by Brett Harrison
What I’m about to tell you really happened. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Mainly me.
I have spent many a New Year’s Eve by myself and in recent years have actually gotten used to it. I usually make a nice meal, watch a movie and hang out with my cats. I may sound in denial, but I really don’t mind it at all.
I don’t get a lot of invitations to parties. and at my age (54) being out New Year’s Eve without some place to go to is not smart. But not too long ago I was one of those sad sacks who sat around mumbling to himself how lonely he was and why couldn’t he find a young lady to take to a party or, better yet, bring home for New Year’s Eve.
And I have also been at parties when other people were swapping saliva at the stroke of midnight while I did my best to enjoy the food, watch the ball drop on TV and feebly attempt conversation with the other dateless schmucks and schmuckettes.
I’m sure most of you have been to at least one New Year’s Eve party where you didn’t kiss anybody at midnight. Even Don Juan struck out once in a while.
But how many of you have been to a party where the person you really wanted to kiss most in the world was standing right in front of your eyes kissing someone else at midnight?
Let’s have a show of hands.
If you guessed that I had to put my hand down to finish this article, you guessed right.
I’ve never taken a date to a New Year’s Eve party and have never met someone there whom I kissed at midnight, but I have been to two parties where the girl I wanted to kiss ended up with a lucky guy other than yours truly at midnight.
It’s not a good feeling.
The first time happened in 10th grade when I was home on Christmas break in 1973, my first year at the Solebury Boarding School in New Hope at age 15. My best friend, Richie Kuvalski, talked his parents into letting him throw a New Year’s Eve party in their newly paneled basement. Richie, ever the mindful host, brought a TV and stereo to the basement. Girls, drugs, alcohol, good food and good music were all in plentiful supply. I will neither confirm nor deny imbibing anything other than the food, but let’s just say I would not have been in a condition to drive had I had my license yet.
It was actually a pretty good time. Although I was never a popular kid, being the best friend of the host had its advantages. I was actually treated like a human being by most of the revelers, which was not a common occurrence in my life. I even got to choose the music once in a while. Then Cindy-Lou Poodleschmeitzer arrived.
Cindy-Lou had fair skin, medium length dark-brown wavy hair and the face of angel. I had a crush on her all through 9th grade. Although I had pretty much forgotten about her since graduation, seeing her rekindled old feelings. I chatted with her sporadically throughout the evening but was no braver than I had been in 9th grade. Nothing was going to happen, and by 11:23 p.m. I had pretty much resigned myself to getting wasted, stuffing my face and enjoying the very loud rock music that was blasting out of Barry Kuvalski’s state-of the-art sound system. Foghat sounds so much better in quadrophonic, as I’m sure you will agree.
Then it happened.
As we unlucky few watched the ball drop on Times Square on TV I noticed in the corner of the room Cindy-Lou inspecting the tonsils of one Bobby Schmootz, who was in my 9th grade class and was rumored to be gay. Cindy-Lou and Bobby had entered together but I assumed as friends, not as dates.
My heart broke.
I spent the rest of the party drowning my sorrows in whatever food and party favors were left and finally left at 2 a.m. Fortunately, my house was only several blocks away, so I got home safely. Then I spent the rest of what was left of the night listening to Uriah Heep, a ‘70s hard rock/progressive band (for you youngsters), and I crashed on my parents’ couch at about 5.
That was the last time I ever saw Cindy-Lou. About 20 years ago I caught up with a mutual acquaintance, who informed me that Cindy-Lou had gotten married and divorced. Children were not mentioned.
Some years later (in 1983), now in Philly, I had a similar experience at age 25. I was at a party where everybody knew each other. Debbie Flibbage, on whom I had a huge crush at the time, was there. Debbie wasn’t a super- hottie like Cindy-Lou, but she was very intelligent, funny and had a Katharine Hepburn-like sophistication and a smoldering sensuality about her.
At some point in the evening, the host asked everybody what their New Year’s Resolution was going to be. When it got around to Dwayne Stooble, he announced that his first New Year’s Resolution was to kiss Debbie at the stroke of midnight. Everyone laughed, including Debbie, but damn if at midnight that wasn’t Dwayne and Debbie swapping spit.
Hello, Heartbreak, my old friend. We meet once again.
The second episode had a slightly different, if not completely satisfying, ending. As it happened, Dwayne and Debbie never became an item. It was just a “New Year’s Thing,” I guess. But the pain of wanting somebody so bad that it hurt motivated me to call her that week and ask her out. We got together twice. It was nice, but there really wasn’t much of a connection. I could tell she didn’t like me a fraction of how much I liked her, and I didn’t see the point of pursuing it.
But there was something else, too. I’m a huge movie buff, and at some point the discussion turned to Steven Spielberg’s modern classic, “E.T,” one of my favorite movies. She said she thought it was overrated and that Spielberg on the whole was manipulative. Not only did I disagree with her, but I found her stance pretentious. I may bump into Debbie one day, and I may not, but I’m pretty sure a Steven Spielberg film festival will not be the place.
So here I am again, 4 days before New Year’s Eve and no date and no party invitations coming in. And I’m fine with it.
I’ll do some cooking, put on a movie and listen (no TV this year) to the ball drop on the radio.
And maybe I’ll kiss Simone or Neela at midnight. I know they’re cats, but they’re pretty cute and they are my girls. Come to think of it, I’ll probably have to kiss both. They tend to get jealous.
I know how they feel.