Family & Friends

The Worst New Year’s Eve Ever

I was in my early thirties, working as a fashion designer on Seventh Avenue and living on the Upper West Side. Manhattan glitters during the holidays, but, if you’re not seeing anyone “special” and your friends don’t invite you to ski with them in Jackson Hole or tan in St. Barts, those holidays can be a lonely time of year.

That’s why I decided to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Philly, my hometown. The down side was camping out at my parents’ condo and regressing to familial constraints. “Why go out now? It’s dark already,” they said.  “Button your chest, you’ll catch your death,” they said. “Watch TV with us,” they said.

I didn’t watch 60 Minutes with my parents. I went out. That was the whole idea. To hang out with pals from my college days.  My closest friend, Janie, was divorced and burning it at both ends.  After accumulating multiple graduate degrees, she was waitressing at an upscale restaurant and trying new things, including sleeping with her co-workers.

“I might be into women,” she said, as if debating a new hair style.

“Cool,” I said.

Who was I to judge? I wasn’t husband-hunting at the time. Hell. I wasn’t even boyfriend-hunting. I was totally focused on my career. And sex was something that happened, or didn’t, with a passing parade of consenting adults. While I have no memory of what Janie and I did before midnight, I will never forget where we were when the clock struck twelve.

“I have to say hello to a friend who works in the kitchen at Equus,” said Janie at 11:45 p.m.

I had no qualms about her request. Equus was a popular gay bar, one of many where I had hung out with friends in college. The bar was packed with gorgeous guys sporting plaid flannel shirts, suspenders, tight jeans, work boots, crew cuts, and beards. Stylistically, it was era of the gay Paul Bunyan look.

“Stay right here. I’ll be right back,” Janie said, leaving me at the bar while she vanished into the kitchen.

I gazed at the young men, faces flushed with Champagne and desire, dancing frenetically to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. I envied them their sense of belonging, of community. They knew who they were and where they were. I, on the other hand, had no clue. I was an unmarried, childless, Jewish woman over 30 who had chosen a high-wire career in New York, rather than marrying a dentist and having 2.5 children in the ‘burbs.

At that moment, I would’ve given anything to be a gay man. To gyrate against a lean, hard body until I “got enough.” But where the hell was Janie? The crowd was too thick to make my way to the kitchen. I couldn’t move. Then, it happened. Voices shouted, “Three, two, one . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR!” The bright-colored lights and disco ball flickered, then went dark. Hundreds of men kissed passionately.

Me? I was as invisible as the Ghost of New Year’s Past. Lonely doesn’t begin to describe what I felt. I wanted to kill Janie. Eventually, she reappeared, having no idea what I had just experienced. To this day, neither of us can recall where we went afterwards. But Equus became a permanent part of our collective memory—which eventually included Janie partnering with three women over the next 30 years. I liked the first one, stopped speaking to her for several years over my antipathy for the second, and joyfully celebrated her engagement to the good-humored, bright woman to whom she is now married.

Although I soon abandoned my fashion design career, my subsequent reinvention as a writer was equally precarious, as was my love life.  According to the Chinese, “May you have an interesting life” is a curse. Mine was no exception. My partners were filmmakers, photographers, artists. But they all had a short shelf life. Which is how I ended up with no plans for this New Year’s. That is, until Janie called.

“Hey,” she said. “We’re having a New Year’s Eve party. Want to come?”

I was grateful for her invitation. even though I will be the only straight woman in a houseful of lesbians. At midnight they will shout, “Three, two, one” and kiss one another. But this time, I will not feel alone. I will be in the home of my oldest friend, a woman who has known me for over 40 years and understands my vulnerability.

“You can bring your jammies and stay overnight,” she said. “We’ll have Mimosas and pancakes in the morning.”

This just may be the best New Year’s ever.

 

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  • 1010ParkPlace January 3, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Loved your post. I’ve had some lonely New Year’s Eves as well. Brenda

    Reply
  • Barbara December 31, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    May 2017 be better than expected and bring love and joy to all! Happy New Year, Stacia!

    Reply
  • Liz Rice-Sosne December 31, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    What a wonderful story – filled with warmth. Happy New Year to you.

    Reply