New Year’s Eve is strictly for amateurs.
As a charter member of that select group of New Yorkers who obsessively go out virtually every night of the year, I’ve always found that New Year’s—when convention holds you simply have to go out and are somehow required to have a raucous good time—is a perennial pain and a dire waste of time. It exists for people who generally stay in and binge-watch TV shows to then suddenly hit the town and act festive in a weird celebration of the fact that we’re all aging. It stinks.
Awful New Year’s Eve memories from my childhood have always helped cement my discomfort with it. Every year, as the clock struck midnight, my mother didn’t rejoice at the glory of new beginnings. A chronic worrier, she instead broke into tears of horror, remembering all the bad things that had happened in the previous year, like deaths, breakups, and indiscretions. In a Pavlovian fashion, this effectively made me dread the holiday and feel the “3-2-1” to be a ridiculous march towards doom. Nowadays, when midnight approaches, I lock myself in the nearest bathroom, unable to face the onslaught of drunken congratulations, messy kisses, and cheap sentiment. Thanks to ma and her depth of emotion, it’s a sad moment, not a joyous one, and no amount of therapy can change that for me.
On top of that, New Year’s Eve events reek of loud desperation, making for an uneasy romp that makes you wonder why you bothered, especially since it costs an arm and a leg to get there and back. But you have to go out, so I have, from a certain party in the '80s at The Palladium nightclub that I hosted with club kid turned author James St. James (It was so mirthless that we ended up frantically dancing on table-tops as the crowd of bridge-and-tunnel people stared in horror) to a sad house party that my friends and I snuck out of rather than let the hostess see that we’d only lasted five minutes.
In 2000, the millennium and the year of Y2K, I stood in Times Square to watch the ball drop and all I remember was that it was cold and crowded, and it confirmed the fact that I had become a tourist in my own town.
But then I started getting invited to another house party every year—an intimate West Village soiree hosted by photographer/makeup artist Harry King, who liked to flip through his portfolio and regale you with relatively benign stories of Faye Dunaway and Diana Ross. His guests included a colorful writer who claimed he’d had encounters with every celebrity you can think of (Elaine Stritch and the character actress Mariette Hartley were allegedly his cousins, and John Wayne’s son was a trick), plus a former model who had done a cameo on The Love Boat and now was a rabid Republican. That an actual star from a bygone era–Annie Ross, the late Oliver Sacks, or Three’s Company’s Joyce DeWitt–would occasionally saunter into this bash added to its surreal quality and I was actually upset when I ceased to be on the guest list (I’d fallen out with the namedropper), sorry to lose the chance to have some wacky socializing on my dreaded night of nights.
This year, New Year’s Eve takes on extra pathos because every moment of the countdown will be ushering in the bizarre administration of Donald Trump. I’ll want to be in the bathroom...for four years. Still, even if I think New Year’s Eve is a joke—much like Halloween has become a de rigueur bit of nonsense for adults desperately living the childhood they never had—you have to make something out of it or you’ve wasted an opportunity to be part of the human race.
So, for the last several years, friends and I have gotten together for a quiet dinner at a local restaurant—for example Bar 6, a cozy Moroccan-flavored eatery in the Village—and chat and schmooze and act like it’s just a regular night. Then we go to Vogue writer Lynn Yaeger’s Fifth Avenue apartment and gather on her couch, on folding chairs, and on the floor and watch Ryan Seacrest until we can't take another second of his blinding pearly whites.
Then we limp home, at least knowing that we tried to make something sincere and communal out of an event that’s neither, despite appearances.
We don’t use any confetti or noisemakers in the process, just those glittery eyeglasses (“2017”) you can get at Jack’s 99-cent store–because spending a buck is just right for this overblown mess of an occasion. So, on December 31, let’s stop resisting the reverie. It’s bigger than all of us, and besides, fighting it put me far from the bowl of potato chips in the living room.