The holiday season brings lots of joy into our lives — twinkly lights, decadent food, and a valid excuse to wear fuzzy socks to class — but a handful of pitfalls too. Crowded Target parking lots and an obligation to buy someone a $10 gift for a Secret Santa you didn’t volunteer for come to mind, but there’s nothing I detest more about the holidays than run-ins with relatives that leave your skin crawling with irritation. 

Allow me to paint you a picture. 

It’s Thanksgiving Day in snowy New Hampshire, and my grandfather taps me on the shoulder to ask if I’ve found myself a boyfriend. Mind you, we hadn’t even exchanged pleasantries yet — I’d only just greeted him with a side hug, gone to hang up his coat and then intersected with him on my way back to the kitchen.

“So, Miss Hannah, what’s on the docket for you after graduation? Have you finally found yourself a boyfriend and will you be settling down?” he said.

Let me be clear that I’m not the first girl to have been asked this. Let me be clear that it will happen again in a million other ways by a million other people.

“Here we go again,” you think. 

And it’s not necessarily the question that bothers you, but the answer you get, regardless of what you tell him. Let’s say in this instance you decide to tell the truth: that you’re single and happy, perhaps you’ve been really busy with school and a job, or that — and here’s something crazy — you aren’t looking for a boyfriend. The reply is what gets me.

“Aw, that’s OK!” he said.

“Hell yeah, it’s OK,” you think, but finish the conversation anyway, discussing the weather before you make an escape for the bathroom to get the solitude you deserve. And you think about how very OK it is for you to not have a boyfriend, and how the words of consolation after you told him this pissed you off. Because yes, it’s OK, but it’s also awesome, liberating, freeing, and fun to not have a boyfriend. Because yes, you don’t need one to be complete.

Having a boyfriend doesn’t make you better, more complete, or more successful than someone who doesn’t.

It’s 2018: Ben and Jerry’s released their “Resist” flavor that rallies for feminism and equality across identities, Amy Schumer is performing to sold-out theaters across the United States while pregnant and Kansas just elected its first Native American, lesbian congresswoman. It’s about time America realizes that women can strive to be more than just someone’s wife, mother, or girlfriend. It’s about time we stop valuing the worth of our women by the presence of a man’s approval. 

We women have brains, talents, and opinions worth sharing with the world that don’t require the support of a big, strong man. And, in this day and age, we know we can be the big, strong ones too.

So, try not to get bogged down by the micro-invalidations of the people you find yourself with at a holiday party. Try to tell yourself that maybe they grew up in a different time where female independence wasn’t celebrated, or if it was, that they didn’t have the courage to grab it by the horns. Hold your head high and make your presence known as a badass woman who can find happiness on her own. And know that the rest of us are cheering for you, rallying for you and being inspired by you. Because inspiring those around you? That’s what strong women do.