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TODAY
updated 12/22/2006 2:55:06 PM ET 2006-12-22T19:55:06

Dear Dr. Gail: I am 39 and still single, despite my best efforts. I’m OK with this for most of the year, but not at the holidays. The whole world is all together-y, while I’m alone. How can I at least make myself not feel worse? — Single Gal

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Dear Single: Though it feels you are alone, you are not. Plenty of people are single, divorced, widowed, or otherwise unattached. If you know the holidays will be tough to get through, I suggest you prepare ahead. Be proactive about making plans instead of hoping or expecting something will come up. Let people know you would like company for the holidays, and ask if you can join them. Many people are glad to invite a friend or colleague along.

Or make plans of your own. You can get together with a group of single friends, host your own meal, or invite people over to watch a video. Some cities have group events, like a Christmas Day run. The holidays are about sharing, so it can be truly gratifying to volunteer. People often need help at homeless shelters, nursing homes or food banks. Your participation here is often more productive than sitting around eating turkey, and more in keeping with the holiday spirit.

If it’ll help you get in the holiday spirit, go ahead and make your surroundings festive. Decorate your home, play holiday carols, light a menorah, or eat traditional holiday treats. If you find it enjoyable, it’s worth the effort.

If you are subjected to probing questions or snide comments about your singlehood, evaluate the situation before responding. People might be asking about your love life because they are truly concerned about your welfare and want to see you happy. You can acknowledge that you, too, hope to find someone special, so you are open to constructive suggestions or being fixed up.

They might, however, be asking because they are angry or envious. Believe it or not, some people wish they were single because they can’t stand their spouse. Pointing out your perceived shortcomings makes them feel less inadequate. How should you handle this? Ask directly why they feel the need to say hurtful things. If they are angry with you, suggest you talk about the real issue instead.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If you know holiday time gets you down because you are single, make sure you make plans so you don't feel so alone.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.

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