I grew up an only child with a Jewish Mom. At a young age, she married a man much older that happened to be a WASP. So I had the good fortune to celebrate Christmas. As an only child, growing up in NYC in the late 60’s, I spent lots of time by myself. This was pretty typical, and something I didn’t mind at all. I actually enjoyed my own company (and still do) and grew to have a vivid imagination.
Christmas time was a time when my imagination grew to gargantuan proportions! Of course it was only fed by the myths surrounding the holidays. Only at the time, I didn’t realize they were myths. To me, Santa, his elves and his eight reindeer were due to land on my terrace on Christmas eve, because even though I was a city kid, he would find a way to leave my presents for me even though I didn’t have a chimney. I would spend literally hours and hours around our tree talking (yes talking) to the ornaments, arranging and rearranging them. Making stories about them and with them. It kept me occupied until the time it grew near to head to bed and wait for Santa to land and leave my toys under the tree and in my stocking. (My Mom used a pantyhose actually for me–the Jewish stand-in of a Christmas stocking??). And in the morning, I would rush out of my room to find all the loot under the tree and both legs of the hose filled with goodies. My belief in Santa satisfied by the proof he left behind.
Another myth I grew up with was happy endings between men and women. I saw it in all the Disney movies where the Princes saved the Princesses. I saw it when I went out my parents and everyone was a couple (or almost everyone back then). Somehow it was ingrained in my brain that, just like Santa was real, so too was a wonderful marriage to the perfect man. I bought both myths as easily as the penny candy I used to get down the street. I simply grew up knowing it to be true.
I’m not sure when I realized that my Mother was really the one putting the presents under the tree. It wasn’t a shocking moment where I caught her in the act and Christmas was suddenly ruined for me. It was a slow seeping into my consciousness; where our child brain moves more into the ‘real’ world and you see how you’ve been duped. And so with that man thing. That has been a culmination of fairy tales gone wrong and finally, now, my brain is starting to rewire.
There were certainly moments through the years that were traumatic for sure, especially experiencing three divorces. But over the course of so many years, I have become numb to the idea of happy endings. That’s not to say I’m bitter or cynical anymore than I’m angry that there’s no Santa. It’s just something one comes to accept as myth. With so many relationships of mine ending for too many reasons to mention here (that’s for another blog maybe) I can safely say: I was duped with that one too!
Yes I know—I’ve heard all the sayings before: when you least expect it, he will come along. Or: maybe you should try women now. Or: Just take a break and then it will happen, you’re trying to hard. Or: why don’t you try a dating website. Or, or, or…. Well, with the exception of assuming I’m gay, which I’m not, (I find it very rude when people say that just because I chose not to be in a relationship), I’ve tried everything else. Could it be simply that maybe it is just not meant to be for some people? That there isn’t someone out there for me? Why is that such a stretch for people? Maybe I like being alone! Maybe I don’t like fighting with someone, or trying to figure someone out, or please someone, or tiptoe around someone, or not be perfect for someone. I’ve done it all over and over. Maybe this princess doesn’t need a frog to kiss and I’m actually quite content. Maybe I’ve accepted it’s a myth and don’t want to force something that isn’t true for me.
It didn’t take a lot to break the myth of Santa. The child in my let go of that one pretty easily. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the other kids would make fun of me if I kept still believing. I told my kids when they got older that the spirit of Santa was real and they could take that one to the bank. The spirit of everything he stood for: giving, joy, laughter and happiness. That seemed to keep them happy.
But I have three daughters. Letting go of the myth of happily ever after I’ve only let go of in the last year or so. And I’m not sure what I do with this one with my girls. I’ve always been honest with them. And yet, they need to live their own lives. Might they find a prince? Will they have to go through 20 to get there? Maybe the better answer is to say that there is no prince. But maybe you will meet a nice person and with that person you can write your own story and maybe, just maybe live a pretty happy life.
We grow up with ideas and myths ingrained in our heads. Some seem lovely and sweet. And when they are dashed, we are disappointed and sad. Some sadness is deeper and harder to overcome. Letting go of Santa was an easier task than realizing saying goodbye to a handsome prince and longterm relationship. But when we let go we take hold of something else. Maybe it’s something within ourselves or maybe it’s something outside ourselves. We come to a place of acceptance. Santa can still live in spirit within my heart. And while I don’t have a man living with me day to day, I’ve had many men in my life that have taught me many things. I’ve learned much about myself through them and become a better woman.
I grew up an only. I liked my own company then and I still do now. I embrace my solitude, so someone else can have the glass slipper.