Ghosts of New Year’s Past

It used to be so different.

My two best friends and I would spend hours getting ready. We shimmied into barely-there sequined tops and sprayed ourselves with glitter from an aerosol can. As we strapped on our high heels that would have our feet screaming by the end of the night, Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” was blaring on the radio.

We headed out into the MN cold, leaving our coats in the car, shuffling as swiftly as we could along the glassy sidewalks. We were relieved to dart inside the bellowing warmth of the bars. We precariously teeter-tottered between shivering cold and red-faced sweaty for the rest of the night.

We waited in line for drinks. Waited in line for the bathroom. Waiedt for a pool table. Waited for a regular table. Waited for midnight.

By the stroke of midnight, many of us couples would be arguing, fueled by tequila shots and carousel rounds of jealousy. It always ended the same. Our wide, lipsticked grins and raucous antics of 10 pm were vignetted with the arguments and turmoil that was inevitable for the start of the new year. A fistful of drinks always did that.

The extremes of those nights were evident beneath the layers of makeup and wild camera poses. The pain rippled silently, powerfully, under the surface.

Those drunken New Years are held in stark contrast against the easy smiles we wore in the years following both my husband and I getting sober. There is a softness to our later grins. They are simplified. Laid gently across our face by the certainty of the knowledge that there will be no fights later–no drama, no tears.

Just a good night’s sleep and no hangover in the morning.

Now that’s a good NEW year.

-Melissa Neeb