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When the clock strikes midnight

At our Thanksgiving table this year, there were two couples and six unmarrieds. After dinner, the conversation turned to the subject of singles and surviving the holidays. (See story.) We all agreed that New Year's Eve was the roughest.

"That's a romantic night," said the college student. "You're supposed to be with a date."

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"You feel left out if you're no longer part of a couple," said a 60-something widow.

The 40-something male in our group added a different slant: "New Year's Eve is the one time I wonder what my life would have been like if I had been going with someone the previous year."

Many singles would echo that comment. New Year's is a time for reflection, after all. The whole world seems to be reassessing and making resolutions. It is also the time when many singles suddenly see themselves through other people's perceptions. I often hear the voice of a former landlady who said, "You're how old and not married? You know, Noah invited couples on the ark, not singles."

Fortunately, this recollection fades when the clock strikes midnight - or friends remind me that being single isn't a fatal condition.

Two years ago I spent Dec. 31 with three good friends: a nun, a recent widow, and a woman who'd just broken off her engagement. After four old movies, far too much Chinese food, and a number of good laughs, the four of us made plans for a Valentine's Day dinner and another New Year's bash.

Six weeks later, the friend who'd given back the ring called. "I still want to get married," she said, "but I'm the only one who can make my life full. Mr. Wrong wouldn't have done that for me. And I can't expect a future Mr. Right to do it either."