According to just about every piece of pop culture, New Year's Eve is supposed to be the most magical night of the year. Look no further than the annual Times Square ball drop: Year after year, an estimated 1 million people gather in Midtown Manhattan from all over the world to see Ryan Seacrest talk and the likes of Christina Aguilera and Snoop Dogg sing the year's biggest hits. But among the many things you don't know about the Times Square ball drop is this little fun fact: A lot of those people are wearing adult diapers.
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Something about that whole adults-peeing-their-pants in the worst part of the biggest city in the country thing feels like a giant metaphor for all New Year's Eve celebrations. It looks like the biggest, glitziest party of the year on the outside but on the inside, well, it's a dirty diaper.
New Year's Eve is one of those evenings that feels like it just has to be memorable. You need to find the best party with the most incredible food, the most expensive Champagne and the hottest person to kiss at midnight and sing "Auld Lang Syne" with.
I spent the first part of my 20s trying to make New Year's Eve the best night of the year. I always believed that if I didn't go all-out on Dec. 31, then I would be the biggest loser of both the year that just ended and the year that was just beginning. So I did what was expected of a 20-something woman on New Year's Eve: I spent one at a house party with friends and strangers; I spent another bar-hopping; I spent one at a fancy dinner and a hotel with my husband. But when the gray light of day hit me on those various firsts of January, I can't say I looked back at the night that had passed with any particular fondness.
I had always had a perfectly pleasant time, so why did I hate New Year's Eve with such a passion? It all boiled down to the expectations that came with it. I built up such an exaggerated image of the ideal holiday that nothing I actually did could ever live up to what I had imagined. If I missed out on one drink, one amazing song or one bite of my overpriced scallops, my night was not perfect and therefore it was not good at all. It was exhausting.
So a few years ago, I decided to opt out of NYE celebrations and opt in to a different kind of evening. And that's when this much-dreaded night turned into one of my favorite of the year.
These days, my husband and I spend every New Year's Eve the same way. We go to Whole Foods with no budgetary constraints and buy the most gorgeous crab legs and dry-aged steak we can find. Then we go home, test out some new recipes, drink beer we've brought back to New York from our home state of Ohio, play board games and watch the most ridiculous New Year's Eve programming we can find on TV. It's a perfect night in; it's a little indulgent, a bit silly, a little romantic and very low-key.
When I stopped trying to go out and make memories on New Year's Eve, that's when the holiday actually became an evening worth remembering. So, if you're sweating New Year's Eve, don't worry about throwing an unforgettable party. Just opt out, throw on your pajamas and do whatever you want. You may just find that the best way to celebrate New Year's Eve is by staying in.