The Light Touch / A walk on the New Year's Eve wild side
Published 10:47 am, Friday, December 31, 2010
The worst part about New Year's Eve is that it cuts into my routine: Sleeping, for example.
It's the only time of year I am forced to stay up late, and even worse, get dressed up.
By 9 p.m. on most winter nights I am already snug in my robe, engrossed in a good book and eating a baked apple -- my nocturnal winter treat.
But on Dec. 31 it all changes. I am plummeted into forced frivolity; attired in some lacey, low-cut number, attending a party with people, who on any other night are intelligent, stimulating, well-grounded adults, but on New Year's Eve morph into the worst versions of themselves.
Our friend, Jim, a portfolios analyst, single-handedly responsible for making life-altering sound fiscal decisions, was found last New Year's Eve sipping from a bottle of Veuve Cliquot with a straw, a pink boa tossed around his shoulders.
Similarly Ted, who to the world is Dr. Ted, the vascular surgeon -- a physician, who has bypassed some of the best -- was discovered in the kitchen with a woman who wasn't his wife, but turned out to be the caterer, who had left her post for more ice. What she got instead was Dr. Ted.
New Year's Eve is fraught with improprieties at every turn.
It wrecks havoc on one's sanity and brings out the worst in everyone.
One such night occurred a few years ago, and will remain forever as the night from hell. I wore a green stain dress with a décolleté cut so low it caused cardiac arrest to a man who happened to be standing over me. I don't exaggerate.
This guy took one look at my cleavage and croaked. I'm not saying it was the dress or my cleavage that did it.
He did, after all, have a history of smoking two packs a day, and wasn't the picture of health, but let's just say, I haven't worn that dress since.
From then on, New Year's Eve seemed more ferocious than festive.
It wasn't always this way. As a child, I found this night mysteriously romantic.
I loved watching Dick Clark and the big bands fill up the TV screen, blasting their music into my room.
Later, confetti fell over Times Square as people, shivering in their flimsy outfits, looked up as the ball descended upon a new year.
Such nights resonate still.
At home, my parents threw their annual bash, inviting friends over for a gala celebration.
Hors d'oeuvres spilled onto silver platters: pigs in little flaky blankets, goose liver pate, large shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce and served with toothpicks adorned in their colorful frilly-edged tutus; cheeses of all nations and puffed pastries stuffed with unidentifiable gooey interiors.
The drinks flowed into dinner, which was usually a Beef Wellington with roasted potatoes and green beans preceded by a salad with my father's homemade Roquefort dressing.
As the guests danced the night away, their voices reverberating through the house, I sat in my pajamas on the top stair of the hall landing, eavesdropping as they made merry and got progressively high on French champagne.
The fur coats had been abandoned, and like stuffed animals, lay in the guest room reeking from heady perfumes: Shalimar (my favorite), Tabu, Sortilege, My Sin, Arpege and Joy.
At midnight, I was allowed to join the adults in the singing of Auld Lang Syne and have a sip of champagne -- a ritual fraught with a heady joie de vivre that seemed mesmerizing to a little girl, who considered staying up past midnight, exquisitely intoxicating -- a night that paved the way for all New Year's Eve to come.
So, what happened?
When did I become so blasé? Perhaps, it was the realization that no matter how hard I tried or as festive as it got, subsequent New Year's Eve could never compare to those when I, in the glow of youth, sat on the stairs observing it all from my lofty perch.
I was awed by what I considered the grandest night of the year, waiting to grow up and be an active participant in that adult world of such glamorous evenings.
The anticipation alone was seductive.
Or maybe, it is the loss of times past when the night spread out with no end in sight -- when the charm of it all seemed unstoppable as I observed it all: the women in their sequin-studded dresses and rhinestone barrettes -- their laughter floating over the room, the whiff of sensuality hanging heavy in the air.
It was a sweeter, gentler time then as I watched it unfold, trying not to succumb to sleep for fear of missing what lay on the other side of midnight.
Each new year meant a step closer to my own independence, when I fanaticized that I would become one of them -- a dazzling woman in the arms of some dashing man.
Even my parents seemed the epitome of grandeur as they stepped out of their conventional daily lives, and were catapulted into a magical night that reeked of a forbidden allure so alien to the world I inhabited at age 12.
Fast-forwarding to 2010, it is these thoughts that jog my memory as the New Year approaches. Why, despite the glitz, the glam, the razzle-dazzle, the pink feather boa and Dr. Ted in the pantry with the caterer, I have become less enchanted by it all.
And, why my green satin dress with the plunging neckline hangs in my closet still, waiting for the perfect occasion, which, like the New Year's Eves of my childhood seem so mystically elusive.