Ten Words of Counsel for Single People
A Touching Account About Why Being Single At Christmas Can Be Kinda Wonderful
In theory it sounds like a thirtysomething’s worst nightmare (Crimbo at home alone with mum and dad), but Alison Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way.
Christmas at the parental home is like family life in HD, or buying a DVD with ‘special features’: you get the main story, but then a load of fun extra bits, too, including the out-takes where people mess up. That’s how it is for me, anyway. But I am a bit different: my name is Alison Taylor and I like going home for Christmas.
It plays out a little like this: I get on a train from King’s Cross a few days before The Big Day, usually deeply hungover (occasionally having had no sleep). I arrive at Wakefield Westgate, where my parents will be standing on the platform, togged up in their winter coats, excitedly scanning the train for some sign of me. We’ll discuss my inability to travel light while Dad takes my multiple bags in his hands, his wrists swollen with arthritis. And when he’s walking ahead of me, laden with my luggage, it’s a shot-to-the-heart reminder of the fact he’s getting old. Like old old, which, frankly, terrifies me. Then we’ll go for a drink and Dad and I will have a smoke outside (him: pipe, me: rollies). We’ll pick up cheese and ‘fancy foods’ (as Mum calls them) from Morrisons – stuff that I like but they never touch: pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, amaretto.
We’ll arrive home at their three-bedroom-corner-semi-with-conservatory in a small village outside Huddersfield and admire the wacky decorations – Christmas wreaths, LED Christmas tree, tinsel strung everywhere like a Jackson Pollock, cards stuck all over the kitchen cupboards, and what can only be described as sinister Santa and snowman ornaments with squashy legs dangling over the sideboard. I’ll throw myself dramatically onto the settee, grab the remote and breathe in a giant gulp of contentment. ‘Do you want a cup of tea, love?’ asks Mum. Do I ever?!
You see, unlike a lot of people (friends and contemporaries included), I love going home for Christmas. And not only do I love my mum and dad, but I really, really like them, too. I can’t think of anyone better to laugh at the TV with, have a pint with, go shopping with, confide in, and so it goes on. Perhaps it would be different if I had a significant other, but I’ve been single for the best part of seven years and, at 35, I’ve seen our relationship really come into its own over the past decade. Emotionally, I rely on my parents more now than I ever did in my twenties. We talk every day on the phone, sometimes more than once a day (Dad always puts me on loudspeaker, whatever drivel I’m spouting). They’re like my soul mates: the ultimate until-death-do-us-part relationship in lieu of a marriage of my own.
But the family-life-in-HD experience works only if, like me, you don’t mind seeing each other’s flaws close up; seeing everything played out in the open. I like to be honest with Mum and Dad about my lifestyle – my fears and disappointments – and I’m pretty sure they like it that way. I don’t hide who I am from them to keep up any pretence of perfection. They know who I really am and accept that, like many thirtysomethings today, I’m showing little sign of growing up in the way their generation did.
‘Why are you still being sick after a night out?’ was Mum’s question on the morning after my 35th-birthday shindig, as we got into the car to go to the first birthday party of my best friend’s daughter. I was nursing a sick bag on my lap; I don’t know if that’s funny or tragic (I’m not massively proud of it), but it’s a sign of the times. My generation is so much more reluctant to behave like grown-ups. I’ll be honest – I’m still absolutely terrified of becoming boring, settled or conventional.
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