12/30/2013 01:37 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Single on New Year's Eve: Are We There Yet?

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Couples often like to say that their New Year's Eve plans are really boring -- a quiet dinner for two, a movie night with the kids. When you're single, boring isn't really an option. Especially if you're looking for love, watching Netflix in your pajamas feels like a serious negation of the most critical single-person obligation: Getting out there.

Thus, the panic begins. Because where, exactly, is this "there" to which one must get out? In previous years you have tried:

  • That party your friend's friend's cousin knew about. The one that took an hour and a half to get to, where the music was so loud you couldn't hear a word anyone said, where you screwed up your courage and introduced yourself to that cute guy making mojitos in the kitchen who immediately informed you, "I'm with Kaley."
  • The "fixed price" dinner. This initially seemed like a great idea. Why not splurge on some great food and champagne with a big group of people you went to college with or met in spinning class or whatever? But then Jeremy and Alyson each got the40 for lobster add-on, and Jenna and Tom decided to do the champagne tasting menu. When the bill came, Trina (who had the lobster and the tasting) said, "Let's just split it."
  • Your parents' house. OK, this time you knew you definitely were not "there." But you flew across the country to see your family for the holidays and you don't have to be at work until Jan. 3. Staying for New Year's made good sense. Until you found yourself on Dec. 31 playing Trivial Pursuit with Mom and Dad and their friends and asking yourself how is it possible that this is my life?

New Year's Eve can really screw with your head. Because whatever you end up doing on New Year's, there is often this sinking feeling that really you should be doing something else. That your true life -- the one that involves sipping great champagne, wearing an excellent dress and cracking wise with a bevy of smart, sexy singles -- is out there. You, unfortunately, are not.

But here's the funny thing about New Year's: Whatever you do, you remember it. I have snapshots in my brain of nearly every Dec. 31. I remember huddling with my best friend as we tried to hail a cab on an icy Manhattan street. I remember playing celebrity with people I'd never seen before or would again. I remember drinking tea in my tiny studio apartment reading Lorrie Moore's Like Life while the snow fell outside. I remember being at a lovely cocktail party and looking out the window to a woman in an adjacent apartment; she was sitting at her desk, absorbed in her writing, occasionally pausing to sip from a glass of champagne.

When I look back on these experiences, I realize it doesn't matter so much whether or not I had a good or a bad time that night. Somehow, all of these memories make me happy, simply because they're my life. They make me see that, so far anyway, my life has been full and rich and weird and wonderful. The only thing that kept me from enjoying my New Year's Eve was the stupid idea that I should be doing something else.

Sara Eckel is the author of It's Not You: 27 Wrong Reasons You're Single. You can sign up for a free bonus chapter of her book at You can also follow her on Twitter at @saraeckel or friend her on