A. The Email
Expectation: You’ve been bracing yourself for this since the ill-fated Halloween costume thread. Dave is certainly gonna come out with his trademark high voltage enthusiasm, and you’re gonna need a built-in alibi so you don’t have to attend what’s sure to be a brutal $170 open bar.
Maybe you shouldn’t’ve ended things with Cary — you guys could’ve planned that fake trip to Vermont you always wanted to go on.
Reality: Dave, beaten down by year after year of New Year’s Eve disappointment, suggests that the group forgo an open bar and do something a little bit different this year. You read over the email 5-7 times, just to make sure this isn’t a prolonged typo.
The group decides to convene at a sushi restaurant downtown, followed by a small house party at Dave’s place. Dave stresses that the dinner should be over as early as possible, as to not run into the late night transportation rush. The whole thing seems way too reasonable.
B. The Dinner
Expectation: A 10-12 person dinner. Get a little bit tipsy, but overall enjoy the time. Have a great conversation with Erica about the novel you’re working on.
Not that you’re actually gonna do anything with it, but she’s always enjoyed your writing and it never hurts to know someone who’s got an in at HarperCollins
Reality: A 10-12 person dinner. Erica is at the opposite end of the table with her new boyfriend — which shouldn’t bother you, but it totally does. You’re instead wedged between Bruce and Dana, two people who you’re only friends with because they’re friends with everyone else at the dinner.
You spend the first five minutes talking about jobs (good for now/it’s a job/it’s just my dayjob, my real passion is underwater fingerprint cryptology), and then spend the rest of the dinner sitting in relative silence, drinking a lot more Sapporo than you’d initially planned on. In a surprise development, Bruce appears to be very into snapchatting his food.
The bill comes, and it’s somehow $70 per person. The math doesn’t add up at all, but obviously this was going to happen. Best take a cab with Freddy — even though it’s starting to get somewhat embarrassing, his father’s credit card is still going strong.
C. The Party
Expectation: Dave flips on some college football bowl — the 2-3 guys who find talking to girls too stressful and/or are in long distance relationships suddenly become incredibly invested in the outcome of a matchup between Utah and the University of Hawaii.
Everyone talks in their little circles. Someone suggests beer pong, which is immediately rejected by the cadre of 25 year-olds who are above such a juvenile collegiate sport. Half of the party takes great pride in lying about when the last time they played beer pong was (“I don’t think I’ve played in like…no, I think it’s been almost two years!”)
Having planted the romance seed with your novel, you and Erica get to talking about the stuff people talk about when they want to engage in otherwise regrettable behavior. You discuss hopes and dreams in a manner that would be very cheesy if you weren’t aggressively flirting. Eventually, you progress how you’re both “so over” gatherings like this one.
Reality: Dave flips on some college football bowl — the 2-3 guys who find talking to girls too stressful and/or are in long distance relationships suddenly become incredibly invested in the outcome of a matchup between Utah and the University of Hawaii.
You are one of them.
Someone suggests beer pong, which is immediately rejected by the cadre of 25 year-olds who are above such a juvenile collegiate sport. You take great pride in telling other people that you’ve haven’t played beer pong in like, 2 years
Fed up with the weird tension of failing expectations, the group collectively decides to play a few rounds of flip cup. You’re matched up with Erica.
Following a few rounds (all of which you lose to Erica, who is somehow a master at this game), the two of you get to talking. Erica asks about your writing, but it’s clear that this is not the time to bring up your big-time novel — it feels a little too self-indulgent, and you get the sense that she wouldn’t even be that impressed by it. You suddenly realize that 25 year-olds are less and interested in improbable yet glorified potential, and more and more interested in tangible results.
The new boyfriend returns, whom you’ve projected to be a giant asshole with a douchey job that further underscores his assholery. Turns out he’s a perfectly nice guy. Turns out he knows a lot more about Zdeno Chara’s career arc than you’d ever like to give him credit for.
You excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. (You actually do have to go to the bathroom, given all that flip cup.)
Expectation: You spend the 10 minutes before New Year’s watching whatever special it is people watch. Someone makes a super edgy Dick Clark joke. You make a joke about Ryan Seacrest, which gets drowned out because your voice isn’t the loudest, and you really tried to wedge in that joke against the conversational will.
You really need to work on your timing.
The ball drops. Only the couples kiss. There are some people who are gonna hook up later, but everyone’s watching and it’d be kinda weird. Plus, people have their phones out and are doing that thing where they’d totally film something they wouldn’t want filmed if they were the subject.
Erica’s sitting on the other side of the room. You lock eyes when no one else is watching.
Reality: Somehow, everyone got a lot more drunk than planned. Some people are on the verge of blacking out, which is funnier now that you guys are a little older. You take to the kitchen, and start downing a few glasses of water. Looking around, Dave seems to be doing pretty well for himself — he even has a fridge that has the water on the door.
Like with the crushed ice.
No one even realizes it’s midnight, and you end up celebrating New Year’s with the announcers from the College Football game.
You lock eyes with Dave. You tell him that you’re a douche who underestimated him, and that you had a lot more fun than you expected to have. You could tell that Dave is slightly concerned about you, but you guys are no longer good enough friends for him to speak his mind on the matter.
You think about texting Cary. You decide against it.
E. Return Home
Expectation: A $60 Cab/Uber/Hovercraft. Pasta/rice for two weeks.
Reality: A $60 Uber. Pasta/rice for a week, because you ate it all too fast.