October 6, 2005
The Painful Holidays
A feeling of trepidation takes hold of my heart. The Jewish holidays are upon us again, and as a 30-something single in a family of all married siblings, I'm feeling anxiety and pain.should be excited, as I get to spend two days with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and their kids. However, for weeks before a holiday arrives, I experience apprehension that grows exponentially as each holiday draws closer.
Please don't get me wrong. I love my family very much. I've always gotten along with my siblings and their spouses; I love my nieces and nephews like crazy, and I've always considered my family to be closer than most. The idea of being with them should ease the pain of being single and alone, and should ease the sense of loneliness I feel being single among married couples.
Hence, my feelings of guilt, because I do not look forward to being with my family during the holidays. I don't look forward to having to put on a happy face, when cheerful is the last thing I feel. I don't look forward to the questions my nieces invariably ask, when wanting to know why I am not yet married.
It is as if an important part of me is missing. I watch the loving eye contact between my siblings and their spouses, the hand holding under the table as we eat the holiday meals and the cheerful chattering of my nieces and nephews. I listen to talk of the kids' baseball leagues, dance lessons and where the next family get-together should be held.
Someone tries to pull me into the conversation every once in a while, but I don't really have anything to add. I feel separated from what is going on.
What I really want to say aloud is, "What about me? I want someone to talk to, to love, who will understand me, and really listen to me, and have things in common with me. I want to enjoy my own little boy and girl."
Sitting in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, I have tears in my eyes, because another year has past, and I'm still alone. And being with my family only makes it worse. Seeing the happiness among my family members and knowing it's due to the one thing I don't have -- a loving spouse and children -- makes my heart ache.
Jewish holidays are times when families come together. But I don't have my own family yet. And this point is driven home to me very clearly every time I'm with my siblings for the holidays.
I sit at the meals wishing there was someone who could understand what I'm going through, and I've come up with what I think is a really good idea: If there were one or more singles sitting at the meals with me, this would surely ease the loneliness I feel. They would probably be feeling some of the same emotions as I am, and we could support each other, just by sharing these times together.
I would have someone to laugh with when my nieces asked their probing questions, someone to roll my eyes at when my siblings were acting mushy and I was feeling vulnerable, and someone who would be going through what I was going through and could relate.
There are always some singles who have nowhere to go for the holidays, because their families aren't observant or perhaps they live too far away. If these singles were invited for the Jewish holidays by families like mine, where there is one single among many married couples, this could have multiple benefits.
First and foremost, it would be a tremendous mitzvah on the part of the families doing the inviting. It would also alleviate some of the pain that the singles feel at being the only one who is single. Personally, having another single around for the holidays would make me feel less alone and more open to enjoying my family's company, without the added burden of loneliness.
Before the holidays wrap up for the year, I wish to call out to families who have singles in their midst. I wish to tell them that we, the singles, are lonely and need help this time of year, help that could come from having other singles around.
So please, this year when we are all trying to make changes, do something new, something good, and invite singles to your tables and to your homes on Yom Tov. You will warm others' hearts, and maybe even your own.
Michele Herenstein is a freelance journalist working in New York. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.