It Happened One New Year’s Eve

by The Hairpin

Joanna Borns: Last year was the best New Year’s Eve I’ve had in a while: I was leaning over to grab a shrimp, and my hair went into a candle and caught on fire. Fortunately I was able to put it out before anyone noticed, and I was able to continue eating shrimp. And I had a good time, because my only criterium for “a good time” is shrimp.

Allegra Ringo: At a dive bar on New Year’s Eve, two women next to me offered their very drunk friend another tequila shot. She woozily declined. The friends jabbed me with their elbows and said, “Shouldn’t she drink this?!” I said, “Oh, no. She seems very drunk.” My response backfired: The drunk woman saw it as a challenge, and took the shot. Her friends cheered and clapped me on the back, and at midnight, one of the friends ran up to me, told me I was “the coolest,” and kissed me passionately on the mouth. The tequila girl was throwing up outside.

Jaya Saxena: I found this photo in a Ziploc bag on my dad’s guitar amp, and, from the look on my face, this is World’s Greatest New Year’s Eve. My dad estimates I was about six years old, and it’s possible this was our first New Year’s in his new apartment, a one-bedroom where he slept in the living room.

A few years before this photo was taken, I remember crying when I’d asked my mom what was going to happen to 1989 when 1990 started, and she’d responded that 1989 was gone, forever. But none of that anxiety is apparent in this here. Perhaps the next morning I woke up with the realization that 1991 would never come back, but I prefer to think I was too preoccupied with washing the confetti out of my hair to care.

Gillian Brassil: My memory stops recording when I’m really tired, so for me New Year’s has always been a holiday of bloops and blorps: I am wearing an oversized fez; I am giving a back massage to a stranger with a lion tattoo; I am dancing in a megaclub whose slogan is PARTY WITH THOUSANDS, though there are definitively not thousands with whom to party; I am playing UNO with my parents; I am pretending a pretzel is my moustache; I am standing on a rooftop and watching the sky fill with paper fire balloons, and I can’t comprehend the physics of it.

Lia LoBello: After a friend and I booked a trip to London and Dublin, I got the travel bug, but the only problem was that I had no money. Knowing I needed a little luck, my roommate told me about a trick she’d picked up during her own world travels: On New Year’s Eve, take an empty bag and walk once around the block, and you’ll have good travel luck in the following year. So, a few months later, at a New Year’s Eve house party at the stroke of midnight, dateless, I quietly slipped out the door and walked around the short neighborhood block, an empty tote bag in hand. That year, I visited four countries, three states and eight islands. I have never repeated this trick.

Jane Marie: For the few years I was old enough to have slumber parties but not leave the house on New Year’s, my parents would let us invite a bunch of friends over for the night. At midnight my mom would serve us St. Julian sparkling grape juice out of champagne flutes along with sliced apples with cheddar cheese and make-your-own pizza bagels. Those were way more fun than any NYEs I’ve spent watching DJ boyfriends kiss other people at midnight, for examples, plural.

Jia Tolentino: In 2010, I was in the middle of a three-week vacation from the Peace Corps and so overwhelmed by America that anything — the CVS makeup aisle, the Bed Intruder video, all food that wasn’t potatoes — would bring me to confused, grateful tears. Fueling this instability was my newly reduced alcohol tolerance. So…

On New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend Andrew and I were at a Passion Pit show in New Jersey. At midnight, a man proposed to his girlfriend onstage, and confetti glittered in the air as the band played “Auld Lang Syne,” which they transitioned into a cover of “Dreams” by the Cranberries. Drunk and fragile, I felt shattered by my own joy, and I thought happily about what food I would eat once the concert was done.

Afterward, there was an hour-long wait for cabs back to the city, all the pizza joints were closed, and the only lights in the area came from a dingy Exxon station. I ran inside and spotted a lone, shriveled, burnt-burgundy hot dog that looked like it’d been on the silver rollers for a week, but I picked it up, stuffed it in a bun, and asked the cashier how much. “Free,” he said, disdainful. I whooped, stumbling, and I took it outside as my boyfriend tried to intervene. “Stop being paternalistic,” I slurred, angling the hot dog toward my mouth. Suddenly Andrew’s hand swatted it down. It landed on the ground, and my whole body flooded with rage. “You can’t just take someone’s food away from them! What’s wrong with you!?”

“What’s wrong with YOU?” he yelled back. “Did you SEE that hot dog? Did you ever think you shouldn’t eat things you get at Exxon for free?”

We spent the next three hours screaming obscenities at each other in public, never mentioning the real problem: my impending departure for another year in Kyrgyzstan. We yelled until the cab came, then we forced our driver to weigh in on the situation, like King Solomon. It was the first — and to this day, still the worst — fight we’ve ever had.

Edith Zimmerman: My second or third New Year’s in New York, I tried to dress up, although I didn’t have anything fun or cute, so I wore the same thing I always wore — jeans, boots, plaid flannel shirt — but with the one fancy piece of jewelry I owned and had never worn: a necklace I’d inherited and was terrified of, thinking that no matter what I’d somehow ruin it. But I didn’t, and it was great. There’s maybe a lesson there about feeling comfortable owning things, or not letting them own you, but in subsequent years I lost entire purses, friendships.

Laura Jayne Martin: My boss at the time called me in New York City from Paris to tell me the alarm on her country house in Connecticut was going off and could I deal with it.