At the end of 1998, playing house with my newborn son and my boyfriend of just over a year, the old Puerto Rican woman in me said: "El Año Nuevo no me va a encontrar soltera!" Or, "The new year would not find me unmarried!" That voice came from a collage of Latinas in my life who spoke in refranes, who collectively understood that child birth out of wedlock was shameful, and put less value on my recently obtained college degree than they did on my boyfriend being Black, "but coming from a good family."
I'd rejected the suggestion of marriage since learning I was pregnant, and then again after giving birth. Having graduated from college just six months before, surely I was a liberal feminist who couldn't equate pregnancy with a need to marry.
But there I was, with the pressure to start anew that the impending ball drop brings. Our son was five months old and had just gotten his first tooth. Sharing a home, a child, and doing most of the housework, it dawned on me that I was a wife without the dignity of having a husband. At least, that's the way the old Puerto Rican woman in me saw it. And so I got married on New Year's Eve, eloping to the Marlboro County Courthouse in a black sheath dress, a stroller, my newborn and the regret of never having been formally proposed to. I went home that day to dishes and phone calls to loved ones with our big announcement, putting a whole lot of weight on all that the new year would bring. By 2002, we had two children and separate addresses.
Fifteen years later, I am more guarded about my New Year's resolutions, and their general tendency to crash and burn. After all, I only have one failed marriage but a dozen or so failed efforts to lose weight. I make a list every year nonetheless, with different variations of my future failures: Drink less Pepsi, exercise more or wear a bathing suit without the baggy t-shirt over it.
Full of endorphins and exhaustion from the experiences we save for the holidays, like traveling for hours to, in one day, visiting four different homes, eating four different meals, and capping the night off with a visit to Rockefeller Center, I am reluctant. We pack so much of the fun and pasteles into the last few weeks, that all that preceded it can't compare, and the beginning of the next year can only hope to match it. By Valentine's Day I'll not only have failed to work towards my resolutions, but forgotten they existed altogether. Failure and forgetfulness cannot be a good foundation for the year ahead.
This time, thanks to the visual flashbacks offered by social media sites like Statigram and Facebook, I can literally look back to see what worked and at minimum, and do more of that. How do I bottle moments such as those that garnered the most likes on social media, and sprinkle them evenly across 2014? That's it! Instead of making resolutions around broad goals, my 2014 will focus on ensuring likable moments: birthday parties, vacations, barbecues and the occasional duck face.
But before I get there, I have laundry, cleaning and organizing to do. Because, for sure, el año nuevo no me puede encontrar con la casa sucia!
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