That was my cue. I smiled, closed my eyes, and leaned in to kiss…a total stranger.
Okay, technically he wasn’t a total stranger. We’d actually met three hours prior when we rehearsed how our kiss would go down in slow, excruciating detail. It had to be long and romantic with absolutely no tongue —children are watching! — and in a spot so the ball drop was directly above our heads. We looked at each other, shrugged, and just went for it.
That’s right, kids. Those dramatic midnight kisses you love to watch every year on TV? They're just as staged as Lady Gaga’s performances and Ryan Seacrest’s jokes. This is show business, after all, and in show business everything is perfect and...maybe not entirely real.
The fact of the matter is, the thousands of people who show up to Times Square and stand on their feet for 12 hours in the freezing cold, rain, and snow — with little access to food, booze, or bathrooms — are not exactly the people you want fronting your international broadcast. They’re tired, red-faced, frizzy, irritable…and, maybe worst of all, unpredictable. Add on all the paperwork, and it’s probably easier to just hire some extras.
That’s where I came in. As a “New Year’s Eve Reveler,” my airtime was planned before I even hit 42nd street. I showed up camera-ready, signed a bunch of release forms, and hung out in a green room with snacks and hot chocolate before it was time to go live. They ushered me out to dance along to the performers' songs, then back to the warm room to take off my stilettos. I’d run out to stand behind the hosts while they helped a couple propose (thankfully, not fake), and then back inside to inhale a few slices of pizza. And, of course, at the end of the night I’d deliver “The Kiss.” All in all, I spent about 30 minutes total in the street, but everyone watching at home would have thought it was hours.
We didn’t once stop to think about the fact that we’d be announcing our new, completely staged relationship status to the entire world.
My best friend’s kiss went second — and, boy, did it go long. The camera panned on her for a good 15 seconds, catching every intimate detail of the kiss she was sharing with a guy whose last name she didn’t even know. If you’ve ever drunkenly made out with someone at a bar, imagine that, and add someone filming it and sending it to every single person you’ve ever met — from your middle school geometry teacher to your ex-boyfriend. But we didn’t care. We were having the time of our lives
So, did we end up marrying these guys and living happily ever after? No, of course not. But we did end up making out with them for a couple more hours (did I mention we were 22?), and laughing until we cried watching the YouTube videos of our segment. In the end, we walked away with $100, a free hat, and one of our favorite memories in 10 years of friendship.
If you’ve ever drunkenly made out with someone in a bar, imagine that. Now imagine someone filming it and sending it to every single person you’ve ever met.
And you don’t need me to tell you that Times Square is the fucking worst of it all.
So, if you see someone on TV this year having an amazing time and looking perfect doing it? Chances are, they’re getting paid. But, let me tell you, they’re probably loving every minute of it.