Why a Kiss on NYE Isn’t As Vital As It Seems

When I used to think of New Year’s Eve, I’d always think of that scene in The O.C. when Ryan rushed to Oliver’s New Year’s Eve party to kiss Marissa at midnight and let her know that he still loved her.

As the clock counted down 10…9…8…7…6… we saw a montage of Ryan racing up the elevator — was he going to make it? — and Marissa becoming more and more disheartened as the numbers counted down. Oliver moved towards her …5… Summer shot her an sympathetic look …4…3… and Marissa looked to the door one last time …2 and just as you though she might make the biggest mistake of season one so far, Ryan burst through the door…1… HAPPY NEW YEAR! Streamers flew, he ran up to her and kissed her as the background song — Dice, by Finley Quaye — became louder and our collective heartbeats began to calm down.

Everything was okay. The world was at peace. Ryan had reached Marissa at midnight of the new year and they had sealed their love just in time.

This isn’t the only display of severe importance of the New Year’s kiss in media, TV and film — heck, there’s a whole damn film about it — but this was the one that got to me at the most pivotal moment of my teenage-hood. I desperately wanted to be Marissa in that moment.

I wanted someone to like me enough that they found me at midnight just to kiss me. I wanted that that kiss to be all I needed as confirmation that the next year was going to be the best yet.

When you’re a teenager and you really want something, you’re willing to make it happen no matter what. The year was 2010 and I was going to a friend’s NYE party. There was a boy I liked and I was going to make sure we kissed, because duh, it was the only thing that mattered.

Sure enough, we kissed. He tasted like cheap red wine and cigarettes and our kiss was nothing like I thought it was supposed to be. I’d been chatting to him all night and at the stroke of midnight, we just happened to be sitting behind a bottle bin in our friend’s backyard. People started screaming “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and he grabbed my face — in more of a gesture that suggested he didn’t know what to do but thought he should do something — and kissed me, if you could even call it that. He sucked on my lips and stuck his tongue down my throat and the whole ordeal seemed to go on for much longer than it probably did. When our faces eventually came apart, I tried for a smile.

“I’m going to get a glass of water,” I said. “Do you want one?”

“Sure.”

And that was that.

It’s not like I was expecting a Ryan and Marissa-type of love story, but I was certainly expecting to feel fireworks or butterflies or just general glee at being kissed on NYE. Instead, I felt deflated.

Fast forward two years, and I’m house-sitting my best friend’s house over New Year’s and Christmas. She and her family had gone to New Zealand, and I was just keeping their house clean, collecting the mail, lounging around by their pool etc. New Year’s Eve came, and I had a few parties I’d planned to go to. They were all only a couple of blocks away, so I wasn’t in a hurry. I made myself a martini (I either had mature taste or thought I was Marilyn Monroe), put on a record and sat by the pool with a book.

Hours passed. I thought about getting dressed up, dancing with friends and hopefully kissing someone at midnight. But I wasn’t ready to go out yet, so I made myself another drink and continued to read. Before I knew it, it was 11pm. I’d been so engrossed in my book and really enjoying my own company, that I’d not even noticed the time. I decided that it was too late to go now, and I put on my pyjamas and continued to read in bed.

The next morning it occurred to me that I’d had more fun on my own on New Year’s than I’d ever had at a New Year’s party. I was kinda shocked. I mean, who doesn’t love a good house party? But the party wasn’t the problem, it was the pressure that came with importance of a New Year’s Eve kiss.

Why did this moment always feel so important? On the years I hadn’t been kissed on NYE throughout high school, I’d always felt as though no kiss meant something was wrong with me. Like I hadn’t worn a cute enough dress or maybe my breath smelt or perhaps no one had a crush on me at that moment. It felt big. And then all of a sudden, all because of a night on my own, my perspective changed.

There is a bit of history to the NYE kiss, but it’s pretty vague. It’s said that during the Renaissance, at the last masquerade ball of the year, people would remove their masks and kiss at midnight as a way of purifying each other from evil. Basically, it was a way for them to start the new year with a clean slate.

Personally, I don’t know when a kiss ever cleaned someone’s slate, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. Unsurprisingly, the tradition has been carried on through literature, films, TV shows and other forms of storytelling, and has evolved into a thing of its own. We’re taught to crave a kiss at midnight on NYE.

But I’m here to tell you that albeit romantic, it’s not vital. Honestly, the pressure of finding a kiss is really stressful and nothing romantic ever seems to happen when you go looking for it anyway. Out of all the kisses I’ve ever had on NYE, the best time I ever had was that night alone at my friend’s house, drinking martinis and reading my book.

Now, that’s just me. I totally get wanting to indulge in the romance of corny traditions and there should be no shame attached to that. I just wanted to let you know that it’s okay to not be kissed too.

This year, try to head into your NYE without any expectations. If you feel like partying, go partying! But don’t go partying to simply be kissed. Pop a bottle of bubbles, have a boogie and don’t stress about that countdown moment and not having anyone to kiss. And, if it’s truly unbearable, kiss your friends (with consent!).