I rang in the New Year very quietly this year.
At midnight, I was wrapped in a blanket and curled up on the sofa, a cup of hot tea by my side. I watched the ball drop in Times Square (was it my imagination or did the ball seem a lot smaller this year?). I then shouted, “Happy New Year!” to no one in particular, which drew the attention of my two dogs.
Believe me, the traditional “midnight kiss” really loses something when the giver has a furry face and Alpo breath.
I couldn’t help but think just how different my New Year’s Eves of yesteryear were. For one thing, when I was single, I absolutely had to have a date for December 31. I didn’t care if the guy was 93 years old and didn’t speak a word of English, I refused to sit home alone on such an important night.
This, of course, resulted in some really interesting New Year’s Eves.
One of my first big New Year’s Eve dates was an evening of dining and dancing at a popular Manchester restaurant. Before the big night, I spent days shopping for just the right dress for the occasion. I must have tried on 200 dresses before I finally found the perfect one at Pariseau’s. It was silver and white with black lace trim. By the time I also bought the accessories – a purse, earrings, shoes – I’d spent about a week’s salary. But I figured it was worth every penny.
It turned out to be the most boring night of my life. First of all, my date invited his parents and his married sister and her husband to join us. They didn’t drink. They didn’t dance. They didn’t talk (unless you count grunts and monosyllabic responses). They also all were chain-smokers – and back then, smoking was allowed in most public places. In every photo taken of me that night, I look like a genie, arising from a cloud of smoke.
Right after dinner, both my date and his father dozed off at the table. Even worse, unbeknownst to us, while we were partying (and I use the term very loosely), there was a blizzard raging outside.
At 12:01, after a quick “Happy New Year!” and an even quicker kiss from my date, his father yawned and said, “Can we please go home now?”
So I, in my dainty, open-toed silver high-heels, headed outside with my date and his family, who suddenly sprang to life, kind of like horses when they pick up speed as they head back to the barn…and I promptly sank up to my shins in five inches of fresh snow. I still haven’t regained the full feeling in some of my toes.
The next year, a college jock invited me to a big semi-formal New Year’s Eve dance. Once again, I went shopping for the perfect dress and accessories. I suppose I could have worn the same ensemble I’d worn the year before, but I didn’t want to be reminded of that night. Besides that, it probably still reeked of smoke.
This time, I bought a low-cut black chiffon dress with a rhinestone belt; black high heels with rhinestone bows, and dangly rhinestone earrings. And once again, I blew my budget. But I was determined to look stunning for my big date.
The day before the dance, the college jock called to tell me he’d changed his mind about going, and instead had decided to meet a bunch of his buddies at some bar in Boston and get really drunk.
“I know you don’t like to drink,” he said, “so you’d probably limit me to only a couple drinks. Sorry, but I really want to get loaded tomorrow night.”
So there I was, dateless, all because I wasn’t a lush.
“Don’t worry,” my friend Moe said when I whined about it to her, “You can come with my husband and me to this big dance party in the Lakes Region. I promise we’ll find a date for you, too.”
I had nothing to lose at that point, so I agreed.
She and her husband picked me up the next night. They were alone.
“I’m not going stag!” I protested as I searched their back seat for my invisible date.
“No, he’s going to meet us there,” Moe assured me.
As it turned out, my date was a member of the band playing at the party that night. He spent all night onstage, and I spent all night sitting with Moe and her husband. I referred to the guy as my phantom date because I didn’t get to talk to him until the party was over. Even during his breaks, he rushed off to the dressing room to freshen up. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure which guy he was. There were five of them onstage, and Moe had waved her hand in his general direction and said, “That’s him, on guitar.” She never explained which guitar – rhythm, bass or lead.
For years, I suspected she’d just picked him out at random to make me feel better, and the guy never even had a clue about our so-called date.
Even worse, the party was country-western themed, so my chiffon and rhinestones made me look conspicuously out of place in a sea of denim and plaid.
You know, now that I think about it, spending New Year’s Eve curled up on the sofa and getting an Alpo-breath midnight kiss probably was better than a lot of my other New Year’s Eves.
And it certainly was a lot cheaper.
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