Perhaps like you, I’ve been to a lot of parties on New Years Eve, some of them fabulous, but to be honest, most of them a drag. In fact I don’t think there is any holiday on the Gregorian calendar that I dislike quite as much. I’m not crazy about the Fourth of July, with the crowds and the traffic, but I’ve learned that the beach on a hot summer morning can be splendidly pristine…if you go while everyone else is at the parade. I like Labor Day. I’d be surprised if there are any year-rounder Cape Codders who don’t. And I like Thanksgiving, since we no longer hold it at our house. Birthdays, good. Christmas, good. Hannuka, Passover, Memorial Day. Good. Good. Good. So I’m not a curmudgeon.
But there’s something about New Year’s Eve that creates expectations that are impossible to fulfill, that makes me feel like there’s a great party somewhere that I have not been invited to. I don’t know how old you have to be in order not to feel like a loser on New Years Eve. It seems to me one of those occasions that dooms even eighty-year-olds to feel like they’re sixteen with a bad case of acne. Okay, maybe I am a curmudgeon.
It might be the fact that New Years Eve is a holiday devoid of meaning. It’s not about prayer or commemoration or remembrance. It’s about making noise and drinking and pretending you’re having a great time. Can you remember your worst New Years Eve? I can, even though the competition is stiff.
I was a sophomore in college, home for the holidays, and I needed a date. Any date. Animal. Vegetable. Mineral.
I ended up with a sometime girlfriend with whom I had one and only one thing in common: she needed the same thing I did. A movie was too mundane for New Years Eve. Facing each other over dinner was way too intimate for two people who hooked up whenever no one else was available. But there were rumors of a party given by a rich friend of a friend who had a loft in Tribeca.
I took the address down on the telephone and got Boradway mixed with up with West Broadway and we argued in the 5 degree weather as we punched every buzzer between Chambers Street and Canal. It was 5 degrees outside and we were ushered into a 6th floor walk-up where my date was the only female at the party. Yeah, you know it, I left alone.
Got anything to match that one? I bet you do. There’s just something off about New Years Eve. Maybe it’s the fact that you wait around until midnight when most people are in bed by 9:30 and the fact that you’re supposed to kiss people you ordinarily wouldn’t talk to at the post office.
My favorite New Years Eve party was a wedding. There was a full bar and a fabulous buffet. We danced all night to two great bands. We did everything you’re supposed to do on New Years but the difference was, we had something real to celebrate.
One of worst parties was one that we gave at our house. How could we screw this up? We were in charge of everything. The guest list. The time. The music. And things did go well until a friend collapsed under the dining room table.
“Man overboard,” somebody shouted and everyone good-naturedly stepped around him until somebody else said, “I can’t find his pulse.” The body was dragged to a bedroom and overseen by a retired ER nurse who found me, not dancing and drinking with the rest of the guests, but pouring through my homeowners policy to see if I had liability insurance. “It’s okay,” she said. “He took a cold pill at dinner, then drank vodka and had a few tokes.” Turning back to the party, she shrugged, “New Years Eve is not for amateurs.”
I think my best New Years Eves found my wife and I with the flu. The wind was blowing from the northeast, the roads slick with black ice, and sleet pitted the roof. We had a party to go to but neither of us felt even felt like getting dressed. We spent the entire evening bundled up on the couch, drinking champagne and watching all six hours of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Heaven.
I’m going to sign off with my sincere best wishes to all our listeners for a safe and healthy new year. That may begin by just being yourself, and not feeling coerced to do some foolish thing because the holiday calls for it.
Remember the words of the ER nurse. New Years Eve is not for amateurs. But since there are an awful lot of them out there anyway…You’d best be very careful.
I’m Ira Wood…and that’s my opinion.