We're all a year older. Can I please go to bed now?
When I was a child, I loved New Year’s Eve. The holiday meant two things to me: staying up late, and cake. My mom would make her famous (to us) chocolate cake, my dad would mix up a bowl of Champagne punch, and they’d invite a few friends over. My siblings and I tried hard to stay awake until midnight. The next morning, we’d eat cake for breakfast. Yum.
In my teen years, the holiday took on a new anxiety-inducing twist. New Year’s Eve became all about The Kiss. Would you have someone to kiss when the clock struck midnight? Would it be someone you wanted to kiss?
That was a lot of pressure.
As a single adult, the pressure only got worse. If you’re not in a relationship, making plans for New Year’s Eve is stressful and dispiriting. If you are, it’s one of those make-or-break holidays, like Valentine’s Day: Whether you spend it together is indicative of where the relationship is going.
If you do have a date, how the evening goes is also important. I once spent it with a boyfriend whose friends, it turned out, had a tradition of trashing the ski cabin they’d rented by opening a dozen bottles of Champagne simultaneously, with no attempt to contain the spray or protect the walls and upholstery, or each other’s clothing.
He wasn’t my boyfriend much longer.
Love and marriage saved me from all that. My husband and I have shared some beautiful, romantic New Year’s Eves. And as our two kids grew, it was fun to see their excitement over the holiday. We celebrated at home and shared sweet moments together, gathered around a crackling fire, marveling at how the passage of time was affecting our little family. Eventually, as they grew up, New Year’s Eve became an extended-family event, with a passel of their cousins running around high on apple juice and anticipation.
That’s when “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” came into our lives—the show otherwise known as the worst TV program on earth.
For hours on end, Ryan Seacrest makes desperate small talk with an assortment of pop stars while Jenny McCarthy roams a frozen, frantic crowd of drunken revelers in Times Square, batting her epic fake eyelashes, kissing random men (at least before her 2014 wedding to Donnie Wahlberg) and asking inane questions.
Yes, there are musical performances, many of which engender a single thought: Why would she/he wear that outdoors in 9-degree weather? The whole thing is a train wreck—and it’s impossible to look away.
And then, finally, it’s time for the main event: 10 … 9 … 8 …
The kids jump up and down, screaming the countdown. Me, I shake my head, wondering if there could be anything more anticlimactic than watching that ball—you know, the one with “2,688 Waterford crystals,” as we are solemnly told—drop. And by drop, I mean descend so slowly that its movement is almost imperceptible.
Seriously? That’s what we’ve all been waiting for?
To be honest, though, the strange dullness of the moment is appropriate. After all, what does New Year’s Eve mean? There’s no historic event to celebrate, no valued principle to cherish. No more change is occurring than on any of the other 364 nights of the year.
We make resolutions. And to be sure, there’s hope in the idea that the coming year may be the one in which we will finally get things right: We’ll eat healthy, we’ll drink less, be a better spouse or friend, get organized, get a better job.
But that hope is predicated on the idea that we screwed up during the past year. We got fat, we got lazy. We lost track of our goals. And, of course, we committed the ultimate sin: We got older.
Which, I guess, is the main reason I’m ambivalent about New Year’s Eve. Couple that with the fact that the kids—now both in college—soon will leave again. New Year’s Eve means it’s just one more year passing by. What’s to celebrate about that?