Please Don’t Stash Me Just Anywhere: Why Being Single is Hard

I feel great compassion for everyone who is single and struggling this time of year. It can be hard. Really hard. For many years I traveled “home” for the holidays alone and if I’m honest, it was always hard.
 
My worst single Christmas was probably when I was 19. I was having a rough time adjusting to my sophomore year of college. My parents had moved 11 hours away, the college dorms closed for the holiday, and I moved into an apartment with 2 college friends for the 3 week break. I missed my friends from high school, who were all home for the holidays, and I couldn’t be near them.
 
Without my input, or without serious consideration of my input, my family decided to celebrate Christmas at my grandparent’s house in Florida for the first time. My parents purchased an airplane ticket for me. I was to fly on Christmas Eve.
 
I drove through the cold and snow to Pittsburgh’s airport and waited patiently until I was told my flight was indefinitely delayed. The earliest I would potentially arrive in Florida was 2am. Already irritated by not being able to be home and having to fly to a decidedly not cold or Christmassy location for the holiday, I considered cancelling my flight. Instead, I rescheduled myself on an early flight the next day. Christmas Day.
 
I left the airport and drove to my home church, an hour away, for the Christmas Eve service. I then headed back to my temporary apartment for a few hours of sleep before rousing myself out of bed for my 8am flight. I arrived in Florida before noon. It was already warm and felt nothing like Christmas. I was exhausted and annoyed.
 
My grandparent’s house was a typical Florida home in a development where all the houses looked the same. It was one level with three bedrooms and a screened in patio with a hot tub. My parents and my brother, along with his long-time girlfriend, were already there.
 
As I walked in my grandmother said to me, “Hi! You can put your stuff in our bathtub.”
 
I scrunched my face into a scowl of confusion and offense. Bathtub? I just spent Christmas Eve and Day at the airport so that I could live out of a bathtub? Where was I going to sleep?
 
It turned out the plan was for me to sleep on the living room floor. Since it was a public space and the main entertaining area of the house, my personal items would be in the way if I left them in the living room, hence, the request to place them in the bathtub.
 
I can assure you that my suitcase remained in the living room.
 
Where was everyone else sleeping? They all had bedrooms with actual beds and doors that closed. I was given a sleeping bag and a pillow to go along with the living room carpet. It was far from comfortable and had zero privacy.
 
If I have to identify one reason why it is hard to be single, particularly on the holidays, for me it’s this – sometimes it feels like people, family and friends alike, treat you like you can be stashed anywhere.
 
There is something about being a lone guest that makes it assumed you can sleep anywhere. An air mattress in a room the size of a closet, on the couch where the dog usually sleeps, in the basement surrounded by cats, or like on this occasion, on the highly trafficked and highly visible living room floor.
 
Being single can mean you don’t get the same accommodations, personal space, or good night’s sleep that everyone else gets.
 
I understand that it’s practical to give the bedroom to a couple because there are two of them and most beds are made for two.
 
I understand there is only so much sleeping space available in a house and you have to make do. I get that. But when you’re single you are always the one to be stashed in the leftover, awkward, uncomfortable space that was never designed for sleeping.
 
Every time.
 
It gets old.
 
If I sound a little spoiled, it’s because I am, but at the heart of my message is this – being single is hard and the holidays can be the time of year a single person needs to feel loved, valued, and respected by friends and family the most. There may not be any other options, but asking someone to sleep in an oversized broom closet (or a bathtub) might make them feel like they are an inconvenience and an afterthought. Remember to tell them that they’re not.
 
If you are alone on an air mattress right now, next to a bubbling fish tank, surrounded by old shoes and spilled fish food, I’m with you in spirit. I’ll come visit and we’ll sit together until your air mattress deflates just enough so that both of us are touching the ground.
 
I need to add a note here to disclose that I am writing this post about being single as a married woman. While my situation has changed, I was single for a long time and my words are from my personal experience. Also, being married is hard too but you usually don’t have to sleep on the floor.
 

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14 Comments

  1. Cara on December 21, 2017 at 7:14 am

    To 19 year old you: I understand. My dad got a new job in a new town two years before I was set to graduate but drove a daily commute of 110km/70miles each way so I could graduate from my high school. But it meant the day after graduation, I packed two sets for boxes: one for school and one for my parents’ new place. I had never felt more lonely than that first Christmas coming “home” to somewhere that wasn’t home, not being able to spend time with friends I’d known for a decade. I can’t imagine the additional stress of having to fly somewhere, re-arranging flights, arriving late and then having no space to call your own.



    • Courtney A. Casto on December 21, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Thank you Cara! Your experience would have been so hard for me. When my parents moved I didn’t realize the ripple effect it would have for years, particularly on relationships with friends from high school. Plus, I felt a bit lost sometimes not having anywhere that felt like “home.” Thanks for sharing your experience, I definitely understand.



  2. Beth on December 21, 2017 at 10:41 am

    This is such a thoughtful post and definitely something everyone should think about. Just because you are single doesn’t mean you should be treated as an afterthought. That Christmas had to be so stressful for you. I’m glad you shared your story and I hope it helps others who are struggling with being single at this time of year!



    • Courtney A. Casto on December 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks Beth! I hope so too. I always want people to know they are not alone, no matter what they are going through.



  3. Akaleistar on December 21, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    So thought provoking! There is this belief that single people can make do and be stashed anywhere.



  4. Lecy | A Simpler Grace on December 21, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    I have been here and it is no fun. Why anyone would think they could treat single people differently is beyond me.



  5. ShootingStarsMag on December 22, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Oh gosh, that sounds awful. Seriously – put yours stuff in the bathtub? Why don’t you just sleep in there too! I’m glad you’re a long way from that, but yeah, I get being single. I’m always single around the holidays and it can be tough for a lot of reasons.

    -Lauren



    • Courtney A. Casto on December 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      At first I thought that was what she meant – for me to sleep in the bathtub!



  6. Theresa on December 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    I love that you’ve posted this. I’ve been that single person who feels a bit out of place at holiday events more times than I can count — of course, there have been times where I haven’t felt that way, but you’re right that being single during the holidays can be especially challenging. It’s especially difficult when you have that feeling that nobody knows what to do with you, where to put you — literally and figuratively.

    I just commented on Twitter that I’m working on a piece about how to be alone — and have a great time — during the holidays (aiming to have it up on Sunday). The longer I stay single, the more I prefer stepping away from the expectation that I’m obliged to do anything during the holidays just because it’s the holidays. I love my family, but I often prefer seeing them when it’s NOT during the holidays. Between the travel to get there and the feeling that I’ll always be stuck at the kids’ table, sometimes being on my own — and reclaiming the holidays on my own terms — is way more preferable.



    • Courtney A. Casto on December 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      I agree 100%. The more time I’ve spent alone during the holidays the more I realize I like it that way. I used to fly every other year and it was always stressful and expensive. I’m married now and we’ve enjoyed staying home for low key holidays. There are other times of the year for visits. I think it would be a bit different if we had kids but maybe not? I think I’m a bit of a curmudgeon. 🙂



  7. Jessica+Bradshaw on December 23, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    My best friend is single and has such a hard time this time of year. Thank you for sharing this and opening up. 🙂



  8. Kim @ The ReInVintaged Life on December 23, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    This is so true. It does seem like when you’re not part of a little unit, not as much consideration is given to your needs, let alone wishes. I try to never have people over unless I have someplace comfortable to put them.



    • Courtney A. Casto on December 24, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Yes Kim, I think not being part of a unit is a big factor. If you have a partner or a child you seem to get first priority. But when it’s just you there is more of a, “We’ll put her where ever is left,” kind of attitude. That’s what it feels like sometimes at least.

      I like to make sure my guests have a comfortable place too. I wish I could have a full guest suite in my house but it’s too small. Maybe someday!



  9. San on January 5, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    I had similar conversations with single friends so many times and it makes my heart hurt that they have to feel this way during the holidays. I mean heck, even if your family and friends make you feel loved and welcome, you might feel shitty when you’re the only single person at the table. No need to make them feel worse!