During my youth, my best offer on many New Year’s Eves was babysitting.
My night included sampling the family’s leftover holiday treats and counting down with Dick Clark after the kids went to bed. Despite my pathetic circumstances, I held out hope that, as soon as my social standing improved, I’d have many fabulous, sparkling, whirlwind New Year’s Eve parties in my future.
Little did I know then, nibbling stale cookies and watching the ball drop on TV is about as good as it gets.
It took many years of dashed hopes for me to wise up, so let me spare those of you still blinded by visions of grandeur any further disappointment: New Year’s Eve is not all it’s cracked up to be.
When you’re young, you believe that New Year’s Eve is an exciting night of unknown possibilities. Will you attend a party? Pack into a nightclub? Hang with a wild group of friends? If single, you wonder who might show up. A crush? An ex? Or possibly a new prospect? Could old passions be rekindled? Would new romance be sparked?
You shop in advance for something with a little sparkle, something that might show some skin, something that you’d look good in if dancing breaks out. You want your hair to shine, your pulse points to smell of perfume, and your lips to look smooch-able.
You envision yourself mingling with fun, attractive people. The conversation flows with the bubbly. You throw your head back and laugh like they do in wine commercials. Your hair swishes and your bracelets jingle.
The night is filled with the kind of music that compels you to spring to your feet. You swing your hair in loop-de-loops just for laughs. Droplets of sweat glisten on your neck as you and your friends jump in unison to the beat.
Midnight comes unexpectedly, and everyone scrambles to turn down the music, fill glasses for toasting, and moisten lips for kissing. After counting down in unison, balloons are released, glitter infuses the air, and everyone embraces in joyous celebration of the beginning of another exciting new year…
That’s the impossible dream. But here’s the reality of many New Year’s Eves:
December 31st rolls around, and you prepare for a get-together between friends who had nothing better to do. Thanks to holiday spiral hams, cheese balls, cups of eggnog, breakfast casseroles and countless cookies, you abandon the form-fitting outfit you had planned. You opt, instead, for a roomy sweater and pants with a forgiving waistband.
You gather with friends, and after chit chat and cocktails, more holiday food appears. Despite swearing off overeating several days ago, you can’t resist filling your plate with meatballs, spinach dip, and pecan tarts.
The host’s music list includes a sedative mix of classic rock. Although you all break out singing “Don’t stop believing!” when Journey comes on, and a friend does a sad pelvic gyration to “Roxanne,” dancing never really takes off. With a full belly, a toe tap is all you can muster.
Time passes, and someone muffles a yawn. You sneak a peek at your watch and are aghast.
“What time is it?” a friend asks.
“Quarter past eight,” you reply, and everyone glances nervously at each other. Four more hours to go.
You down another stiff drink while a friend relays excruciating details about her cat’s prolonged struggle with feline distemper. You pretend to check in with the kids on your phone when you’re really scrolling through Facebook. You hit the buffet again, just because it’s there.
Mercifully, a guest offers to shoot off some fireworks, and you are grateful for the half hour spent shivering in the driveway while watching him light bottle rockets and roman candles.
Back inside, making it to midnight becomes a matter of survival. By the time the host turns the television on, it’s all you can do to chant, “… five, four, three, two, one — Happy New Year!” before heading for the door.
So before the ball drops this December 31st, drop your expectations. With a pre-party nap, an elastic waistband, and plenty of antacids, you might actually enjoy yourself.