there’s something intrinsically unsettling about New Year’s
Eve, the new year and the first few weeks of January.
Take New Year’s Eve, for example. When I was a kid I loved
New Year’s Eve. My parents and sisters would get all dressed
up and our Cuban neighbors would come over. My father would
mix up grasshoppers and brandy Alexanders. We’d wait anxiously
for the ball to drop at Times Square. When it did we’d open
the back door to let the old year out and the front door to
let the new year in (and we were a frugal family; leaving
the doors open in December seemed exotic and exciting).
We learned the Cuban tradition of eating eleven grapes and
then throwing the twelfth one out the door for good luck.
We also threw our broom out the door. But since we never had
any intention of buying a new broom, we always brought it
back in when we closed the doors.
I just never figured you had to think much about New Year’s
But when you grow up you feel this pressure to do something
special. And if you don’t, you’ll end up feeling all this
regret that you didn’t do something special.
One year, while I was (briefly) dating someone who was apparently
quite intellectual, but who had a marked distaste for revelry,
midnight came. And went. No grapes or brooms thrown into the
street. No party hats. All was calm. All was dull.
I remember thinking I wanted to be home with my mother. She
still watched the ball drop and opened up the front and back
doors. New Year’s with my mother would have been fun. (Although
if I had been home, I wouldn’t have wanted to be.)
You might not have known this, but the official start of Seasonal
Affective Disorder season is New Year’s day.
On New Year’s day you don a game face to hide the knowledge
that in the next day or two you or your kids will be back
in school or at work, that the tree will just keep shedding
its needles until you take it down and winter still has you
in its grips for the next three months.
I saw Beaches one New Year’s day. I hated Beaches.
We’re supposed to be heartwarmed that Bette Midler is a star
because the dying Barbara Hershey was the wind beneath her
wings? Oh, please. Bring me a bicarbonate of soda.
Now, if it happens you’ve gone ahead and made New Year’s resolutions,
be aware of the following things:
Let’s say you’ve resolved to keep in touch with out-of-town
friends more frequently. You’ll phone them once a month, e-mail
weekly with news. Shouldn’t be too time-consuming. What in
fact will happen is that you do just great in January and
maybe February, but by March the phone calls will stop and
the e-mails will be mostly forwarded jokes and videos that
were first forwarded to you from other friends trying to keep
The gym resolution. Oh, that’s a good one. You know darn well
what will happen if you decide to join a gym at New Year’s.
You don’t need me to tell you. So don’t spend a lot of money
on those sweat-wicking gym duds and solar-powered sneakers.
The I-will-limit-myself-to-one-glass-of-wine resolution? You’ll
quickly find yourself with a large, red plastic tumbler, the
kind you find in the paper plates aisle at Price Chopper.
That’s one glass, right?
The I-will-cut-back-on-sweets resolution? You’ll discover
you can eat an entire bag of potato chips and not encounter
a single cookie or a bite of candy. Go, you.
Technically, you’re doing what you promised yourself you would
do. But really, you’ve broken your resolutions. That you’re
a New Year’s resolution failure. And what do you do when feel
like a failure? Break out the Chardonnay and the Whitman’s
Look, it’s a new year and with it comes new opportunities.
So, to quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see” and follow
these few wise tips if you want to have a rockin’ good time
Resolve never, ever to spend New Year’s Eve with dull intellectuals.
Monitor even the moderately bright. If they start talking
about politics, literature, art or religion, get hell away
from them. You’ll be glad you did.
Resolve never, ever to watch Beaches on New Year’s
Day. Or anytime. If you find yourself humming “You Are the
Wind Beneath My Wings,” immediately switch to the theme song
from Gilligan’s Island.
And last, make resolutions you know you can keep. Resolve
to complain about your hair/weight/skin/partner/kid/neighbor/boss.
Resolve to swear at bad drivers. Resolve to frequently feel
sorry for yourself about one thing or another. Resolve to
laugh loudly in restaurants when it is your turn to annoy
the other diners. Resolve to spend too much time reading about
Brad and Angie, Jen and John, Tom and Katie, Ellen and Portia
and—though this may take some doing this year since her star
has significantly dimmed—the governor of Alaska and her grandchild.
Best of luck to you all. And have a happy New Year!