Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Celebrating Solo

By Maureen Needham

DECEMBER 22, 1997:  You're home alone. And it's New Year's Eve. Bummer. Of course, you should have planned ahead. You knew it was coming. You knew it was coming a long time ago, but you stuck your head in the sand and waited for a magical phone call to tell you that someone you knew was having a party or that somebody wanted you to do something with them or that.... Well, you didn't know exactly what. You just knew that you wanted something to happen, and it didn't work out.

Now you're kicking yourself because you could easily have done the asking instead of waiting to be asked. And then you'd have something to do. But, well, you didn't know anyone you really wanted to do anything with anyway, and you didn't know what you really wanted to do either. So here you are. Home. It's New Year's Eve. And it's getting later by the minute. Now what?

Logic decrees that you have two choices: You can go out, or you can stay in. It takes planning to go out, but, if you decide to stay in, it takes guts to face the new year alone. It's your choice.

If you opt for an odyssey, you will need reservations and money. Your favorite fancy restaurant has been booked ahead for six weeks solid. But go ahead. Try a telephone call, even if it is 6:35 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Surely someone will have canceled at the last moment, and you can slip into their place, even if it means you may get stuck with the early seating and be left with the problem of what to do after the dinner. If that restaurant is full, try another. And another. You will doubtless find some entrepreneur who will be glad to take a last-minute reservation for one person who's willing to sit in the corner.

A word of warning: Be sure to ask the total cost for the evening even as you ask for the reservation. Prices are often tripled for the same meal you could get--without the cheap New York-state champagne--at practically any other time. It is an elegant way to spend the evening, though, even if there is nobody sitting across the table to be impressed with your savoir faire. The service people are friendly (expecting a large tip, no doubt), the food is sophisticated, the silver balloons are free, and the champagne by candlelight does make everything sparkle.

So you have eaten, but you still have an hour or two to kill. Go to a movie? Sure, why not? That's always a good way to structure time. Lines may be long, unless you walk into a feature that's already started. You may have to watch the whole movie all over again to figure out what's going on, but, hey, why not? You've plenty of time to kill. Or could you go dancing? Hardly. Too late for a concert. If only you'd planned ahead.

Or perhaps you could go to a bar and observe obnoxious people having lots of loud fun while they wait for the little red ball to slide down the pole on the television set. Nah, that's probably the most depressing thing a loner could choose to do. There's nothing to do but drink. By yourself. And isn't that the reason you wanted to get out of the house anyway? Besides, you're your own Designated Driver, remember?

After considering these expensive options, perhaps you decide to stay home and light the Duroflame sawdust logs in the fireplace. That way, you won't get rear-ended by some crazy New Year's Eve driver. Another advantage is that your range of options is likely to be more compatible with your own mood, rather than someone else's. No need for false cheer, along with all those other unfortunate people who, like grotesque Pavlovian-trained beasts, are conditioned to scream and yell and exude fake bonhomie on cue at midnight. If you care to cry, you can do so, and, without fear of humiliation, you can even use toilet paper to wipe away the tears. If you yawn, you don't even have to be polite and cover your mouth. Instead, you can just head straight for bed without prolonged adieus and excuses. You can do whatever you feel like doing.

Feel like celebrating? You deserve some champagne as a reward for the good things you did last year. While you're stepping out to pick up an ice-cold bottle of imported Spanish sparkle-plenty from your local spirits merchant, why not get the fixings for a fancy meal on your own? Everyone is all too rushed to cook these days, so this is one opportunity to take your time and prepare a treat just for yourself. Of course, it's possible to cheat and stop by the sushi bar along the way, if you'd prefer. Grab yourself one red rose while you're at it, so that you can set a fine table. Put on some background music and light some candles. Don't forget to raise a toast to yourself. You deserve it.

Feeling maudlin? Make a hot toddy or some hot mulled cider in the microwave. Get out all those ancient CDs and cassette tapes that you bought years ago and haven't listened to for ages. Crank up the volume. Settle back and pull up a warm, fuzzy blanket. If you've got a high-school yearbook available, this is the time to go through it and have a good laugh at the 1-inch-by-2-inch pictures of Mr. Future Success and Ms. Cheerleader (except if that means you--no, especially if that means you). Any photographs of yourself as a baby? As you look at them, try to imagine the smells and sounds of childhood while you study your features for clues of memories long past.

Is it getting toward midnight, and you've still some time to go? Get out the phone book and look up some people you haven't talked to for over a year. Have an imaginary conversation with them. If the dialogue goes well, you might want to try it tomorrow with the real McCoy. When the actual hour of midnight does come around, you can sincerely sing "Auld Lang Syne" with the best of them. You've earned the right to a full panoply of nostalgia.

Feeling lonely? New Year's Eve and the December cluster of holidays do have a tendency to depress people. It's a good time to splurge and make a long-distance phone call to a friend whom you haven't seen in quite a while. E-mail new year's greetings to your friends or those relatives with whom you are still in touch. Talk to your dog. Or yourself. Put on some country music or opera or the Rolling Stones and accompany yourself on your air guitar. Sing as loud as you can. Best of all, make some new year's resolutions about getting out, joining some new groups, and meeting new people in the coming year.

Feeling bored? Curl up with a good book. That too old-fashioned for you? A video will do. Of course, you realize that nothing will be left on the shelves of the rental store. On Dec. 31, all video stores have the look of the milk section at Kroger on the afternoon of a sudden snowstorm forecast. You could always buy something, but how many of the films in stock are worth the price of admission? Television is probably the least attractive of alternatives, since the announcers' forced cheer only sounds the shallower on a night when many people's nerves are frayed in the first place. If you had planned a day or two ahead, you could have purchased your own fireworks and livened things up at midnight. A sparkler or two is an enchantment in the dark of night, particularly as an alternative to watching that bizarre ritual of the descending ball along with millions of New York's huddled masses yearning to be home but crammed into Times Square.

Are you impatient? For what? How many times can you check the clock and make the minutes sweep by any faster? Midnight will come when it will come. Get out your encyclopedia and study up on the history of clocks and how they work. You could even construct your own Chinese water clock. That'll bore ya to tears. See previous paragraph for how to deal with boredom.

Feeling sad? Frightened that time is going by? Worried that you're all-too-mortal? Sorry, you can't do much about that. Existential angst is not treatable with short-term remedies.

Feeling sorry for yourself? Get real. Do you really think a paper hat and a cheap toy horn will make you feel any happier? Think back. How many memorable New Year's Eves can you claim in your life? Maybe one. Maybe two. What was so special? The people, right? Well, you can do something about that.

After the bells finish chiming and your next door neighbors' television set is turned off, you can carry out your first new year's resolution: "Plan ahead." Make your guest list for the party that you're going to throw next year on New Year's Eve, 1998.

And don't forget to invite me. I'll be waiting for your phone call--right up to the last minute, I promise.

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