Here we go again. It’s that time of year when, at some point, every conversation seems to end up with the ubiquitous question ‘What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?’.
I have always had something of an aversion to the enforced celebrations of the passing of one year into another, and yet I can’t help but ask the question of others. This in turn leads to the inevitable fact that they’ll ask the question back to me. It’s like a bizarre form of New Year’s Eve Tourettes. And then the social one-upmanship occurs as we explain the ‘fabulous’ plans we have (true or not), because for some reason we are all programmed to believe that on December 31 we’re supposed to have the best night out – ever!
So when did that pressure start? When did someone decree that it was just too embarrassing to not be invited to some fabulous party, or to not want to spend a small fortune on an over-priced night out? Surely the only people who really benefit are the venues, pubs, restaurants et al who hike their prices up to a ridiculous level because they know there are so many suckers out there who are willing to pay them.
A meal in your local curry house can cost the same as heading to a Mayfair Michelin-starred eatery. Local hostelries will charge an entry fee so that you can stand 24 deep at the bar, unable to move your limbs freely, let alone get a round in. And if you do venture further afield than your own neighbourhood, you either have to stay sober and drive, pay double-time taxi rates, or experience the joy of fighting off drunken revellers on the Tube and buses. All in all, not exactly my idea of a fun night out.
And then there’s midnight. If you happen to be single on New Year’s Eve, there is that hellish midnight moment when everyone partners off for a snog and you don’t have anyone to kiss. One of two things can happen at that awful point. You either end up with some equally single, lecherous stranger lurching towards you or you stand for a very uncomfortable solitary minute feeling like you’d rather be anywhere else than there. So why put yourself through it?
Over the years I’ve spent a small fortune on events I didn’t want to go to, just so I had something to tell people. I’ve invited people to my own house for parties that I really didn’t want to host. And I’ve even lied about what I was doing, so everyone would just get off my back. And all because somehow I felt I wasn’t allowed to say that I’d prefer to stay in, watch some telly and go to bed early with a mug of hot chocolate.
But that was in the past. One of the joys of getting older is the realisation that I can do what I want and don’t have to cave in to assumed social pressures. And it’s not just me. A lot of my friends are now owning up to the fact that they don’t particularly like New Year’s Eve either. And it seems that as we become grumpy older men and women, that we’re (at long last) able to admit this to the world at large. It’s such a relief.
So what will I be doing this year on New Year’s Eve? Well a couple of like-minded friends and I will have a lovely dinner and some wine at home. We’ll sit smugly in the warm, thinking of everyone out in the cold, travelling to their parties, spending too much money and trying hard to have the night of their lives. We may stay up through midnight, but we may not. But most importantly, we won’t have any unrealistic expectations and therefore won’t wake up on New Year’s Day disappointed.
NOTE TO SELF: Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.