Kissing off 2009

The pressure to hook up on New Year's Eve is immense. Take it down a notch, and you may embrace 2010 with locked lips.
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 6, 2010


I had no New Year's kiss last year. I had fun, friends, a bonfire, and a bellyful of delicious food, but no kiss.

And I have to admit, I missed it.

Clearly, I'd succumbed to what a New York Times writer once referred to as "the tyranny of New Year's Eve" — that insistence that, on this night, of all nights, we must experience festive, perfect romance (or at least some simulation of such). Hell, a whole movie was made on this premise (2007's In Search of a Midnight Kiss). The entire world (or at least the parts where they don't capriciously stone people to death) wants us to be making out as 11:59 pm becomes 12 am.

This is not a new phenomenon. "Every man hath two birth-days," 19th-century scribe Charles Lamb wrote in his 1821 essay, "New Year's Eve," in which he addressed his fear — nay, rejection! — of death, spurred by contemplation of the new year. "The one is that which in an especial manner he termeth his. . . But the birth of a New Year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left."

In other words, none of us can avoid the epic expectations of New Year's Eve, a night when kings and cobblers — and investment bankers and artists — simultaneously look backward and forward. Is it counterintuitive that such self-reflection would lead to implied romantic pressure? Perhaps. Evaluation of what's done, and what's to come, seems like a solitary pursuit, one that might be hindered by high-level flirting. But here's the rub: the New Year's obligation isn't just to get lucky, but to be happy — to consider the year's successes, as well as those in store.

For many people (including me, apparently), a big measure of success has to do with love (finding it and keeping it), and if you're not in love, you can at least pretend to be by drunkenly hooking up with a stranger. See? The New Year's Eve Kiss merely underscores society's destructive emphasis on co-dependence! (You'll likely find me alone in a corner honing this argument around 12:02 am Friday.)

But enough with the indictment of social norms. The fact is that it's fun to smooch when the ball drops. How to lock and load, come Thursday? It's easy: resign oneself to kisslessness (the old no-shave technique). That, and make sure you go to a party with a significant number of single people. (Nothing worse than fielding jealous significant others all night long.)

If you have no designs on making out, it's more likely to happen. You'll drink less (fewer nerves = fewer champagne cocktails = fewer humiliating verbal gaffes when conversing with strangers); you won't try as hard; you'll get to actually enjoy the evening as it should be enjoyed — with copious sparkles, dancing, and resolution-making with friends. Plus, if/when the midnight miracle does happen, the whole event will be less laden with meaning — and you'll be less weird about inviting your kiss partner home to continue the fun.

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