Now if any night of the year is a mixed bag and a mixed blessing—-New Year’s Eve is definitely it!!!! For years, I’ve gone back and forth about what to do about it. Most of the time, no matter what you do on New Year’s Eve, you feel that you may have done the wrong thing—unless you had a really great one!!!! When I was married, we used to go to bed early and didn’t do anything on that evening. Single, like so many other people, I feel obliged to do ‘something’. But which something and where? Seeing the new year in, entirely alone, and watching TV or old movies (or even new ones) alone in your nightgown seems a little too easy going and could easily be depressing. So for several years, I have done a black tie dinner for about 20 people on New Year’s Eve. I did it very elegantly at first, with everyone looking very elegant and grown up. And then….one year…..
Several years ago, I was about to give my traditional black tie New Year’s eve dinner party, when there was a BIG rain storm in San Francisco. I mean REALLY big!!! Fierce winds, trees bending, some fell over, flood warnings, and torrential rains. I was waiting for the cook to arrive, when he called me. He lived on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, and he called to tell me that the bridge was closed, and he wasn’t going to be able to make it that night—–and all the food was with him. So, no cook, no food. It was nearly 7pm by then. My guests were due 2 hours later, and I had no dinner to give them. Noisemakers, horns, sparkly sunglasses with the year on them, paper and glitter tiaras and top hats—-but, oops!!! No dinner!!! Uh Oh!!! BIG problem!!!! And I thought that if I cancelled, it was too late for anyone to make plans and 20 friends would be upset and very disappointed. And I didn’t want to let them down, but I couldn’t starve them either.
I got on the phone and called every caterer in the city. And of course they had no one to send me. So, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. And I decided that the only thing I could do at that point was buy fast food for dinner. I made a list, and sent everyone out to buy burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, Chinese take-out, KFC, pizza, french fries galore. We had every kind of fast food I could think of. When the guests arrived, they looked fabulous, and expectant of an elegant evening. When dinnertime came and we sat down at the table, I explained the dilemma, and the solution I’d come up with. Faces lit up, eyes danced, and out came the fast food I had picked up for dinner. I thought people might be annoyed, or worse than that, having gotten all decked out in their finery,—-and what were they going to eat for dinner??? Hot dogs and corn dogs!!!! I saw people eat more that night than they had in years. The curly fries were more popular than caviar. People who might otherwise have been on their best behaviour were suddenly loosening up and having fun. Jackets came off, ties were loosened, paper tiaras were slipping, as people called from one end of the table to the other ‘pass the mustard’ ‘who has the onion rings?’. The evening was a huge success, and people loved it. So much so, that the following year, I decided to do it again, on purpose this time. That year, I invited people in black tie, warned them that they would be eating fast food, and added a poker game, which was a huge hit too. So now, that’s our tradition. Black tie, poker, and fast food on New Year’s Eve. It solved a problem for me too, as it coincided with the years I’ve been alone. So instead of feeling like a wall flower at my own party, and watching others kiss and dance at midnight, I’m eating corn dogs and pizza, and onion rings, and hoping to make ten dollars at poker, to bring in the new year. We have a DJ after all the food and card games, and we dance a little. But to be honest, the best part is the fast food and the poker game. It’s an irreverent way to spend what can easily be a dull or painful evening. But with curly fries in one hand, and a winning poker hand in the other—-what could possibly be better. I no longer cry at Auld Lang Syne at midnight, I just want to go back to my poker game, to double my winnings (to a big fat $20.00). And now I actually enjoy New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year!!!