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Harriet Walker: Whatever happened to New Year karma?


I never know what I'm going to do on New Year's Eve. That is, I can take a very vague guess: what I presume I will do is lie around for most of the day, then go somewhere, get drunk, wonder what all the fuss was about and go to sleep fully clothed round my friend's house.

That's what I normally do on New Year's Eve. But I never know the specifics until the last minute. And I invariably start feeling anxious about not knowing these specifics in about mid-August, a feeling that doesn't leave until the midnight chimes have come and gone, and found me hopefully a) Not on my own and b) Absolutely, categorically, positively not on my own. And c) Not snogging an ugly stranger.

I shouldn't be in this situation. If you believe in karma, I should have every New Year's Eve planned from now until that serene point when you stop caring about feeling bleak if you just stay in and cheer Jonathan Ross from the comfort of your armchair, looking around your empty front-room with all the misanthropic gusto of Heathcliff turfing a houseguest out into the snow.

I haven't reached that stage yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I've dry-cleaned my Slanket in preparation.

The reason I should have New Year's plans coming out of my ears is quite simple: not because I'm a social butterfly (more an angsty moth, flitting too close to the lightbulb and having to shrink back into the corner and stand on her own) but because two years ago, I hosted a New Year's Eve party. And it was, if I say so myself, the New Year's Eve party to end them all. It ended several chairs, some pot plants and a few banisters, that's for sure.

I thought having a New Year's party – and having a good one, more to the point – meant that I would be karmically inundated with invites every time the bloody event came round. I thought I'd have to start having an unofficial New Year in April just to cope with the volume of demand. I'd have to take up Chinese New Year, I assumed, or nip over to Tonga so I could celebrate early with those guys before going to another 17 parties back in London.

How many invites have I had this year? Two. One of which was so awful I can't even bear to go into it right now, and the other is a bit like the version I had a stab at in the first paragraph, except I wouldn't be on my own and it wouldn't be a stranger I'd be snogging. Or anyone ugly.

The latter remains the best way I can think of to spend the evening, yet I still resent New Year enormously because it always registers as a 20 on my FOMO scale (that's Fear of Missing Out, for anyone not down with hipsternyms). The best way to cope with New Year being such a consistent cop-out is to treat it either with disdain or to really ramp things up. But you have to do either with conviction – so if, like me, you desperately want not to care but find you still do, your only real option is to pretend New Year is the biggest party in the whole entire world.

Previous years have seen me in this mode, from pouring out the sherries for my parents, aged 10, measuring each exactly, zig-zagging the lemon rind and gently cascading in the ice with all the pomp and circumstance of a state dignitary, to the first time I ever went to a proper party for the occasion – the millennium, no less! – aged 14.

That day, I washed my hair twice to make sure it really looked its best. I had a bath for an hour and then had a shower. I gave myself a two-hour window to apply a tester-pack of foundation several shades darker than my skin and a lump of dried-out concealer that my sister had discarded. I wore a new top I had got for Christmas, which with hindsight was completely vile. But nevertheless, I made New Year big – and I had a great time.

Another year, I dressed as a Russian mafia moll with a group of friends so drunk, even on arrival, that we all tripped over each other while posing for a photo and collapsed on to the sofa at about 9pm. Then there was the time I wore a bright-green dress that made me look like Marvin the Martian and tried to make everyone I met drink water from an antique ewer I had found somewhere.

This year, I'll do everything according to tradition – that's what New Year's really comes down to: I'll spend ages getting ready, feel uncharacteristically enthusiastic, and I'll wake up the next day completely unchanged but for a slamming headache. It's all quite reassuring, really, isn't it?