The London Diaries: Single During Christmas

Another Sunday. One of the last. Although last week has been full of events, meetings, dinners etc, there is something else that I want to write about today. The week didn’t start too well though. A Christmas-blues hung in the air when I awoke on Monday. A blues in form of a song:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me….

Oh dear, Christmas time again. Have you noticed? This time of the year can so very difficult for singles. All the invites that couples sent to other couples, either ominously missing out their single friends or asking them to bring a “plus one”. If you are on the receiving end of one of those couple-invites…great, and who will be the lucky “plus one”???

And if that isn’t enough, there are the relatives, especially ancient great-aunts and  unmarried uncles, who go out of their way to analyse what has gone wrong in your life. No, family affairs can be as bad when you are on your own.

This leads to the big question every year:  How do you plan the festive days? With your parents?  Your cat (not that I even have a cat) or with your equally depressed single friends? I am at a loss, once more. Christmas strike? But… its not that I don’t like christmas. I do! I love the preps: buying and wrapping presents, humming christmas songs (well most of them) and smelling the scent of big fir trees and cinnamon-scented candles. I actually really love christmas! Maybe, I should just concentrate on what I like!

An invite has been sent up from Kent. Blake and Laura have had their third son. In their marital bliss they have invited me to celebrate, not only baby Jesus’ birthday. A third son….

“Blake is out of bounds!”, I keep constantly reminding myself. Telling myself that Blake is beyond reach now whenever I think about him had become quite a routine.

Although the acute pain has grown numb over the past weeks – instead of a white-hot stab, it was more of a dull ache now – the approaching festivities remind me more than any other time of the year of what I have never had – never wanted… until now.

It had been christmas. Many years ago. Blake had not been married then, there had been no Laura, no sons. Just me.

And I? I had never wanted Blake – you will remember that. Shy, sweet, obliging Blake. He had known it all along. Still, all those years ago he had plucked up all his courage. We had been little more than children, maybe twelve or thirteen years old. He hadn’t actually asked me to like him back that would have been way too forward for him (and probably too much of an embarrassment).

Instead he had given me a present for each of the twelve days of christmas – just like the age-old tradition and the well-known song said. He must have worked months in order to assemble the little treasures, thought out ways of smuggling them into my room, hiding them cleverly for me to discover….

I had found a cute pair of real-life turtle doves and the golden rings and everything. And although I had been pleased and touched, I had not valued the love, which had driven Blake to do all this. Now, all these years later, the song brings tears to my eyes, when I hear it for the first time in the season.

Anyway. This is quite beside the point. I have recieved an invite to go to Kent and spent christmas with the happy family. My parents and his parents will go as they have done for years now. Mostly, I have managed secure an invite to a boyfriend or other.

Once, I even fled the country altogether. Me and Kate, who had been single then, had gone to Singapore, where christmas is a welcome distraction. Now, however, there is no boyfriend. Not even a Kate wanting to go away with me.

And in any case: I am not the same Sophie anymore.

And with this thought my mood is suddenly light. Oh Sophie! I have to laugh about myself. Yes, I shall go to Kent and congratulate Blake and Laura to their new baby. And afterwards I shall take a few days for myself. Maybe a cottage somewhere in Devon, or a small inn up in Ireland. Perhaps, I shall rent a chalet somewhere in the mountains with nothing but snow around me. And there I will enjoy the quiet festive spirit of christmas.

With all my cards written and most of my presents bought (you’ll remember my frenzy to get things done last week… It did help though. I didn’t call Christian!), all that remains are the parties and other seasonal invitations.

There are a few last big corporate x-mas dos to survive. The weeks running up to the feast are peppered with invites. Every year, I select a number of fun ones as well as the ones that I need to attend – be it to pacify editors or to mingle with old and new contacts.

These events are tricky. People want to let their hair down and expects you to do the same. And it is tempting! Never is the selection of foie gras, truffle, lobster and Kobe beef more sumptuous, never are the drinks more plenty – or more dizzying.

Still, I must keep a cool head. There are important strategic rules that every pretty girl must stick to. Mhh, maybe I should write a guide: “How to survive corporate christmas dos” or “Staying on top of the corporate christmas game”… it would look like this:

Rule No 1: How to keep a clear head

Know your own limits and abide by them – strictly.

Stop drinking before you have had enough!

If you don’t know how to refuse another glass of something (watch out to always hold a glass that looks more than half full!), accept it with good grace and pretend to sip. Then, make an excuse, go to the ladies and replace the booze with something that looks similar but allows you to remain sober (apple juice in a wine glass, fizzy water on the rocks topped off with a slice of lime or some mint).

Rule No 2: How to avoid the groper

Yes. We have all been there.

The drunk boss, the shit-faced head of Oh-I-am-so-important-department, the director of the company gone crazy. Drunk men at Christmas parties: they have always been there and they always will. It is no good to complain. Better be prepared. The best strategy is to abide by rule no 1 and stay sober. This way, you can control your own actions even if you can’t control your male co-workers’.

Come early – leave early? This is a tricky question. If you are gone before things start to evolve you will only hear from your colleagues next morning (or better: next week) what has happened, when they shamefacedly admit to having snogged the lift-boy or having gone home with the new head of sales (yes, I know how convincing sales guys can be!). Good for you!

Watch out though. It is not always advisable to leave that early. There are good opportunities for business contacts to be missed. In addition, drinking with your colleagues when THEY (!) are going wild can be a great ice-breaker and morale-booster. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the fantastic new working atmosphere at the beginning of next year, would you?

Rule No 3: How to take home the best

You want to take home the best!

How do you do that?

That depends on what – or who – the best is. Business contacts is the safest and most advantageous option. Taking home a man can be fun – but watch out!

Interesting contacts

I will start with what is most valuable: contacts. Use the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere of the evening to secure some useful business contacts. For effective networking, be sure to follow Rule 1 to the tee: stay sober, be alert and responsive.

Good preparation is essential. It can help to research some potential contacts, especially if you work in a large company. Know the name, position and a little about the history or interests of your target and ensure you know how he or she looks like.

If you spot them: relax! Then put your most dazzling smile on and speak to them. Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. It is ok ask a lot of questions, but please don’t bore them. It requires tact and some practice to come across interested without being nosy, to be charming but professional.

The best advice is: be open to new ideas and LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! At the end of a conversation, slip them your card or ask for theirs in case you have some questions. Voila!

A man

Taking home a co-worker is generally not a good idea. What is even worse: bedding your boss or a client.

I have been there and done that, so have many of my friends and acquaintances. It may work for you. It will possibly even help you. It is, however, playing with fire! If you are unlucky – and odds are against you! – you end up being the company-slut or worse: redundant. Firing someone can be a lot less awkward than hiding a one-nighter from the wife or suffering the nasty office gossip.

If you are still intend on taking a guy make sure he is worth it. What does that mean? Well, would you fancy him if you were sober and in possession of your good senses? If so, make sure he is sober. Nothing is more unpleasant than a random guy falling asleep on top of you in the middle of something!

Also, NEVER take home who you are secretly in love with. Christmas-party-affairs have the tendency to be non-recurring – at least until the next year. If you want something more permanent, stay strong and go home – alone. There will be another chance! The last thing you want is to be another casual “x-mas treat”!

How do you take Mr Right-now home? Well, that shouldn’t be so difficult…. :)


Have I always stuck to the rules? Of course not! I have made many mistakes and learned my lessons the hard way. And this year? This year has been turbulent enough without wild pre-x-mas flirts, without breathless giggling and meeting outside, in secret.

It is Sunday. One of the last ones this year and I am pleased to have a clear, sober head. Tomorrow, I will go down to Kent. I shall enjoy myself – after all, it is what I wanted. Isn’t it?

My dears, who have accompanied me through the year: You will find Christmas in yourself!

Be quiet for a moment, stop the hustle and bustle and listen. The joy is there – always.

Merry christmas,

xx Sophie


Having skidded headlong into my thirties, completely unprepared for what was expecting me, has probably been the best that has ever happened to me. Dating has never been more intriguing - life has never been more amazing! Laugh and cry with me on my way through the often fantastic and sometimes abysmal London dating scene…

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