Here we are betwixt Thanksgiving and New Year's, the meat of the forced-festivity sandwich. (A bit of an aside -- when did Hanukkah start so early? I don't remember being a kid and lighting that first candle in July. Yet here we are, just easing into December, and it's already over.)

Houses and stores are bedecked, people are hanging out with their loved ones, holiday parties are giving us an excuse to binge-eat pumpkin bread and drink brandy at work. It's really a magical time of year, a final spasm of goodwill before February turns us all into deep depressives

Only my seasonal affective disorder usually starts a little earlier, like say, SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON.

The holidays, and winter in general, are for couples.

I swear, I'm not beating my usual "life is cruel for us singles" drum, because we pretty much own spring and summer. In winter, though, people pair off and disappear like the end of a key party, and we're of just left sitting there on the couch in our Fair Isle sweaters, wondering where everybody went.

While couples are intertwined in front of fireplaces, spoon-feeding one another stew, us single people are slumped in our chairs like Bob Cratchit, warming our fingers in front of a glowing "Monk" marathon.

After 30-some years of being single, I haven't become inured to getting a little down about it. Who ever gets used to not having somebody to take home to their mother or to introduce around at the work party or, hell, even buy something goofy for?

It's the season of giving, after all, so I'm giving you my thoughts on staving off the Holiday Blues.

Beware of Seasonal Alcoholism
First, don't turn into one of the guys from "The Perfect Storm" and treat the holidays like you're a deep-sea fisherman and every night at the bar might be the last anybody sees you alive. Drinking to the point of fatalism doesn't solve any problems (OK, not true -- it helps boring people become tolerable and tolerable people become really attractive), and it's especially dangerous when you're blue.

Even though everybody is drinking more this time of year, it's never a good thing to be Drunk Sad Guy. Resentment, bitterness, aggression -- leave these for your bowling league. I mean, yes, I do become irrationally upset by those DeBeers commercials where everyone's in love and rich and attractive, but I try not to get hammered and share this lament with my boss's husband. Which brings me to my next point:

Fake Cheer!

Don't outwardly mope. Feel free get all irritated by people holding mittens at the skating rink, just do it internally. Instead of grumbling about "another holiday season alone," show up to that holiday party like a cashmere turtleneck full of goodwill. Slap a few backs and smile the night away until you're safely tucked inside your apartment with streaming porn and a graphic novel about a sociopath Santa who shoots coal at couples with one of those T-shirt guns.

Pretend all the things that really annoy you about the Holidays are suddenly great. Potluck dinner at married friends' apartment with no plus-one? YES! I'll bring a nice Cab! Tourists taking cute pictures in the middle of the sidewalk as if they're actively trying to keep you from your destination? MAZEL TOV, you Russian bastards! People who wear Santa hats to bars? FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS, jerks!

Go Listen to Live Music
I know I suddenly just got specific, but hear me out. Now, my editor and I disagree on this one big time. She seems to feel that live music puts her in the uncomfortable position of having to do the awkward sway / head nod / near-dance thing, and I don't entirely disagree with her. But seeing a concert during the holidays is one of the only ways you can Go Out and not feel like you're at another damn Christmas party. They're also not crawling with couples and families.

Stop Going to Everything
People love complaining over the holidays about all the stuff they have to do and get-togethers they have to attend. Guess what? You don't have to do everything. Sure, you should probably spend time with your family, but honestly, as adults we get to choose where we place our bodies.

If a certain friend's party depresses you every single year, or if going home for more then a few days ends up really grating on your nerves, don't do it. We have to make ourselves happy in this life, and sometimes that means being a little bit selfish. Yes, the holidays are about giving and family and friends, but not at the expense of our goddamn sanity or the other people who have to listen to us complain. So give your loved ones your time and attention and some gifts, and then get out.

Have YOURSELF a Merry Little Christmas

Seriously. It's a time for gatherings and hangouts and galas and whatever, but take an afternoon or an evening to treat yourself to a novel or a movie or a long, uninterrupted Wii bowling session.

Use some of the time off you have to do something you really enjoy. Instead of exacerbating your feelings of loneliness and/or annoyance, do something fun alone. Don't be sad that you don't have anybody to spend Saturday in a Zales with; instead, take the Aces Train to Atlantic City and play Caribbean Stud really, really poorly for many, many hours. Take it from me, there's a free buffet dinner in it for you if you lose enough money!

And Finally ...
Look, the bottom line is this: The holidays can be really fun and nice. Even if you don't get along with your family or you're in the deep throes of post-breakup sadness, take the opportunity to enjoy the general aura of kindness and festivity around you. Watch a sappy Jimmy Stewart movie, eat a box of Mallowmars, watch people make frozen idiots of themselves in Times Square.

Because in a few short weeks this will all be over, and we'll be ear-deep in the truly depressing months. So go out and cherish people and watch some claymation and overeat, already.

Happy Holidays.

[Redacted] Guy is the resident single guy writer at Lemondrop. He asked us what we wanted for Christmas, and we were like, "Look, the economy is rough and you're a writer. Let's just get a beer or something over the break. Your work is more than enough of a gift for us!" Which, of course, was totally a test. If he doesn't get us anything we are going to resent him so, so @#$%ing hard.

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