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December 28, 2009

  • What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  • imageI have been lucky in my life to have attended four very awesome New Year’s Eve parties. All four of them have been in the past decade and have been testaments to what can happen when you have great friends, great food and a great variety of alcohol.

    Most of my New Year’s Eve revelry has been on the, well, dullish side. Last year my wife and I went to really nice restaurant on Elgin Street in Ottawa, where my wife ran into an old high school friend by chance. We eventually came home after a nice meal and I fell asleep moments after the ball dropped in Times Square. Yeah, I’ve hit middle age.

    I don’t mind that. In my life I’ve come to realize the very awesome celebrations of Hogmanay happen only rarely and so I’ll therefore take the humdrum nights. Because, frankly, so many of my New Year’s have just plain sucked.

    Here, let me do a brief walking tour. 1996: Argued about the merits of Doctor Who vs. Babylon 5 during the final minute of 1995. 1998: Had the editor of the magazine I reviewed for make me feel about an inch high only to be then crushed underfoot by another acquaintance who decided New Year’s was the perfect time to tell me why a mutual friend was pissed off with me. 2001: Went to a friend-of-a-friend’s wedding, where I spent the evening dancing with a girl I’d had a crush on for years and got nowhere. 1992: Spent the night holed up at the residence of someone I didn’t like purely to see someone I did like, who never showed up in the first place.

    Bluntly put, I’ve been cursed. Cursed, for the most part, with singleness. No holiday is one’s singlehood ever more pronounced than New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day I could survive with self-medication and avoidance. New Year’s Eve was when I annually felt like an orphan, desperately hoping some conglomeration of people would take pity on me and adopt me for an evening. And even if I did find some refuge, I would have to suffer in introverted agony as I figured out which stranger I could talk to (or determine was worth taking to) and generally felt awkward as I flirted (badly) with good-looking women, made (inept) small talk and generally spent the (long) night wishing it would be midnight already.

    (Not that togetherness is an instant cure: the first year I was with the woman who would eventually become my wife, my beloved got sick during dinner and spent the coming of 2006 wrapped in a blanket with a low-grade fever while I prepared her Neo-Citron.)

    And then there were the really, really bad New Year’s. Like the time leading up to New Year’s 2003 where some friends of mine enthused about an annual get together they did with other friends in the Riverdale area of Toronto which involved a lovely meal, a trip out to Riverdale park in the snow and general fun and merriment. My friends even showed me a video they made of the previous year. They concluded by saying “You should definitely come.”

    I took this to mean, “You should definitely come.” What they really meant was “You should acknowledge we have a superior shindig and go somewhere else.” In fairness, they were nice enough towards me, but from the moment all these friends took part in an elaborate gift exchange amongst themselves, it was clear this was not an event for outsiders. The conversations were similarly laced with a decade’s worth of communal existence. It also didn’t help that the friends who ‘invited’ me disappeared to go to the airport for two hours. I took the hint and left at 12:02 AM.

    But the worst, absolutely worst, New Year’s of my life was, without a doubt, New Year’s 1995. Just two weeks before I had a crushing breakup with a girlfriend I was madly in love with at the time. I did not handle being dumped particularly well, downing a bottle of sherry and then, the next morning, dealing with the pain of alcohol poisoning while listening to bluegrass singer Alison Krauss perform a haunting cover of the Beatles song “I Will” on the radio.

    I mention this for important context. My best friend Rob was also, at the time, having relationship problems of his own. Rob and I got together with our friends Brian and Bill at Bill’s apartment in Mississauga to hang out on the last night of 1994 as we often did during that time in our lives. We did our usual thing of hanging out and bantering and drinking beer and debating religion and politics, but it soon led to talking about our relationships. I think Rob kicked it off, chronicling the frustrations he was having with his seriously damaged, commitment-phobic girlfriend. Then Brian, who was quiet and shy, surprised everyone by revealing he was in love with someone who hadn’t noticed him.

    Meanwhile, in the midst of all this angst and commiseration, Bill had a Beatles album playing in the background. And the next track to come on during this conversation was “I Will.”

    And the whole night went to hell as three people sank ever more into depression induced by loves lost, loves misplaced and loves never quite found. Bill tried to cheer us up by showing us his Barbarella graphic novels, but not even the sight of Bande Dessinée featuring bare-breasted women from the future could help. Afterward, Rob drove me home and one of us turned to the other and said, “We are not doing this again.”

    And, to be fair, I never had a New Year’s Eve that bad again. Though a few came close.

    This year my wife and I have a nice evening planned at a great restaurant with some wonderful friends we made over the past year. Confidence is high. But even if we just wind up having an ordinary night out, I will consider that to be a spectacular win.

    Posted by graeme | (3) Comments | Permalink

    << Polite Rejection   |   Main   |   Things I Discovered in 2009 >>

    Scott  on  01/25  at  10:42 AM

    Ugh, I remember my New Year’s Eve 1998 drugged out on Demerol (after a severe gall bladder attack) in a Comox hospital with an old man in the bed next to me yelling, “more morphine, morphine”

    Greg McE  on  01/25  at  11:09 AM

    Isn’t it funny how we can place so much importance on NYE? I’ve had some good and bad ones over the years but somewhere along the way I lost my drive. This year my celebration involved going to work, waiting for Charlie to get off of work, and having dinner around the corner before going to bed at 10:30. Heh.

    (Don’t get me wrong, the year before we were up at a friend’s family home in the Hamptons having an elaborate dinner, which was really lovely and I enjoyed it a great deal. But I was just as fine to start dozing off on the couch and declare it time for bed well before midnight.)

    Robert Smith?  on  01/29  at  12:19 AM

    I’ve actually been fairly lucky, as most of my NYEs have been quite pleasant (and some ridiculously fun). But even so, this past one I escaped to an ashram where there was no alcohol, no drunk people yelling and utter silence after 1:00am. There was something quite magical about that.

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