Editor’s note: Our own Carrie Bradshaw— Cooper Irons— is back to share his experience about being single during the holiday season in New York City.
Forget, the Rankin-Bass puppets and Mickey Mouse direct-to-video Christmas flicks, the greatest way to spread Christmas cheer for all to hear is to watch tinseled rom-coms… Or Elf since I kind of walked into that one.
Rom-coms are a curious choice though seeing as holiday-seasonal depression is certainly real for singles. I may or may not have PTSD from spending the holidays last year not getting texts back from guys as I rubbed salt in the wound by listening to Ariana Grande’s Christmas and Chill EP, only to numb that pain by binge watching Jessica Jones on Netflix.
So, why is it that we go running back to Love Actually each year to force ourselves on that roller coaster that sobers us with the image of that guy holding up love proclamations outside Keira Knightley’s door while we sit on the couch in our PJs dunking our mothers’ cookies into some 2 percent milk?
There is some actual validity to the dual between this British ensemble romp and The Holiday. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz are actually therapeutically exercising self-care. Plus, Jude Law with hair and Jack Black being a far more realistic standard for the man we want and deserve are just icing on the gingerbread house.
And yet, my family’s Christmas movie tradition is neither. Instead, each year we gather to watch the underrated comedy masterpiece that is The Family Stone. Sarah Jessica Parker plays the girlfriend that gets taken home to meet the family for a festive stay that includes, but is not limited to disastrous rounds of charades, tearful support of the gays, cheating, and space cakes.
But despite SJP rightfully getting a Golden Globe nod for her work here, I prefer Rachel McAdams as the bitchy perspective sister-in-law Amy. Amy lives in Boston and is a bitter singleton who throws cold-hearted, resentful shade through gritted teeth. I relate. #AmySolidarity
I totally get where she’s coming from in her mistletoe-less misery. The holidays truly used to be the most wonderful time of the year for me until I got old enough to bring home a significant other with whom I could squeeze the hand of while dodging bullets from extended family members’ snide comments. Alas, I have yet to have one candidate eligible, or willing enough, to participate. Instead, I’m the reason the hostess is told an odd number for our party when we go out to eat as a family. Chicken tenders and a double Jack and Coke, please.
It is depressing and I am already scheming for which blood-and-guts television drama will be splattered across my parents’ plasma in order to get through it all. But in the meantime, it would seem the island of Manhattan might just be an almost-safe space for singles during the haul between Thanksgiving and January.
One of those zones within the zone would of course have to be the gay leather bar mecca The Eagle, located deep in Chelsea where your best mode of transportation home would be one of the yellow cabs lined up out front. Ideally, they beckon to the patrons and their one-night-stands who stumble in a tow that was convinced because of sad fellow patrons’ offering to pay the cab fair in an effort to get laid that night.
Inside though are two, three including the seasonal rooftop, floors of the dive bar aesthetic on testosterone and steroids. Beer is nearly the universal beverage within these walls lined with photos of BDSM/kink title holders, TVs playing jock and chamber porn, license plates from the Midwest, and Harley memorabilia. It’s an obvious escape for gay and discrete men looking to drown their sorrows and set their bodies on cruise control; so obvious that perhaps it reaches a fault where men slump their way east to the 1 train in defeat, rats threateningly crossing their paths between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Hopefully the poolroom and restrooms at least present some pleasure for them.
When even multi-level, dungeon-like gay bars fail to make you forget that, honey, you are actually alone, the city itself supplies so much solidarity. Ironically, the MTA isn’t the only thing in transit in New York; New Yorkers themselves are as well. Sure, we’re surrounded by hoards of families in full tourist force. But so many of us hail from different places, uprooted from our families and transplanted here together in a town with more opportunities than any warm and cozy one horse town sung about in a 2000’s Taylor Swift album.
Instead we have the bartender at our neighborhood haunt, the barista at our preferred Starbucks that has an acceptable amount of electrical outlets, and random Duane Reade cashiers. Recently that final one caught my distress as I sighed about just how loneliness can harshen during the holidays. She understood and I will never forget her for that.
Really, all I had to do was wade my way through the crowd of families swarming the outside of Radio City Music Hall in order to be grateful for not being pulled in so many directions by a singular unit of good-intended love. I callously thought about how many of these people complained on their way here via train, plane, or UFO that they wouldn’t be able to sit next to a significant other. I, for one, am glad I can bypass this stress by being a party of one who messes up Noah’s Ark pairings.
I mean, by going alone, I was able to get a better seat to Mariah Carey’s Christmas show at the Beacon Theatre. It was a festive evening of hearing “We Belong Together” and “O Holy Night” tied together with a cleavage-overflowing red leotard, complete with train. As the Elusive Chanteuse herself would brag, it was a pow moment.
After sitting next to a middle-aged gay couple at the show, I headed back up to West Harlem for a burger at my neighborhood bar. Once there, I was seated two stools down from a gentleman of 28 who, as per the bartender’s knowledge, had been there gulping IPAs since at least 6:00 p.m. that evening. Now at 11:00 p.m., he was stumbling and complaining about, of course, an ex.
Hazily catching sight of my Charlie Brown sweater, he asked me if I had been to a Christmas party earlier. I replied with equal parts pride and shame that, no, just a Mariah Carey concert. He then spiraled into indie-cornered pop cultural references— given my own more mainstream interests. In order to ward him off, I told him that I knew Sutton Foster from TV’s Younger, not Broadway, and that I preferred Audrey over Katharine Hepburn. Worked like a charm.
As scrooge-y and peeved as this all may sound, seeing the candy-coated light show, with its almost intensely foreboding soundtrack of urgency, on Saks Fifth Avenue’s façade actually did make me stop and gape as I filmed for my Snapchat story. Even when flying solo in New York, one can stand in a crowd of couples, families, and fellow singletons, and somehow all loneliness melts away. And for the moments where we aren’t numbed into festivities and being less aware, there’s nothing wrong with taking couple photos with a friend over cosmos or being a twentysomething who drops a letter to Santa in the mailbox at Macy’s. I asked for job stability.
And then, just like that the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas blew away and I was back in West Virginia sitting at the end of a table, the odd non-coupled man out. But I knew what was coming next in the Christmas prep: The Family Stone, and #AmySolidarity.
Edited by Demi Vitkute