Newly Single? How to Survive Holiday Family Questioning by @FindRichHusband
When it comes to the holiday family invasion, I’m relatively lucky: all my family lives abroad. But that doesn’t mean my cousins in rural Canada and aunts in Cape Town hadn’t caught word that I’d been recently wrapped up in a serious romance. What they didn’t know was that we’d broken up. I’m newly single and I’m preparing myself for how to survive holiday family questioning.
When you’re fresh off a break-up, being reminded about the relationship that didn’t work always feels like a punch below the belt. And the hit feels like it’s even harder when you’re forced to talk about it around the holidays, when “togetherness” and love are very much the theme.
The well-wishing holiday phone calls are already coming.
It’s time to figure out how I’m going to deal with that pretend-you-didn’t-hear-it question: how’s your boyfriend?
Instinctively, I think of that Train song, 50 Ways to Say Good-Bye.
Maybe, I’ll tell my Great Aunt Winn he got mauled by a tiger in India? He was always into traveling. She might buy it. Probably not. Wasn’t I supposed to be going with him? How did I escape the tiger’s claws? No, no. There would have been too many follow-up questions resulting in additional follow-up lies.
Over Thanksgiving, my Aunt Jen called from London to send us her good-tidings.
“Are you engaged yet!?”
My mother had sent her a page from a magazine that featured a blissfully-happy photo of my now-ex-boyfriend and I attending a concert fundraiser under the summer stars. My aunt had displayed the clipping on her fridge so she could boast about her socialite niece in New York with her handsome beau.
I threw a spoon across the room at my mother as a warning. Could you wait until there’s a ring before you tell the world I’ve got a boyfriend — that’s what she was supposed to infer from the thumping noise the spoon made as it landed on the couch beside her. Then I murmured something about having to go and handed the phone back to Mum. I later overheard her tell Aunt Jen “well, let’s just say they’re a long way from getting engaged.”
Way to be vague, Mum.
Maybe, my mother was on to something.
Maybe, that was the answer: pretend we’re still together!
There was something mildly appealing about that. Being in a relationship is often as great a conversation ender as it is a conversation starter.
Flash back to my second to last Ob-gyn visit:
“Are you currently sexually active?”
“It’s been a while.”
“What! You don’t have a boyfriend?”
“What’s the matter? The boys you hang out with don’t like pretty girls?”
“That must be it.”
“So I guess we don’t need to talk about birth control?”
Flash forward to an exhibition opening at a time when I had a boyfriend and one of my company’s senior board members got personal:
“Are you seeing someone?”
That was the end of it. There was no follow up “why?” or “you should meet my son.”
But, much like the getting mauled by a tiger in India, lying and saying my ex wasn’t an ex probably wasn’t going to put an end to the holiday inquisition into my relationship status.
I decided it was best to tell the truth, but to keep it simple.
But before I faced the family, I took my hypothesis on a test drive. Last week, my boss treated me to a drink after another late night in the office. Sitting at the bar of a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef, she asked me to tell her “about the boy.” She was the one who called me at 7 am on a Sunday morning to tell me, and presumably him, about our Page-6 photo spread, after all.
“We broke up a few weeks ago.”
“It just wasn’t right.”
I could tell she wanted to press, but what more was there to say? Who initiated the break-up and all other details don’t really matter and don’t need to be discussed. It just didn’t work. Why it didn’t work wasn’t important. So don’t go there. Say it’s over, and then in the same breath, move on to your Aunt’s plans for her annual jello-mold. You know she’s been dying to tell you all about it anyway.
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