I've never liked New Year's Eve all that much. The thought of the 10 seconds before midnight and the weight of everything that hangs in the balance has never been a real favorite of mine. I mean, honestly, when I think about it, I don't like birthdays for that reason either. Or weddings.
Any kind of socially prescribed expectation that presses down on what you are forced to pretend is really laid back, celebratory and carefree just feels a bit gnarly in general.
This New Year's Eve was not a whole lot different. I might have simply stayed at home and meditated (the one way I do like to ring in a new year, and have done several times) but my friend Sharon asked if I wanted to get together so I ended up making plans after all. I'm glad I did, of course, as I am an innately social creature even though I forget to take care of those needs so often.
The first party we hit that night was low-key and enjoyable, but around 11 p.m. it also became clear that the second party bore far larger opportunities to meet a wider array of new people, so we decided to head out early.
It was at the second party where the music and the people proved a complete crush around me, and for the first time that night, it really felt like we were in the last few hours of 2013. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the sweaty vibe of so many people dancing and picking up around me so I found myself mingling more near the sidelines.
Pretty shortly after arriving, I was approached by a man who seemed nervous about asking me to dance. I didn't exactly want to, but since it was New Year's Eve, and since I figure a dance is just a dance, we hit the floor together. I stayed a few songs, hugged him goodbye and then excused myself to go get a drink.
I decided to head back to the group of friends we were hanging with when we arrived initially, but on the way I suddenly found myself thinking with Rom-Com Vision starting to cloud my brain. This always happens to me during the holidays.
What would happen if I were in a romantic comedy right now? How does that work? Don't you think about someone who caught your eye and then you summon up the courage to go for it? Isn't that what the man who approached me just did -- and succeeded?
I racked my brain and thought of the men who had caught my eye so far. First, I headed to the coatcheck area where a classically good-looking man had been loitering earlier. Apparently, a few other women had the same idea I did as since I first saw him, he had developed a small crowd around him.
Sadly, I didn't really feel our connection had been so strong as to hold up a stereo and blast "In Your Eyes" quite yet. So I moved on.
Heading back to my friends still, I wandered past the crowds of people when along the way I saw a handsome glasses-wearing guy staring at me as I walked past him. Why not? Maybe this was the call to action I needed. I didn't think. Thinking breeds hesitation. Hesitation breeds lost opportunities. I went with confidence and impulse instead.
"Do you want to dance?" I asked.
He didn't respond. He just looked at me and shook his head no.
Ah yes, there it is. Rejection.
It's always exhilarating, every time, especially when fresh. But if there's one thing that the years have taught me it's that rejection is very much your friend. Rejection is there to help you and to love you and to push you. Rejection means you are doing it right. Rejection means you are putting yourself out there. No one succeeds without plenty of rejection. No one. And that is truth.
I made my way back to the group of dancing friends, and I did my best to get down to a too-fast dance mix of Rihanna, but I wasn't really feeling it so I creeped back again to the sidelines and nursed my water. That was when I met with eyes with another man. A man dressed neatly and handsomely who had a kind face and kind eyes.
Before I even really thought about it, I blurted out: "I just asked some guy to dance, and he said no." I laughed at my introduction, and I shook my head at myself.
"What?" he said. "He must have been crazy. You're the most stylish woman in this place. Where is he? I have to see this guy."
I smiled. I was touched. His kind eyes were there for a reason.
"No, I get it," I said. "It's no big deal. It was just kind of funny. I guess I haven't asked someone to dance in a while."
We talked for a good half hour: small talk about what he did (painting), and if he was having fun (he wasn't feeling the dance music either) and what I did and who we might know in common. Midnight came, and we wished each other happy new year, but there was no kiss and there was no hug exchanged, no physical contact whatsoever -- just smiles and warmth.
That was fine with me, and I felt happy that our relaxed conversation seemed to be continuing, and I wasn't even finding myself minding the music anymore.
"I think I'm going to head out," I said, and then because I did enjoy our conversation and had just gotten some fancy new xoJane business cards, I foraged around in my purse to find one.
"Oh well," I said, "I was going to give you my card, but I can't seem to find any."
"I have a pen," he said. "Let's do it the old-fashioned way."
I went to go get my coat -- ignoring the still rugged and still loitering by the coatcheck man from before -- and as I put my fleece on, the painter suddenly turned to me and asked: "Would you like to go to the Brooklyn Museum and see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit?"
I smiled. I was pleasantly thrown. "Yes," I said, "I would." It was a sweet surprise.
We walked outside, and he accompanied me as I made the 15-minute walk from SoHo to Chelsea, averting the occasional pile of puke and careening girl on high heels who dotted our path.
As I turned onto my street corner, I hugged him goodbye. It was a sweet hug.
I woke up to an email: "Happy New Year's, Mandy. I hope you're enjoying the morning with your dog Sam. Let me know what day might work to check out the exhibit. I look forward to it."
2014. It just feels sweet so far.
Tell me about your New Year's. Did anyone else meet a stranger?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.