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Out With The Old and. . .Whatever 

Trying to make New Year's Eve not suck

There are exactly two holidays that pretty much suck if you're thirty-something and single: Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve. Valentine's Day used to be a holiday I looked forward to until about age 10 when it stopped being accompanied by white bags at school filled with candy and small cards from 30 of your closest friends. Suddenly, it ceased to have importance unless I was currently dating someone.And now we're approaching the New Year and getting ready to ring in 2003. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like New Year's Eve parties weren't so couple-oriented until the last five years or so.

When I was in college, and even after I graduated, it was one of my favorite holidays. I loved shopping for that perfect dress, and relished in finding that meticulous blend of sparkly yet chic. I had to learn the hard way, though, that it's possible to overdo sequins, and by all means stay away from gold lame. Find a dress tight enough that you can feel comfortable ditching the brassiere, but comfortable enough that if you have to sleep in it, you can. A girl never knows where she might end up.

My friends and I used to scour the city for the hottest parties, the best DJ's, and we went out that night leaving the customary drinking budget at home. It was a night to go all out.

I'm not sure what happened, or exactly when it started, but I woke up one day to find that cover charges of over $100 per couple had become the going rate at most celebrations. God forbid you go out with an odd number of girlfriends (or guyfriends), because most of these establishments will expect the "odd" party to pay for two. What a rip-off.

Gallivanting around uptown Charlotte in a cocktail dress can present its own set of challenges, especially when you have no clearcut plans about where to spend your evening.

I admit I have a certain respect for those who can shiver for hours in the freezing cold listening to music, all the while waiting for the stroke of midnight. I consider myself a pretty low maintenance gal, but standing out in the street in line to purchase cold beer that will make you even colder, then standing in line to use the Port-a-Jons just isn't my idea of a good time. Not to say that it isn't, but after this latest ice storm, I just have this thing about having to be near hot water and heat.

No matter your own preferences, when you're out with a large group, democratic voting determines the agenda. Now, barhopping on New Year's Eve isn't recommended because of the ridiculously high cover charges. I mean, party favors and cheap champagne going for $50 a person? Amazing.

Anyhow, a consensus is reached, and everyone is warned that after we walk in the doors to our chosen entertainment spot, we are by no means leaving, no matter how much it sucks. You just hope and pray after you fork over your money that it doesn't. Of course, most uptown spots do their best to put on a good show. You soon find yourself drinking, dancing, celebrating, and reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one. Eventually, the business of passing around the paper kazoos, the silly hats, and the pop streamers begins. For some crazy reason, everyone runs for the plastic cups of champagne that you'll end up not drinking because of its vague resemblance to vinegar.

Then the moment approaches -- the stroke of midnight, that fabled, magical hour where all things good either end or begin. If you're single, you know you have two choices: You can either choose to ignore the countdown or find yourself kissing some total stranger you'll probably never see again.

My suggestion is to ignore the countdown and engage in meaningless conversation with your friends until about 60 seconds after the hour, and then continue to celebrate. After that, you should be safe for the next 364 days. If you happen to come across some hottie, let the smoochfest begin. As a matter of fact, don't let anyone talk you out of it.

So go out in your sexy best and have the time of your life, and don't forget to take a cab or get a designated driver. Remember, ladies, New Year's Day is worth celebrating. After all, it consists of almost 12 straight hours of football games. You don't want to miss that, do you?

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