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Staying Too Busy for Those Holiday Blues

December 18, 1987|PAMELA MARIN | For The Times

We asked you about the holiday blues, and you said, What blues?

And you said a whole lot more.

"I get a lift out of the holidays," said Paul, 27, "but then, I don't expect too much. I don't get into the frenzy--fighting the crowds, hustling for presents, overspending. I go to parties with my friends, like everyone else, I suppose. But mainly, it's a time for family."

A construction manager from Newport Beach, Paul plans to fly to Oregon and spend Christmas day with his parents and sister. According to tradition.

"We always come together for Christmas," he said. "I only see my family once or twice a year, so sometimes this is it for the year, but I write them and talk to them all the time. We're very close. My sister has a lot of friends from divorced families, and they call us the Cunninghams (as in Ritchie Cunningham and his homespun clan on TV's "Happy Days").

"It's a great time of year," said Paul, "if you ignore the media hype."

Maureen, 33, also described her family as "close" but said her parents and siblings aren't part of her holidays anymore.

"When I was in my 20s, I always felt I had to go somewhere between Christmas and New Year's," Maureen said. "Even if I was just going home to visit my parents, at least I would be going someplace--I'd have plans.

"That was an earlier stage in my life," said the academic from Irvine, "and those were the years that I was more susceptible to the holiday blues. It's the pressure you put on yourself. You have to be doing, you have to be going, you can't just sit still. In the last few years, I've learned how to stay home and enjoy it. I've begun to value my R&R."

Maureen, who is Jewish, said "religion is irrelevant" for her at this time of year.

"I don't even think of Hanukkah as a holiday," she said. "That's probably a terrible thing to say, but (Hanukkah) is not something I have celebrated as an adult. I think of it as something for families with children. If I'm with my family and it's around Hanukkah, we'll probably light the menorah together, but that's about the extent of it.

"I feel no compelling need to shop, or do anything commercial during the holidays," said Maureen, echoing Paul's sentiments about the seasonal hype and frenzy. "I'll probably spend Christmas day with friends. We've talked about working at a soup kitchen this year. We usually try to incorporate an activity--like going hiking, or going to a movie--with just basically laying back and chilling out for the day."

Mark, 26, said he can "see the potential for depression" during the holidays, "especially for someone like me, away from my family."

Yet in three winters since he moved to the county from Ohio--not knowing anyone out here when he arrived--Mark has "never been alone at Christmas or New Year's. My friends look out for me and make sure I have a place to go."

Mark credits his involvement with a church in Santa Ana for the supportive social network he developed so quickly. As a devout Christian, he said, "This is a real spiritual time of year for me, real uplifting."

And a time to reflect on the future.

"Having come from a close family, and being out here on my own--the combination makes me think about what Christmas will be like when I'm married and have kids," Mark said. "The love and concern of all my friends is wonderful. But I do look forward to the time when I have a family of my own."

Debbie looks forward to the time when local traditionalists realize that Cunninghamesque nuclear clusters are an exception in the 80s, not the rule.

"I'm a 39-year-old single woman," wrote Debbie, who lives in San Clemente. "I'm an interior decorator, divorced, childless, and have a long-term relationship. I want neither children nor another marriage.

"I work with two very middle-class matrons who are married and have children and Volvos. They can barely disguise the lack of interest they have in me since I do not fit their mold. One woman even voiced the opinion, 'It's too bad no one wants you!'

"During the holidays, (these co-workers) elaborate on their families and festivities, swap recipes and never imagine I have a life, friends, good china and wonderful holiday plans.

"Being a relatively secure person from a cosmopolitan background, I find their Eisenhower-era mentality a bit pathetic. Nevertheless, I'm sure this attitude could be painful for another woman.

"In counterpoint to this kind of thinking, I'd like to explain how my best friend and I handle holidays. She is a 45-year-old divorcee with three grown sons.

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