny he was wearing a sweater I have.”

Awkward Jean: “Um. Right. Got it. Alright then. Merry Christmas.”

Fail? Win? Hard to know. I REALLY should have asked more questions. I mean, maybe he was just pointing out the sweater because he has the same one and hates it. UGH!! JEAN! I really must stop making assumptions. BUT, I was not going to let a potentially unsuccessful gift giving get me down. Solo Christmas — here I come!

On the way home I started thinking that maybe I wanted some red beer on Christmas instead of mimosas so I made one final stop at the CVS by my house. I left with my beer, a small lighted tree for my bedroom (I love the white lights and wanted to fall asleep to them on Christmas Eve) and some Fireball whiskey. What? Essentials.

After I got home I opened a bottle of the red wine and started thinking maybe I should make the steak instead of just having snacky items. Yes, yes I should do that. Maybe I don’t NEED to go to the Candlelight service, I mean I don’t even know what I’d wear. And let’s be honest, other than the part where you light the candles and sing “Silent Night” I only ever loved going to that service for two reasons — as a pre-teen it was to see the ever-beautiful Mark Skenfield and in my later teen years it was to see my inappropriately older crush Tim Shade. Sorry folks, but for Teen Jean, silently drooling over the older boys who made my heart skip a beat was my main motivation for attending church. That and because my mom was married to the pastor, so I sort of had to. Fast forward to grown up Jean and really I didn’t HAVE to go to church…

Ah screw it. I decided to suck it up and go. I ran upstairs, threw on some black slacks and a velvet blazer — because hey, everything is dressed up by a velvet blazer. And headed out the door. The church near my house that I’d decided on was one of those mega-churches that I’m not super fond of, but… they had several services available and I figured it was my best option. So, with my church outfit chosen and my token heels (worn at every wedding, funeral and National Sales Meeting Awards Ceremony for the past four years), I headed out the door.

As I pulled into the parking lot, after waiting for the parking attendants to direct traffic… yep, it’s that kind of mega church, I started to rethink this plan. I’m not very comfortable with organized religion or heels. Why was I doing this again? And man, people would probably try to talk to me and I’ll be all awkward… And everyone will be there with their families and I’ll be that girl in the cat-hair covered velvet blazer, hobbling around in uncomfortable heels, all by herself… STOP! Why do we beat ourselves up like this? Ridiculous. Soooo… I went in and quietly found a seat without anyone trying to talk to me. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Sure there was some of the organized religion rah-rah I’m not comfortable with, but the moment the children’s choir went up to sing I was very glad I’d gone. My favorite was a little girl in the front row who was so busy playing with the big, puffy skirt of her taffeta dress that she really couldn’t be bothered to sing. She flipped and twirled and damn near knocked down the row behind her in what surely would have been an epic domino effect. The sermon was good– though the pastor focused a bit too much on loving God and others and never once mentioned loving oneself. I think that’s one of the most important messages that too often goes unspoken, but it was good nonetheless. And I did appreciate that the offering taken that night was going to an outreach program for a village in Nicaragua that the congregation sponsored– and as luck would have it, before leaving the house I’d received a thank you card with a very unnecessary $20 bill in it — so that was paid forward to the Nicaraguan village. Finally the time for lighting our candles and singing “Silent Night” arrived. Whew. I’d made it. And I was really glad I’d gone. Though as I sang along I began to realize that in a church filled with trained vocals and precision acoustics my own voice wasn’t nearly as angelic as it seems when I’m alone at home or in the car. Weird.

After church I headed home, feeling very proud of myself for having gone, and decided I was definitely making the steak. I cranked the holiday music and Googled a recipe. I’d never actually made steak other than on the grill and it was way too cold for that, but I was sure there were some great oven recipes. And I found one — simple enough. Steak is about heat, sear it, throw it in the oven, BAM — perfection. I got this. Now, in hindsight I WILL admit that it was one of those recipes that was written out in a blog and in paragraph form and I just sort of skimmed… And I maybe didn’t have all the ingredients that I saw mentioned so I figured I’d just compromise… I mean, I saw what I needed — use the heaviest pan you own, get it as hot as possible, put in some oil, blah blah blah, oven at 450, bake a few minutes in the skillet after searing… Got it. Simple. SO… I pre-heat the oven and have my cast iron skillet out with oil at the highest heat for a few minutes to ensure it’s good and HOT! I get the steak ready and just before dropping it in the skillet (THIS is the moment. When I go back in hindsight to figure out what went wrong… THIS. IS. IT.) and suddenly it occurs to me the recipe mentioned something about adding fresh herbs at some point in the process (And this is the second moment where things went wrong… I really should have gone back and re-read the recipe) so I decided to drop a spoonful of minced garlic in the molten vat of oil… MISTAKE!!

SIZZLE-HISS-SNAP!-SNAP!-SNAP!

Smoke. More smoke. Billowing smoke. The garlic has turned black. The garlic has incinerated. Um. Quick. Think. STEAK! Drop in the steak! MORE SMOKE! VENT!! Turn on the Vent! Is this high? Is this low? Shit, I turned it back off, OH GOD — the smoke alarm is surely going to go off any minute (lord knows they all have fresh batteries) Quick – blow out all the candles! (Again, in hindsight I don’t know why on earth I thought running around blowing out candles would help… but I did it… and it created more smoke…) Oh lord, it’s REALLY smoky… and um, FLIP THE STEAK!!! SHIT!! MORE SMOKE!!! Okay — back door — must. open. door. BRRR!!! Shit, it’s freezing! Now picture me running back and forth trying to wave smoke out of the house. NOTHING IS HELPING!!! So, I grab the skillet and throw it in the oven. Um, I just created a 450 degree box filled with smoke. ABORT!!! I stab the steak, throw it on a cookie sheet, throw it BACK in the oven (I WILL save this meal) and take the STILL smoking skillet (billowing smoke) and throw it outside in the snow. SUCCESS!!! And, the smoke alarm never went off! (Which, as it turns out, is actually less comforting now that I really think about it.)

Dinner was salvaged, but… the steak was a little tough. Like jerky-ish. Fail. What can I say, smoked salmon is so popular, I just thought I’d start a trend of smoked steak. I’m a visionary.

After the excitement, and disappointment, of dinner I settled in with some egg nog and The Polar Express. After the movie, Callie Kitty and I headed upstairs, and under the light of the new Christmas tree, curled up and awaited Christmas morning.

I thought Christmas morning would be a bit depressing with no one around. But it turns out being on your own schedule, doing whatever the heck you want, is pretty darn awesome! When I thought about it I didn’t feel lonely at all. So many people had offered for me to join them and their families on their special day and honestly with Facebook and texting I felt a part of so many people’s lives all day long. I got up, made breakfast, opened my gifts, watched movies, enjoyed my red beer and even had a shot of my Fireball whiskey while texting with my siblings (the eldest of which decreed we must all take a shot). I wore my favorite teal velour lounging suit all day, dressed up with the rhinestones my mother sent for Christmas (because what else do you get your 35 year old daughter?) and I had a friend get me a 96-shade eye shadow pack as a joke, so obviously I gave myself a very fancy makeover.

It was a lovely day. In fact, as it comes to an end, I am thankful I had the opportunity to experience a holiday alone because it gave me the chance to recognize the power we all have to control our experiences. Sure, there’s a lot we don’t have control over but we do have control over the most important thing — our attitudes. I was determined to have a meaningful, relaxing, fun Christmas. And I did.

Hopefully you all had the same. Merry Christmas!

XOXO — Awkward Holiday Jean

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, when I talked to OC last night I asked if he liked the sweater. He said he really did and that the sweater he had like the one on the movie had been one of his favorites. He liked that I’d gone to so much trouble to find one like it. WIN!

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