If a movie was to be based on my love life, it would be called “New Year’s Eve.” (Or it would be called that if there wasn’t already a movie coming out with that very name and, in fact, sponsoring this very post.) But seriously, if I actually had the patience to sit down and write a screenplay based on the longest, most significant romantic relationship of my adult life, it would be a rom-com and if the name was available, it would be called “New Year’s Eve.” Here’s why.
I have never been a holiday person, but on the long list of holidays I genuinely loathe, New Year’s Eve is near the top, fighting for the top spot alongside Columbus Day and Christmas. (For the record, I enjoy the 4th of July, with its fireworks and barbecues and hot weather and beer.) It has always felt like a lot of pressure, specifically pressure to be social and celebratory and to stay up late. I am not the most social person, I tend to be moody, and while I am really good at having insomnia on work nights, I cannot, for the life of me, stay up late on nights that actually call for it. So, on many New Year’s Eves in the past, I’ve opted for quieter celebrations with small groups of friends or even by myself, enjoying a movie and a Snickers ice cream bar on the couch until the clock struck midnight and I finally hit the hay.
But a few years ago, in my mid-20s, a friend badgered me into attending her NYE party. I had planned on staying in, but had still gotten into the spirit of things by making one highly specific resolution: no dating, no kissing, no fornicating, no nothing for six months. I had just had my heart “broken” by someone I of course barely knew — a repeat occurrence, I’m afraid — and finally looked in the mirror and decided that I didn’t want to allow a virtual stranger to make me feel like crap anymore. That I didn’t want anyone to have the power to make me feel so low. So that was it — no more dating until I could figure out how to get my self-esteem back in order. Or until six months was up. Whichever came first.
I realized that a byproduct of not dating would be having more free time to spend with friends, so why not start the New Year off right by hanging out with those very friends? I put on a cute outfit, flat-ironed my hair, and prayed that the coffee I drank on the way, combined with booze I intended on consuming, would be enough to keep me up until the ball dropped in Times Square and I could pat myself on the back for a job well done and head home.
Instead what happened is that I met someone. A guy. He was handsome, but I wouldn’t say I was attracted to him right off the bat. He was combative, one of those types whose favorite manner of flirting is to say something contrary to what you just said. Sitting on my friend’s couch, as other guests milled around us and blew into those annoying kazoo-like horns, M. and I argued about a range of topics, but in a way that felt entertaining. We also talked about more personal, getting-to-know-you type things and when the ball did drop on the TV screen, he asked to kiss me. I paused.
Well, it’s just turning over to the New Year now, so maybe a quick kiss wouldn’t be breaking your resolution, Amelia. Besides, you don’t even actually like him.
I let him kiss me. Within four months we were living together.
He was my first real, honest to goodness boyfriend so I hit a lot of milestones with him, learned the ropes to this thing — monogamy! — that others had been doing with ease around me. For example, when was our anniversary? If you’re married, knowing your anniversary is easy — duh, your wedding day. But when you’re just, like, dating %u2026 when is it? The first time you had sex? Your first actual date? Or was it the first time you kissed?
It made sense to my romance-addled brain that New Year’s Eve was thus our anniversary. It was when we met, when we first kissed. It was easy to remember. And, best of all for a holiday-hating lady like myself, it ensured that I would always have something special to do on December 31.
Four years after we met, in continuation of this rom-com-esque storyline, M. made NYE even more special. We were upstate in the Catskills for the weekend with our dog. Because we had brought her with us, we were stuck at one of the few dog-friendly establishments in the area, a motel with a series of ramshackle shed-like “cabins” that looked straight out of “Deliverance.” On New Year’s Eve, we headed out to dinner, as had become the tradition on our anniversary. At the restaurant, M. seemed nervous. He kept getting up to smoke outside which struck me as sort of rude, but I was a bottle deep in champagne and didn’t have to work the next day, so I didn’t care. When it was getting close to midnight, M. asked whether I wanted to stay at the restaurant or head back to the hotel to watch the ball drop.
“Let’s go back to the hotel,” I sort of slurred (halfway through bottle two of champagne!). “I want us to be with Lucca. All of us together.”
“Okay, well, we’d better hurry,” M. said, flagging down the waiter.
When we got back to our scary lodgings, I tossed off my coat and busied myself by squealing hello to Lucca. M. flipped on the TV so we could watch the festivities in Times Square.
10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … 6 … 5 … 4 …
“Lucca, it’s almost time!” I whispered in our puppy’s ear.
3 … 2 … 1.
“Happy New Year!” I yelled. I turned around to kiss M. and found him on one knee, a ring in his hand.
“Will you marry me?” he asked. I started to laugh. Apparently, when I am happy, I crack up.
“Yes,” I said and he slipped the ring on my finger.
We broke up nearly a year later, though not on New Year’s Eve. (But I do acknowledge that would have been a really perfect, if depressing-seeming ending to the nonexistent rom-com based on my love life.) For a long time, New Year’s Eve seemed really tainted with memories; of the first time we met, the first time we kissed, and the night we got engaged. The things I’ve written down here.
That’s because it’s a relationship that it’s taken me a really long time to get over. I fell out of love with M. relatively quickly — he made that easy — but the betrayal I felt in the aftermath of our breakup brought up a lot of crap that ultimately had nothing to do with him. It brought to the surface issues I had long before we even met, things that caused me to make that (history’s shortest-kept) New Year’s resolution the night we first kissed. After a couple years of hard work and self-reflection, with plenty of ups and downs, I finally feel over it.
So, with New Year’s Eve just around the corner, I only feel excitement. I don’t know how I’ll spend it, but I know it won’t be linked with having or not having a man in my life. It won’t be weighed down with sadness over happy memories or resolutions that aim to fix something that’s wrong.
It will be, I think, my best New Year’s Eve ever.
So, tell us, what has been your best New Year’s Eve ever and why?
This post was sponsored by the movie “New Year’s Eve,” in theaters Dec. 9, but the story above is 100 percent my own.