Come all ye singles:
Flying solo, giftless, and
enjoying the holidays

Eric Edwards

Orlando Sentinel

December 24, 2004

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm on a Southwest plane flying home to Nashville for the holiday.

As I write this, I haven't yet boarded, but experience tells me that, as a single traveler, I'll be getting a seat in the front of the plane -- an ideal place if you don't mind being wedged in with an older couple wearing matching sweat suits.

And I don't.

If I were married and traveling with my wife, I'd probably have to dole out the extra cash and fly some other airline in order to sit next to her. Either that or I'd have to arrive at the airport six hours early to secure a coveted spot at the beginning of Southwest's A line. For those who haven't traveled Southwest, seats are not assigned, and boarding is on a first-come, first-served basis. This system is beneficial to retirees with scads of time on their hands but not great for young couples juggling work, family and travel.

As the world makes its annual trip into holiday-fueled "couple craziness," it's important for single folks to carve out their own place so they don't feel left behind in the season of togetherness.

Ease of travel is only one example of how partnerless people have an advantage over the holidays.

The mechanics of travel are easier when you're going solo. A single guy can generally stuff everything he needs for a trip into one bag, cram it into the overhead and miss out entirely on the joys of baggage claim.

Not only that, but while couples are haggling over destinations, singles can hop a plane and head to the family gathering of their choice.

Or Aruba.

Or wherever.

Single people can be on the beach getting back rubs from the natives while married couples are still debating whose in-laws get the pleasure of their company.

Singles also can smile about the low-grade shopping expectations put upon them. They can buy something for Mom and Dad and pretty much call it a season. Couples, on the other hand, are buying gifts for two sides of a family and probably other couples. Couples who hang out as friends are much more likely to exchange gifts than single people who hang out as friends.

Food preparation is another aspect of the holidays that warrants attention.For couples who don't enjoying getting down and dirty in the kitchen culinarily, this can be a troubling time of the year. What with holiday parties, holiday dinners and holiday potlucks, there's an enormous expectation to bake a cake and pitch in.

Not so for the single.

Single people -- unmarried men in particular -- tend to get off cheap when it comes to taking a dish to a friend's house or a work function. It is assumed, sometimes correctly, that single men can barely find clean clothes to put on in the morning before work. It would be preposterous to rely upon them to take something edible to a social gathering.

And no discussion of the benefits of holiday singledom would be complete without the mention of Christmas cards. Anyone who has toiled for the hours it takes to establish and edit a list, collect the appropriate addresses, personalize the cards, stamp and mail the darn things can tell you it takes less time to get a master's degree.

But couples are expected to perform this ritual each year while single guys are expected only to lounge around and watch football, and single women are expected to be too busy with fancy, dress-up cocktail parties to bother with Christmas-card lists.

So while we're all bombarded with images of happily married couples and their smiling families, remember that single people have reasons to be thankful, too.