There are a few days of the year when I believe it is best advised to stay as far away from the rest of humanity as possible. One of these is Valentine’s Day, another is the ludicrously and undeservedly popular nightmare that has become Black Friday, and the final, and most important one, is New Year’s Eve.
For many years I blindly believed that I had to go out on New Year’s Eve because, well, it’s what everyone else did. And so, when I was in my twenties, I stumbled out of cabs in Steve Madden patent heels I couldn’t walk in wearing some awful asymmetric dress I couldn’t sit down in and more kohl eyeliner than Alice Cooper. I stood in long queues for nightclubs, got crushed at the bar waiting for my pint of cider and Smirnoff Ice combo and inevitably ended up snogging some Ian or Kevin next to the hand dryer in the women’s loos. The details are blurry (I may have been on something stronger than Smirnoff Ice) but every New Year's Eve ended with me standing in the rain, my Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs beginning to run, waiting for a cab.
I get why people go nuts for New Year's – big blowout parties, cork popping countdowns and such. It’s because we need punctuation marks in our lives to stop us feeling like it is one continuous crawl from the cradle to the grave. But New Year’s Eve is a victim of its own success, it’s anti-climatic to the core, and usually, never anything but a let-down. Yes, you drank too much and broke the ‘quit smoking’ resolution by going straight outside for a fag before they even finished the last verse of Auld Lang Syne. But far worse than that is now the person you passionately kissed at midnight is snoring next to you in bed and 2018’s dishes are still piled in the sink. Nothing’s changed, you just have a level 10 hangover and are now in your overdraft.
I’m really not trying to ruin anyone’s fun here. I love a big night out, but I have officially retired from New Year’s Eve. About six years ago, I did something very un-me. I stayed in alone, drank three glasses of red wine in front of a re-run of Poirot and at 11pm, I went to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling happy, healthy and with absolutely no FOMO. Since then, I’ve done virtually the same thing every year since. No parties, no countdowns, no company.
As I was writing this, I started to think how curmudgeonly I sounded so I texted one of my very no-nonsense friends Maeve. “Is there something wrong with me because I don’t like New Year’s Eve?”, I ask. She replied within seconds: “God no, I HATE NYE. Don’t think I’ve ever done something special for it.”
“Do you ever get scared you are missing the best night of the year?” I wrote back.
“I never get FOMO! I think I’ve just always found it to be overblown. I remember going out for it in my teens and it was always a let-down. I think after Christmas you’re just full/pickled/exhausted and it’s hard to get motivated too.”
Enthused that I was not alone, I put a call out on Twitter and found, to my surprise, many like-minded folk.
"Oh yes! I’ll be staying at home, watching telly and comforting my dog during fireworks. Start the year as I mean to go on, etc. NYE is a rubbish occasion", says author Kate Leaver.
Another such person was Nicki Rodriguez, a talent agent. She used to do big NYE nights out but stopped in 2001, because, to put it plainly she hated it. Nicki was married to a professional footballer who had to play a match on New Year’s Day so says a big night out the night before was impossible and so it became a “non-event”. Eight years ago she gave birth to her second child on New Year’s Eve so it’s now a happier occasion – her son’s birthday. But she’s still staying in.
Other people reached out with stories of terrible nights out. Jessica Smith tweeted that she, “Had at least one [NYE] walking up Leytonstone High Road on the stroke of midnight, failing to get a bus. Others were spent still in the queue for a nightclub.” She says in general that NYE makes people, "a bit fighty. Especially me.” So, she plans to be in bed at 11 this year.
Stacey Tillott is a freelance marketer from Kent who has also abandoned New Year’s Eve. “Too many times it’s been an expensive disappointment with a hangover that’s never been worth it,” she explains. “I’ve also got an 18-month-old too, so partying is really out of the question.” Now, she says instead of “splashing the cash on NYE event tickets, hosting others for forced fun or either my husband or I being the designated taxi driver at someone else’s house party, we go all-out on delicious food and cook up a feast for the two of us with a nice bottle of red and a favourite film.” I thank her for getting in touch and recommend a Poirot marathon.
Polly Allen is a content creator who avoids NYE, “like the plague”. She has suffered from depression in the past and makes an interesting point about NYE adding extra anxiety. “I think social media adds to the pressure”, she says. “You see people's Facebook 'year in review' highlights and they gloss over anything negative. If anyone bought a house, got engaged or had a baby, it'll be rubbed in your face. I follow a lot of travel bloggers and writers, so their highlights reels are amazing - press trips, personal holidays, book deals, but it does make me compare myself to them and come up short." Her tactic is simple: “I have to really limit my social media around NYE because it definitely makes me feel worse, and seeps into January, which we all know is a long and boring month.”
Polly’s point really hits home. It makes me think that maybe I don’t just dislike New Year’s Eve because I think there is too much pressure to have an amazing night, but because I’m supposed to have had an amazing year too, and if I’m honest, I rarely feel like that's been the case. If I look back on 2018, I think I did good work, I certainly took some amazing trips, I know I tried to be a better daughter and friend, but I know I failed too. I failed to give up smoking (twice) and to take better care of myself physically and mentally.
I ask Polly if all her Dec 31st memories have been bad and she tells me about an amazing experience travelling in Peru. “If I could get away every New Year, I would, but it's so expensive. Instead, I try to treat it like a normal day, and avoid New Year's Eve TV; maybe stick on a boxset or go to bed really early and read. Nothing ambitious. I know that sounds lame, but a bit of self-care really helps.”
I couldn’t agree more. However, if you are doing something extravagant – perhaps a party on boat with fireworks at midnight and 1,000 doves flying in formation to spell out ‘Happy 2020’, naked waiters serving diamond-infused vodka and a performance by a hologram of Amy Winehouse, then have fun. I’ll be home working my way through a cheese board, watching a bit of Poirot and asleep by 11.30. Nighty night 2019.
This article was originally published on 30 December 2018. New Year's Eve is still the worst night of the year.