Last night, while out to dinner with friends, my phone rang—a rare occurrence in a world where phones are amazing for organizing schedules and arranging text messages into adorable dialogue bubbles, but aren’t so hot at providing a clear pathway for two people to talk. I recognized the area code immediately, though I had deleted the caller’s name in a huff a few days before—it was Scruffy Beard. I hadn’t heard from him in almost two weeks, since he sent me a lame “see you around” text the day after we had sex and he darted out the door 20 minutes after, throwing the condom in the trash.
I resisted the urge to listen to his voicemail message all the way through dinner. But as I left the restaurant, I just had to know what he said.
Will he apologize for getting all weird after sex? I thought. Will he give me the cliche guy line about how he “got scared”—the one that simultaneously makes me roll my eyes and feel better about someone being a jerk? Will he be that awesomely fun-to-talk-to guy who charmed me on our first date again?
“Hey,” said Scruffy Beard. His voice sounded gravely, and he spoke casually, as if he didn’t realize that he’d committed the cardinal sin of dating—the fade-out. “I’m heading out of town to visit my family tomorrow, but will you be here for New Year’s Eve? Want to be my date?”
There was no mention of why he hadn’t asked me out anytime in the interceding two weeks. There were no “sorry I’ve been busy” niceties. There was no asking me how I was doing—annoying, since I’d told him about stuff at work that had me stressed out.
All of a sudden, I realized what was going on. I felt like a shark must when it smells blood in the water. Scruffy Beard was feeling New Year’s Eve Anxiety. And I’m the only person he could think to call to ease it.
New Year’s Eve is a difficult beast for people who are single but would like to be with their green zebras. It’s the one night a year where everyone is literally watching the clock wind down. Whatever you’re doing at midnight will set the tone for the next 365 days of your life—NO PRESSURE. If you head out to a party, to a bar, or to a concert, often times in the drunken Bacchanalia, you find yourself gravitating toward someone with whom you’ll have a hot make-out session as the final seconds of the year tick away. On rare occasions, the gravitational pull is lasting—I’ve gotten together with a long-term significant other on New Year’s Eve, as have lots of people I know, including Amelia.
On other NYEs, midnight approaches and you aren’t vibing with anyone. Sometimes, that’s fine, and you have a blast anyway. Other times, it can feel as if you’re playing a game of musical chairs, and as the music stops and everyone else settles into a seat, you are the one left plummeting towards the ground butt-first with nothing to catch your fall.
In the past, I’ve tried to temper the pressure of New Year’s Eve by inviting over all the people I love for a low-key house party. That’s worked well, but I can’t help but get a little irked when partnered friend after partnered friend writes to tell me, “Can’t make it. We’re going to a romantic dinner, just the two of us.” Or “We’re going to stay in and ignore New Year’s this year.” Translation: we’re having marathon sex and you’re (probably) not.
Having a date for New Year’s Eve, especially one whom you’ve clicked with before, tempers the uncertainty. Wherever you go, it’s a subtle signal—more to yourself than to anyone else—that you are not a contestant playing the “Couple-Up-For-The-Night Game,” but that you are already a winner. It’s a safe bet that, if the night has the power that people assign to it, you will not be lonely in the coming year. And, if your date is someone whom you’ve already slept with, it significantly ups the chances that your first few hours of the new year will be spent naked and in ecstasy. I get it, and I understand why Scruffy Beard would ask.
But here’s the thing: I am an awesome, smart, hot, caring woman who is trying to be the best person I can be. And Scruffy Beard hasn’t treated me as such. If I’m honest, the fact that he hadn’t gotten in touch with me post-sex when we’d connected so well before made me feel like that discarded condom wrapper—thrown in the trash, never to be thought of again. On our first date, I felt concerned that Scruffy Beard wasn’t as good-looking as the guys I usually date. But I’m realizing that it has nothing to with what number on the attractiveness scale the guy is. Whether he’s a 5 or a 9, it’s about whether he makes me feel like a 10 on all levels—and not just the physical ones. I want to feel valued. I want to feel special. I want to feel adored. And I want to feel those same things for someone else. And this just isn’t it. Sure, I could probably keep Scruffy Beard on as an occasional booty call. But I’m done putting energy into guys who don’t make me feel wonderful.
I won’t lie: 2010 has been a bit of a romantic disaster for me. I haven’t felt a strong connection with many people. Of the ones I did, the decision to end things—with a discussion or with a tapering off—was made on their end. I just tallied and I had sex less than 10 times total this year—and the majority of those experiences were with The Juggler. But while it’s been a year full of dry spells, this year has taught me a lot. Above all, I have a real understanding of just how rare true connections are. That makes me want to pass on the ones that aren’t “it” so I can get to one that is. And appreciate it with all my might.
I’m not sure exactly how to respond to Scruffy Beard, but I know that I don’t want to be his New Year’s Eve date. This year, I’d rather take my chances on my own. If I feel like I want to play it safe, I’ll RSVP yes to a dinner party a friend is having. If I’m feeling a little brave, there’s a band I want to see and since none of my friends seem very interested, I’m considering treating the night like any other night and going solo.
Here’s what I want New Year’s Eve to be for me this year—a chance to wipe my romantic slate clean. Nothing less and nothing more. I want to start again in 2011 with hope. And a better green zebra detector.
To ring in 2011, I decided to start a Twitter account, @iamdaterx. Follow me to read new columns, and to get my random dating and sex thoughts on a daily basis. And if you ever want to email me, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dating is hard, so let’s help each other through it, mkay?