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Jewish Journal

11:59 and No Plan

by Dara Lehon

December 29, 2005 | 7:00 pm

It's almost 2006, and I'm almost proud of myself. Almost.

I've accomplished most of my 2005 New Year's resolutions: Been a devoted daughter/aunt/sister/friend, got a new job, got into grad school and bought a new, sumptuously soft forest green couch, complete with a plush, inviting ottoman.

I just fell short in one area: Newly single just days before 2006, I'm also planless for New Year's Eve (NYE).

Not this again.

Rolling off holiday season parties, the dreaded latke rush and the change-of-season blues, the idea of planning a fabulous evening is as appealing to me as poking my eyes with cocktail stirrers. Coupled (and often oblivious) defectors from the ranks of singles get to hang out in their jammies, and it's acceptable if they're hard-pressed to stay up past midnight. Meanwhile, folks like me have been deluded into the possibility of meeting someone new, and perhaps getting the elusive midnight kiss. We mustn't spend this night alone, right? Competitive by nature, determined in spirit, I must create something unforgettable out of something rather routine. I need (another) resolution.

Think, lovely, think. (Yes, I try to call myself that as often as possible.)

In my 20s, I experienced the traditional NYE rites of passage -- the requisite friends, alcohol, money-wasting and romantic storylines. Now in my 30s, NYE should be a piece of cake.

At least, theoretically.

Days before NYE, my Gmail's "Reply to All" feature has been officially and mortally abused by friends opining about their grand NYE wishes. This party, that suggestion, these friends, those people.

Haven't I learned my lessons?

As young college grad learning about money, I sought value. So, I once paid $150 (about a week's pay at the time) to attend a 5,000-person party at some chi-chi club. To reserve my spot at this ultra-exclusive event, I delivered my check (in-person) to some guy named "David," who lived on the other side of town.

Over the course of the evening, I tried to get my money's worth of bottom-shelf open bar, which nearly obliterated the vibe of the tremendous space, thumping music and huge crowd. Sure, I may have met some people there. But the most memorable part was the weather. See, when I finally decided to leave, I discovered that my coat (and others) had been stolen by other value-seeking party goers.

Another year, my search for NYE romance found me spending quality time with tasty amaretto sours (pre-cosmo, post solo-cup stage). Friends and I packed into a local bar with my crush of the year. Decked out -- my curly hair blown out straight as could be -- I sweated the evening away with my crush of the year, dancing and chatting. Crush and I were amorous, adorable and insatiable. That is, until the sours soured, sending me for refuge to the "not-so-lady-like-room," where my best friend dutifully held my quickly curling locks in my moment of need.

Then there was my NYE in Israel, which found me chatting in broken Hebrew in some random man's apartment on a random block in Tel Aviv. (I think we talked politics, then got engaged for the night -- although I forget his name.)

The Holy Land seemed a bit far the following year so I pranced around NYC to arbitrary parties full of folks "like me," and missed the ball drop as I returned a favor of hair-holding for my friend. (You'd think we would have learned to carry hair bands by then.)

"Maturity" -- or at least experience -- soon taught me to crave people and good food rather than an open bar. So I fondue-d and taboo-ed -- often with coupled friends -- and escaped unscathed, and better, well-fed. One year, I even enabled the romance of others by throwing my own 75-person bash (free for others, $$$ for me) in my not-so-big apartment and arranging a shidduch (not for myself).

And the crowning glory? The year my boyfriend whisked me away to a bed and breakfast, where I enjoyed good company, a delicious meal and a taste of hope for a future -- without NYE chaos. I got my midnight kiss, and was gleefully home minutes after the ball dropped.

These grounded, mature attempts took the most effort, involving months of preparation, but the glory clearly didn't last (although they were easier on my liver).

So here we go again. That anticipated yet dreaded night returns, begging for attention and causing frenzied chaos. I inspect others' plans. I try to piggyback. I attempt new plans, but it's too late for "interesting" things. Ridiculous notions of what could be reverberate in my head. I flash back to the overcrowded bars, to the nervous energy of the Dec. 31-11:59 p.m. combo, and to the porcelain and flushing water. I catch my breath, and suddenly everything is clear.

There will be no strobe lights and no clinking glasses. No slinky black dresses and certainly no uncomfortable shoes. Instead, I see dimmed lights, my menu of choice and, yes, all-cotton, drawstring sweats.

Maybe, NYE is Just Another Night. And you know what else? Come Dec. 31, single or coupled, bloated or malnourished, contemplative or perfectly content, not only will I have reached my truly consequential goals for the year, I will also have one damn cozy couch on which to celebrate.

Yes, so I'm pretty proud of myself. Too bad it only took me 3,646 days to figure it out.

Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at dlehon@yahoo.com.

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