I just got a call from my friend, Leslie, asking if I wanted to go out to dinner with her and her mother. It was a nice invitation. They’re just going up to the end of the block to the Cider Bar where everyone knows me and I know everyone. But it’s New Year’s Eve and it’s about 40 degrees below 0 and I just didn’t want to do that.
I am not a big fan of going out on this night. The hype is so great that the reality could never live up to it. I would rather spend the evening taking down my Christmas tree, watching Music Man, drinking wine and waiting until the ball drops in New York and then go to bed. In my youth, I did go out to parties but usually found it awkward and not-fun-at-all to ring in the new year with a bunch of strangers who I’d never see again.
There was the one year when I actually had a date and a “boyfriend”. I was only 19 — a very, very naive 19 at that — full of romantic ideas about nights like New Year’s Eve. So when Ned said he would come back from New Brunswick just to take me out for New Year’s I was gobsmacked. Surely, I thought, this was love. That day, as I sang along with the Ray Coniff Singers to “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” I had an answer. “I am going out,” I told those singers. For the first time in my little life, this girl was not going to spend the night playing Tripoli with nieces and nephews!
My sister, Nancy, God love her, let me wear her very grown-up, sort of sexy black lacy dress and black file shoes. I curled my hair and put on make up and probably a little perfume too. I looked sensational. I stayed upstairs until I heard him at the door. Then I made a dramatic entrance down the stairs. But, it was all for naught, since he was bent over pulling off his gallowses at the door like the good Canadian he was. It didn’t matter, I was going out. I was ready. I don’t think my parents totally approved of me going out with this “older” man, and, in retrospect, they were pretty smart about that. But I didn’t care, I was going out to dinner and dancing on New Year’s Eve.
Disillusionment started to creep in almost immediately as I settled into the little, very cold, red VW bug. “I didn’t make any reservations,” he said. Even as inexperienced as I was about going out on New Year’s Eve, I knew that could very well be a serious problem in the fulfillment of my New Year’s Eve dream. He, being more worldly than I, didn’t think it was such a problem. It was only after we had driven around for over an hour, that he confessed that there may just not be anywhere to eat. I was heartbroken and hungry and not amused by his hand creeping onto my knees and trying to slide up my dress every time he sifted gears. Being the good Catholic girl I was, I knew this was not good. I moved a tad closer to the door. We drove all around the North End of Columbus with him stopping and going in to see if a restaurant had room. Nothing. I felt like Mary and Joseph looking for that inn. We ended up in a not-very-fancy Italian restaurant in a strip mall — far too ordinary for my fancy dress and my romantic ideas of a candlelight dinner for two. Fluorescent overhead lights just don’t have the same effect.
When dinner was finished, I knew he had no plans for the rest of the evening, not even to where we would ring in the new year. This did not happen in my romantic dreams of New Year’s Eve dates. As we sat in the parking lot he muttered to himself about what I do not know, but I did know that the minutes were ticking away towards midnight. I did not want my romantic dreams to end squashed in a red VW with creeping hands. So I suggested a nightclub where my sisters went dancing on Saturday nights. It was in the right neighbourhood so why not try. He said, “We’ll never get in.” but, he did at least, start the car and head that way. It was five minutes to midnight when we walked in the door and shrugged our coats off and were on the dance floor when the countdown began. It was just like it was supposed to be, except maybe for the guy.
Happy New Year, Everyone.