When I was younger, doing something on New Year's Eve was important. Cool people went to exciting parties, losers stayed home to watch Dick Clark. Even spending the evening with strangers at a trendy venue was preferable to being home at the stroke of midnight.
I remember one year when a college friend invited me to a party in L.A. Excited to be invited to what was considered an A-list party, I went out and bought the most expensive bottle of cheap champagne my teaching stipend could afford. It should be noted here that even a regularly priced bottle diet coke is expensive when your monthly income amounts to exactly $1178.56, which must be divided between rent, tuition payments, books and food.
In those days, I thought expensive equaled good. As it turned out, the other 23 year olds at the party were far more interested in the keg of beer than they were in my elegant libational offering. Even though it was too dry and too warm, I ended up drinking most of the bottle myself, for I was cosmopolitan and appreciated the good things in life, even if my peers didn't. I would have drank the whole bottle, but was forced to share when a drunken, 70's obsessed frat boy (even then, I hated frat boys) from UCLA staggered over to have a taste of the elegant life and grill me on my feelings about Peter Frampton before spontaneously falling off the couch back he was sitting on and passing out. What a rewarding evening.
A decade later, my idea of a fun way to welcome the new year is decidedly different. For one, I am no longer willing to spend an evening drinking crap, no matter how expensive it is or how much it makes my nose tickle. Furthermore, I would rather spend my time with people I love than feeling uncomfortable among strangers, even if they are reported to be "cool". The truth is that I have never enjoyed large groups. Being shy by nature, they stress me out. I do much better on an individual basis, especially with strangers.
So how did I spend New Year's Eve 2005? Doing a massive wardrobe overhaul with my two closest girlfriends. They are the kind of people who, instead of being offended when informed that the embroidered shorts they are modeling make them look like something the Alps gacked up, begin singing "The Lonely Goatherd" at top of their lungs (and this is without the benefit of alcohol). They are people who see no shame in driving cross country wearing bunny ears and blue tinted sun glasses and laugh hysterically at the idea that the little bit of skin between a woman's bra strap and underarm is technically called the "cutlet". They are also people who wanted to come over and clean up the syringes and mess left by the paramedics when my father died, so my mom and I wouldn't have to.
They are my friends, the people who really matter. I would trade a thousand parties for an evening of hanging out with them, laughing so hard that the little area behind my ears starts to hurt. And I say this despite the fact that one of them was actually with me and did nothing to stop me when I made the misguided purchase of a dress that in retrospect made me look like a pasty, badly turned out Sacagawea about to lead the Corps of Discovery westward. The sad part is that I really only began to realize that something had gone badly awry with my fashion sense when the worst dressed person in my office informed me that it was "a great dress", then tried to buy some pelts from me in exchange for beads.
And my friends? Well, at least they had the decency to make me throw the dress away when we were staging our New Year's episode of "What Not To Wear". That's the important part. That's what friends do: let you look like an ass for long enough to laugh and point at you, but make you stop before any real harm is done (or anyone who is not them makes fun of you). If every New Year's Eve sees me laughing as much as I did this past one, I hope that they all are just like it!
P.s. Just for the record, I still hate frat boys.