With only residual hours left before 2012 becomes ’13 and all we’ve got are party hats, centenary sunglasses, and sweeping disappointment to show for the (illusive) milestone, enjoy a cogent portrayal of divorcement from New Year’s Eve as told by Mattie Kahn. Who knows–maybe you’ll resolve to stay in with us tonight.
Let me preface this by saying that I love a glittering sequined dress as much as the next girl, but I’ve made up my mind. After twenty long years, it’s really over. I’m breaking up with New Year’s Eve.
The origin of my disillusionment with everyone’s favorite occasion to dress like a disco ball is difficult to pinpoint. Did it begin when I was 15, and my heel broke in a gutter on Third Avenue? Or was it the time I watched 11:59pm turn to 12:00am via the flickering radio display screen of a stalled taxi? It could have been 2008, which I inaugurated alongside vomiting strangers at an acquaintance’s shadowy apartment. Or perhaps the eve of 2009, which I celebrated over freezer-burned ice cream in a diner on West 70th Street.
But no matter the primordial cause, of this I am certain: somewhere between the year I spent $75 dollars on a meal apportioned for an inmate and the many that found me scrambling at approximately 9:48pm on December 31st for something appropriately reflective to wear, the spark went out. Urban Outfitters, thanks for nothing.
To be fair, the relationship hasn’t always been so fraught. New Year’s circa 1998 marked the first excuse I had to stay up past midnight. I was six. In the waning hours of the twentieth century, my older brother slipped me my first—albeit thimble-sized—glass of champagne. When I recount this story at his eventual wedding, I will omit the fact that he did so only in exchange for the slice of cake I was in the process of devouring. I will also neglect to mention that I spit out said libation in disgust. “You drink this for fun?” I snarled. I rang in 2005 curled up next to a roaring fire with my parents and little sister and hot chocolate and terrible 80s music. It was perfect. And a few years ago, amidst a scene of minor decadence and teenage mediocrity, a great friend shrugged his shoulders as the clock struck twelve and said, “Happy New Year, babe,” before kissing me sweetly.
But the problem with New Year’s Eve—much like congressional bipartisanship and the Barneys Warehouse Sale—is that it cannot possibly live up to our collective cultural expectations. Some cocktail of romance, booze, irony, nostalgia, glitter, and resolution is quite a tall order for what amounts to a single instant. Not even the cosmetic touch of your favorite Instagram filter can circumvent this inevitability: the night is guaranteed to let you down. But because the prospect of overpriced appetizers or methodical intoxication or discounted Celine is too tantalizing to resist, you return to the eve each year with renewed purpose. And each year you’re sure: this time will be different. Really. Somewhere in mid-December you begin dropping hints to your best friends, your college acquaintances, your second cousin with the great apartment overlooking the Hudson. With evergreen hope comes the faux-casual query, “What are your plans for New Year’s?”
You’ve probably had one or two great ones as well—midnight celebrations turned magical because he leaned in or you did or you lived out the sitcom cliché du jour under twinkling lights. But unlike your preferred cabernet, New Year’s fails to mature. It doesn’t improve. It peaks.
Which is why last year, I mutinied. “I’m done,” I wanted to wail to the memory of Dick Clark and prix-fixe menus worldwide. I will not continue to commemorate this institutionalized disappointment. Hadn’t I had more than my fair share of failed adventures in a city that is usually so responsible about facilitating fantasy? I’ll stay in, I decided. “I did that one year,” my mother volunteered when I detailed my plan. “It’s one of the few New Year’s Eves I actually remember,” she added. How heartening.
My younger sister recently informed me that it would be best if I stay out late this year. She is throwing a New Year’s party at our apartment. I want to tell her what I know about anticlimactic countdowns and tequila sunrises and that grate on Third Avenue and East 85th, but I stayed silent. I’m embittered. I’m jaded. But she needn’t be. Not yet, anyway.
Besides, I intend to forever dine out on New Year’s Eve 2012—the platonic ideal. (And I do mean platonic.) Last year, after a concerned friend insisted I join her with the rest of humanity, I ventured down to a bar on the Bowery that wasn’t charging an entrance fee. “No party hats, Scrooge,” she promised. “We can drink whiskey neat and reminisce about the old country.”
Reluctantly, I acquiesced. And because of old-fashioneds and aperol spritzers and the kind of laughter that only a best friend can elicit, I had a begrudgingly grand time.
Just before midnight, the New Year firmly in sight, I noticed a neighboring table of six. Among them was a man wearing an impeccably cut grey suit. His hair was slicked back, and he was couldn’t-breathe gorgeous.
“That looks just like Ryan Gosling,” I said.
“People don’t just look like Ryan Gosling,” she declared. “They either are Ryan Gosling or they’re not.”
“Gail,” I said, seconds before the unavoidable countdown began, “It’s Ryan Gosling.” Eyes widened and mouths agape, we toasted to 2012. He must have caught us staring, because—for the briefest moment—he raised his glass and tipped it towards us.
I know myself. Am I ever going to do better than ringing in the New Year with Noah and Dean and Jacob and Stephen and Luke? No.
So count me out for future festivities. New Year’s, we are never, ever, ever getting back together.
-Illustration by Charlotte Fassler