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I Resolve

Look, there’s something intrinsically unsettling about New Year’s Eve, the new year and the first few weeks of January.

Take New Year’s Eve, for example. When I was a kid I loved New Year’s Eve. My parents and sisters would get all dressed up and our Cuban neighbors would come over. My father would mix up grasshoppers and brandy Alexanders. We’d wait anxiously for the ball to drop at Times Square. When it did we’d open the back door to let the old year out and the front door to let the new year in (and we were a frugal family; leaving the doors open in December seemed exotic and exciting).

We learned the Cuban tradition of eating eleven grapes and then throwing the twelfth one out the door for good luck. We also threw our broom out the door. But since we never had any intention of buying a new broom, we always brought it back in when we closed the doors.

I just never figured you had to think much about New Year’s Eve.

But when you grow up you feel this pressure to do something special. And if you don’t, you’ll end up feeling all this regret that you didn’t do something special.

One year, while I was (briefly) dating someone who was apparently quite intellectual, but who had a marked distaste for revelry, midnight came. And went. No grapes or brooms thrown into the street. No party hats. All was calm. All was dull.

I remember thinking I wanted to be home with my mother. She still watched the ball drop and opened up the front and back doors. New Year’s with my mother would have been fun. (Although if I had been home, I wouldn’t have wanted to be.)

You might not have known this, but the official start of Seasonal Affective Disorder season is New Year’s day.

On New Year’s day you don a game face to hide the knowledge that in the next day or two you or your kids will be back in school or at work, that the tree will just keep shedding its needles until you take it down and winter still has you in its grips for the next three months.

I saw Beaches one New Year’s day. I hated Beaches. We’re supposed to be heartwarmed that Bette Midler is a star because the dying Barbara Hershey was the wind beneath her wings? Oh, please. Bring me a bicarbonate of soda.

Now, if it happens you’ve gone ahead and made New Year’s resolutions, be aware of the following things:

Let’s say you’ve resolved to keep in touch with out-of-town friends more frequently. You’ll phone them once a month, e-mail weekly with news. Shouldn’t be too time-consuming. What in fact will happen is that you do just great in January and maybe February, but by March the phone calls will stop and the e-mails will be mostly forwarded jokes and videos that were first forwarded to you from other friends trying to keep in touch.

The gym resolution. Oh, that’s a good one. You know darn well what will happen if you decide to join a gym at New Year’s. You don’t need me to tell you. So don’t spend a lot of money on those sweat-wicking gym duds and solar-powered sneakers.

The I-will-limit-myself-to-one-glass-of-wine resolution? You’ll quickly find yourself with a large, red plastic tumbler, the kind you find in the paper plates aisle at Price Chopper. That’s one glass, right?

The I-will-cut-back-on-sweets resolution? You’ll discover you can eat an entire bag of potato chips and not encounter a single cookie or a bite of candy. Go, you.

Technically, you’re doing what you promised yourself you would do. But really, you’ve broken your resolutions. That you’re a New Year’s resolution failure. And what do you do when feel like a failure? Break out the Chardonnay and the Whitman’s Sampler.

Look, it’s a new year and with it comes new opportunities. So, to quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see” and follow these few wise tips if you want to have a rockin’ good time in 2009:

Resolve never, ever to spend New Year’s Eve with dull intellectuals. Monitor even the moderately bright. If they start talking about politics, literature, art or religion, get hell away from them. You’ll be glad you did.

Resolve never, ever to watch Beaches on New Year’s Day. Or anytime. If you find yourself humming “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings,” immediately switch to the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.

And last, make resolutions you know you can keep. Resolve to complain about your hair/weight/skin/partner/kid/neighbor/boss. Resolve to swear at bad drivers. Resolve to frequently feel sorry for yourself about one thing or another. Resolve to laugh loudly in restaurants when it is your turn to annoy the other diners. Resolve to spend too much time reading about Brad and Angie, Jen and John, Tom and Katie, Ellen and Portia and—though this may take some doing this year since her star has significantly dimmed—the governor of Alaska and her grandchild.

Best of luck to you all. And have a happy New Year!

—Jo Page

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