New Year’s Is a Pain in the Ass

Taxi mayhem, low expectations, strange parties and Hattiesburg, Mississippi

I think I have a New Year’s Eve curse. I’ve had it ever since I was old enough to go out for New Year’s. Every year it’s something. Fortunately it seems to be lessening in severity as the years pass. Or maybe my expectations are lower.

[SIGNUP]The year I turned 16 was my first sans-parents New Year’s outing. My friend and I met these cute guys while skiing. Numbers were exchanged and the one guy called me and invited us to his friend’s party. My friend passed, but I decided to go. I got a ride there with the guarantee I’d get a ride home. No such luck. Unlike these days where parenting seems to mean finding out every detail of your child’s evening plans and picking them up anywhere anytime, I believe back then calling home at midnight for a ride was out of the question. I tried to get a taxi (a recurring theme in subsequent unfortunate New Year’s Eves) to no avail. But the fact that I walked seven miles home on deserted back roads was actually not the worst part of the story. The party itself turned out to be me, the guy from the ski hill and his geeky friend. The two of them spent the night trying to undo the hinges of the parents’ locked liquor cabinet with a screwdriver, and they couldn’t even manage that. The irony of not having the means to depart was thick.

It didn’t get much better after that. There was the year I was grounded because I didn’t get home until 7 a.m. because — once again — I was stuck in a neighboring city with a drunken date and no taxis. That year I had actually phoned home at 2 a.m. after hours of listening to the taxi company’s busy signal. Apparently my mother had no recollection of answering the phone in her sleep and telling me, “good luck” when I told her I was stranded. She did eventually remember my call, vaguely, and the grounding was lifted, but the whole experience kind of soured my New Year’s. Amazingly, the entire scenario played out again the next year. I believe that was when I was propelled to finally get my driver’s license.

There were a blur of pathetic or disappointing events and strange parties. Some were better than others, but none were good. One year someone knocked a candle on me, and I spent half the night trying to get wax out of my dress. Another year I recall getting to a party late only to find a bunch of people tripping out, so I left.

In my early 20s, my boyfriend and I were visiting my grandparents in Florida and spontaneously decided to drive to New Orleans for New Year’s Eve. We left the Panhandle early in the day and thought we’d just drive and find a place to stay when we got there. We got as far as the Louisiana welcome sign and before the bridge we stopped at the tourist information booth where we were educated about the Sugar Bowl being played the next day against Miami. I guess all of Miami was in New Orleans for this event, because the closest hotel with vacancy was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, two hours away. Which is where we spent New Year’s Eve that year. I still haven’t made it to New Orleans.

I threw a couple of New Year’s parties. They weren’t much better. Maybe they coincided with full moons, but unlike my regular parties, these are the ones that stand out for being flatter than week-old champagne. I’ve since sworn off hosting on New Year’s before I get a reputation for throwing bad parties.

One year — after proving my curse to my husband several years running — we decided to take a year off and just stay home. I don’t remember why we didn’t rent a movie, but we ended up watching one of those Nostradamus specials on the History Channel and a couple of hours later we were SO depressed. I think by midnight we were convinced the world was ending imminently. We have not taken a New Year’s off since. Even a bad party is better than that.

Now that I’m seasoned at weathering bad New Year’s, I have no expectations whatsoever. But this year we were invited to join a great group of friends at the Shore for a dinner dance. Our friends are an idiot-proof good time. There’s no chance I won’t have fun with these people. They’ve been to this event before, so it’s vetted and I trust their taste. So what could possibly go wrong? I threw my back out a couple of days before New Year’s. In yoga class, for God’s sake. Just getting to the Shore in the car was agony. I had an emergency chiropractor appointment right before we left, but he could only do so much and diagnosed me with a sprain in the muscle surrounding the sacral joint, which feels more like a massive pain in the ass. So much for the “Eagle Leg Side Twist.”

The party was great though. I consumed enough champagne to relax the muscles until I could dance, which actually helped temporarily. When we counted down I felt as un-cursed as I’ve ever been. So at least we’re on the upswing. I figure by the time I’m hanging on by a thread at 90, I am going to have one fabulous New Year’s Eve!