A Quiet (Relatively) New Year at Home

The days when I used to party hardy every new year’s eve are gone, replaced by comparatively serene and quiet, or about as quiet as things can get in Metro Manila on the 31st of December, evening at home with family and friends who might want to drop by. There were still the obligatory firecrackers of course, which I set off at the proper intervals, but these were comparatively muted, the decibel level much lowered by the absence of libation. Noise increases in direct proportion to the alcohol consumed. Which is how it has been the past few years and the way I want it to be. Age, and I’d like to believe, some degree of maturity, has finally caught up with me.

William Grimes has an excellent take on this state of mind in a recent NYT piece “ Wild Revelry is So Last Year”.

The premise behind celebrating the New Year falters as the years go by. In your 20s, a turning calendar page brings excitement. The future looks bright, probably because there’s a lot of it left. As the decades pass, the years seem more menacing. Fleeter. And strange too. Think of it: 2008. In my youth dates like that turned up only in science-fiction novels. In 2008 there would be colonies on Mars and everyone would communicate through mental telepathy. It was not so much an actual date as a signpost indicating the distant future.

And now it’s here. This is disturbing to those of us born in midcentury. It is not an occasion to cheer. One examines it thoughtfully, as Hamlet does Yorick’s skull. Preferably without having drunk four beers, two margaritas, a sidecar and a half-bottle of Spanish sparkling wine.

That’s another thing. The hangovers only get worse. Kingsley Amis once differentiated between the physical hangover (the hangover of youth) and the metaphysical hangover (the hangover of middle age and beyond). The second is far worse, Mr. Amis wrote, an “ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future.” That’s the smiling face of the new year for the heedless partygoer of a certain age.

Thus, the absence of a physical hangover as well as the “ mindless surge of optimism” which previously greeted every new year. My only new year’s resolutions are modest: a) stay alive to see another new year’s eve; b) do my bit reduce my carbon footprint.

Happy new year, everyone.

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