That’s a warning. Yes, I’m about to be a party pooper. Don’t let me spoil your New Year’s Eve fun, but New Year’s Eve parties depress me. There’s something sad about the crowds, the drinking, the silly hats, the noisemakers, all that artificial gaiety. The turning of the year, it seems to me, is a solemn occasion; it marks the passage of time we’ll never get back.
New Year’s Eve parties are, I think, escapism at its finest. All that riotous fun on New Year’s Eve is a hedge against what’s wrong with the world and with our own lives. We party to forget.
bad New Year’s, bad, bad
My aversion to New Year’s Eve celebrations goes back a long way. Here’s a memory:
*Then-husband is in his surgery residency and on call New Year’s Eve. We get a sitter anyway and go out with two or three other couples. We’re sitting in a bar when husband’s pager goes off. He has to go to the hospital. “I won’t be long. I’ll come back here.”
“Take me home,” I say.
“No need for you to leave just because I have to,” he says. “Stay, have a good time.”
“But I don’t want to—”
He’s already turning, going. “I’ll be back in a little while. I promise.”
He doesn’t, of course. Come back. I spend the rest of the night, including the striking of twelve, lonely in the midst of couples. They kiss at midnight. Somebody takes me home.
another party gone bad
Same era, different party: Just before midnight, everybody’s paired off and dancing. I’m dancing with then-husband’s best friend who has had too much to drink. It’s a minute till midnight, and I’m thinking surely husband will come, he’ll cut in, he’ll rescue me, he’ll be the one holding me when we count down to the New Year. But that doesn’t happen. Drunk friend pulls me closer and the counting begins: 10, 9, 8, 7, . . . When the clock strikes twelve, he kisses me. I push him away, and in the midst of shouts of “Happy New Year!” and noisemakers and couples holding on to each other, singing, dancing to “Auld Lang Syne,” I go looking for then-husband. I spot him across the room, dancing with someone else.
Does 2014 seem outlandish to you? Another year turning. Days into weeks, months into years. Decades. Half a century gone in a blink, it seems.
I get that the coming of the new year offers the opportunity to put our mistakes behind us and move on. To resolve (yes, there’s the dreaded word) to write more or spend less or work harder or simply be a better person. But I can’t escape the image of time falling away into darkness, irretrievably lost except in memory.
dark post on a party night
Well, this is all very dark, isn’t it? Please forgive, and let’s leave the darkness behind and summon a note of optimism before the clock strikes twelve:
The turning of the year is a time for remembering, maybe even mourning, what’s past. But it’s also the time to let go of regrets and what-ifs. The new year is just that—new time, unspoiled as yet, waiting to unfold second by second, minute by minute, day by day, stretching ahead of us, bright with promise.
So tonight, if it makes you happy, party till you drop! But please don’t invite me. Give me a quiet dinner at home, a good bottle of wine, and a glass of champagne at midnight, or maybe before. It’ll be midnight somewhere, so now-husband and I will have that glass of bubbly whenever we please.
[Raises glass] Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, and productive New Year!
What’s the greatest promise the New Year offers you? How will you use your gift of time differently?
*Then-husband as opposed to Now-husband, who has been known to drive around on New Year’s Eve, looking for parties we weren’t invited to.