High expectations, low return. It's the blow-out night before the day you swear off the old you and lay down new ground rules.
Ask anyone what they think of New Year's Eve, and you'll find the word hate hurled back in nearly every response.
"It's a legitimate holiday, but the reveling that goes with it seems very false," says writer Rod Clarke of Calais, Vt. "I don't think people are very happy that night. They always end up crying and getting sentimental about all the nice things that might have been."
Indeed. You start out with the "perfect date" and set out for "the perfect party," only to discover at midnight a drunken mass of depressed souls laying wet kisses on each other in between puffing on noisemakers.
Like a Bad Penny
Ugh. It's the same old movie year after year, so a lot of folks have chosen to rewrite the script.
My own best New Year's Eve was two years ago when my boyfriend and I--alone--cooked 2-pound lobsters, split a bottle of champagne, played Scrabble and fell asleep 15 minutes shy of midnight. We ignored this allegedly great celebration and treated it like any other Saturday night.
Others have come up with their own alternative routes to getting through this devil of a night. The consensus is that opting for tranquility, not hollow merrymaking, can turn it into a heavenly time.
"I do not set foot outside my house on New Year's Eve," says Washington editor Judith Dugan. "Too many drunks on the road; people are too desperate at parties to have a good time.
"Instead, I take a great, big brandy snifter, fill it with VSOP cognac and fill the bathtub with hot water and Vitabath. I get in this wonderful bubble bath, float the cognac glass in the bathtub and it heats it up to the perfect drinking temperature.
"Then I lay there and read a good Elmore Leonard novel. That, to me, is New Year's Eve."
Los Angeles radiologist David Steinberg also gravitates toward warmth come Dec. 31, rather than engaging in the party-hats-and-booze routine.
"I hate any time you're expected to perform," he says. "My perfect New Year's Eve is to be snowed in at a cabin with warm fire, warm conversation and a warm person."
When that warm person fails to appear, gloom sets in, admits Chicago sales representative Simone Lecat.
"New Year's Eve is a dreaded evening for me," she says. "Right after Thanksgiving, I start worrying about what I'm going to do. I usually end up with no date, sitting around with girlfriends.
"If I could paint the perfect picture, it would be to be alone with someone I was in love with."
Don't expect to find Mr. or Ms. Wonderful at the much-ballyhooed Times Square celebration, advises New York designer Adam Beall.
"I never, ever, ever stay in New York City on New Year's Eve," he says. "Like you couldn't get me to go near Times Square for anything. It's gross--all those people, all that noise, all that nonsense.
Sand and Sun
"This year I'm going to Cancun, Mexico, and lobotomizing out on the beach and ignoring New Year's Eve. It's going to come and go and I'm going to be on the soft sand sunning myself."
Louisiana-reared artist Pat Hutchens feels New Year's Eve should be spent in a manner indicative of one's personality the rest of the year.
"It's folklore in the South: The way you spend New Year's Eve is reflective of the way you live all year. So I always try to go to a church service and sing and praise God," says Hutchens, who now lives in Great Falls, Va., and is married to a Presbyterian minister.
"I am in prayer the moment the New Year comes in; it's called a 'watch night' service. I'll tell you what--you don't have any hangover the next day."
The monthlong high of the holiday season is the low point for many people, she adds.
"People think that Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's Eve should be like Pat Boone has them on TV, and it never happens that way," says Hutchens.
So make the night your own "personal adventure," and don't fret over what the rest of the world is up to, suggests entrepreneur-producer Steve Gottlieb.
"I mean, sometimes you can be transported to a faraway place--all dreams and wild imaginings," he says. "And sometimes you end up in the subway. I'm going to soak in the New Year right here in my apartment on Central Park South, cook up something sweet and nice and not worry about anything."