There wasn’t a chance to publish this on Chanukah, so it went into the drafts and I forgot about it until now. So, here you are.
There’s nothing like a family Chanukah party to remind you about how single you are.
It always starts the same way. Hug and kiss the grandmother while being asked when you will be arriving late due to husband and kids. Smile and say you hope sometime soon.
Then the cousins with the husbands and kids arrive. There are the usual greetings. “Hello, I haven’t seen you in so long, what are you up to these days?”
Don’t be fooled. They are not under the impression that you change your life every year. They just can’t remember what you were doing from last Chanukah party. If you’re feeling merciful, you give them the full rundown, “Still teaching pig-latin to orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.” If you’re feeling cruel, you just say, “Oh, same as last year.” Then wait for their smile to go forced as they ask “And that is what?”
You meet about 18 different cousins and have the identical conversation with each of them. You coo at their babies. You call them cute. You comment on how much or how little hair they have and how smiley they are/aren’t. This is the easy part. The hard part is when you sit down with your latkes and try to find yourself someone your age and single to talk to.
You look around.
You look around some more.
And then you realize that you are the last remaining grandchild within your decade to be unpaired.
So you resign yourself to finding a favorite cousin who happens to be married. But alas. It’s like the bodysnatchers got them. Your favorite cousin is no longer there.
Conversation is about getting children into preschool in Lakewood. It’s about where the cheapest, best-quality diapers are. If it’s a Lakewood table, they’ll cover who is receiving what benefits from the government and how they deal with all the full-fat milk that food stamps requires them to buy. If it’s a Five Towns table, they’re most likely covering children’s clothing sales.
The most you can really contribute to these conversations is “I heard that…” or “My friend says…” You have conversation via proxy experience. If you really make an effort, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. You are not you: you are the sum total of the related experiences of others that you have accumulated in your grey matter. Thank God you have married friends on food stamps.
Well, sort of. I mean, obviously it would be better if they weren’t. But since the government is so generous, your friend benefits, and you benefit, and your table at the Chanukah party benefits because they don’t have that awkward single sitting there quietly swirling the sour cream on her plate. It’s like a great ripple of joy emanating from Washington D.C.
Uncle Sam’s Chanukah gelt.
Happy Holiday, all.