Baby New Year

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It’s New Year’s Eve 1998, and I’m telling a joke to the girl who just broke up with me two weeks prior while she sits on the couch with Ronnie, her new drug-dealer boyfriend.

She’d met Ronnie in Daytona Beach on Spring Break, where he’d apparently freak-danced her so hard he’d grinded the memory of me right out of her body via her butt, against which his cargo shorts had been firmly pressed all week to the sounds of Naughty by Nature, every thrust telegraphing that he was down with OPP, yes, you know me, you down with OPP, every last homie.

Although technically she didn’t fall into the category of OPP—I’d asked her to be my girlfriend before she left for the beach, but she got drunk on Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, vomited, and said she wasn’t ready to be anyone’s girlfriend yet.

She did leave behind an America Online T-shirt, which to this day was the softest shirt I have ever felt against my skin. It felt like the kind of T-shirt an angel would wear, if angels had AOL accounts, and were also really into branding.

I’m not actually sure she was freak-danced by Ronnie to Naughty by Nature, but when I imagine it in my head that’s what’s playing—in all likelihood she’d dry-humped him to Master P’s “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!,” which was very popular that year, but I love “Make ‘Em Say Uhh!” and I don’t want the association in my brain, even though I’m already realizing that he probably made her say “Uhh!” many times during that Spring Break, so the synapse connections have already been created, and there is nothing I can do about that.

As I entertain them on New Year’s Eve, I think to myself, “Oh, this is how it works. I’m the guy that tells her jokes, and he’s the guy with two duffel bags of pot who has sex with her afterwards.” I realize that I have been hopelessly “Baby New Yeared.”

According to Wikipedia, Baby New Year “symbolizes the ‘birth’ of the next year, and is often represented as a male infant wearing nothing more than a diaper, top hat, and a sash across his torso that shows the year he is representing. Baby New Year quickly ages until he is elderly at the end of his year. At this point, Old Baby New Year hands over his duties to the next Baby New Year, and dies.”

Do you think the other Baby New Years waiting to represent all the years of the future sleep in stasis pods wearing cryogenically-frozen top hats, in some kind of endless warehouse filled with millions of babies in suspended animation, their sashes floating in breathable pink liquid?

If I was the CEO of a private bioengineering firm that designed Baby New Years, I’d focus my research on having Old Baby New Year transform back into Baby New Year at midnight instead of dying. Like, make a Benjamin Button/Doctor Who-regeneration division or something.

Do you know how much it costs to clone a warehouse full of babies, change their DNA to prematurely age, and then put each one in a tiny top hat? Just because you’re playing God with science doesn’t you should have to pay God prices for hats.

I say we focus on making one Super Baby New Year who genetically resets every December 31st. Then we can just wash the top hat he’s already wearing.

Anyway, Ronnie was totally Baby New Year 1999, and I was decrepit old 1998, my dusty bones doomed to crumble under a stack of unused AOL CDs.

I’d been pretty worked up over this girl because she’d been really, really hot. In fact, after she broke up with me, I’d cried in front of my friend Chris, who pulled his dick out at parties. Not that that has anything to do with it, but he pulled his dick out so often at parties, and we were having so many parties at the time, that his dick was out all the time, so it was like I was crying in front of Chris and Chris’s dick.

When Chris saw me crying, he started laughing and asked, “Man, what are you crying for?”

I just looked at him and said, “She was just so hot.”

“Yeah. You got that right.” he said. Later, at the same New Year’s Party, he pulled out his dick.

She had been really hot. She’d looked like a blonde Natalie Imbruglia, and even dressed like Natalie Imbruglia had in the video for her hit single “Torn.”

Whenever I saw her, she was wearing a hoodie, khakis, and a dragon tank-top, as if to say, “I am your local representative for Natalie Imbruglia. I am a node on a network of Imbruglias. I am the video for ‘Torn’ made flesh. I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Maybe not that last one.

She was like the ambassador of Natalie Imbruglias to my small college town, like when the manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken dresses up like Colonel Sanders for its grand opening.

I guess he would be more the avatar of Colonel Sanders than the ambassador. Can you be both the official envoy and the spirit animal of a man who became infamous for seasoning chicken with 11 secret herbs and spices? We play so many roles when we dress up as a character. Even Baby New Year was just a regular baby until he put on the sash.

Do you think the sash is what gives Baby New Year his powers? Wait. Does Baby New Year even have any powers?! I guess he’s just a sick, prematurely-aging baby. Maybe Baby New Year’s sash is the destroyer of worlds, draining him even as it fills him with the power to wish you a Happy New Year.

The things from which we draw our power are often the things that undo us. Maybe the duffel bags of pot and drug dealer lifestyle that made Ronnie seem so dangerously sexy to her are what will eventually make him seem totally obnoxious.

Years later at a John Mayer concert, my friends and I will be talking about how we’d like to strap a rocket to John Mayer’s back with fixed coordinates for the middle of the ocean. Just like, calmly walk up on stage and start to put the shoulder straps of the rocket on him.

Maybe get a T-shirt that says SECURITY on the back and just kind of slip the rocket on his back while he’s playing guitar. If he starts to balk, just say, “No no no no no—it’s fine. It’s sound equipment. We’re having sound problems.” And then just push the button, and send him to the middle of the ocean, where he can tell mermaids that the upper halves of their bodies are wonderlands.

I will spot her in the crowd holding hands with a dude sporting an enormous beard. Ronnie will be nowhere to be seen. She will seem like such a total stranger that I almost won’t recognize her. It will dawn on me that I never took the time to find out anything about her, other than that she once existed in a perpetual state of Natalie Imbruglianess.

I will realize that I’d only been into her because of the way she looked. I will see that Ronnie and I are the same after all, driven by the naughtiness of our own nature, eternally down with OPP, though again—it can’t be considered OPP if it was never your P at all.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1998, and I am telling a joke to a couple on a couch. As they laugh, I feel as though I am handing over a sash that I hadn’t even known I was wearing, but that had been draining me the whole time.

I guess it is not so bad to be “Baby New Yeared.”  We are all destined to be replaced at some point. In accepting this, I am filled with the power to wish both of them a Happy New Year. TC Mark

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