For 10 year’s ends in a row, starting in 1992 and ending in 2001, I and others on staff at the gay newspaper where I worked would toil away, chronicling the gay lives and times of the 12 months previous (in 1999, we chronicled many years previous).
It was a useful exercise in that we as newspeople – weekly gay historians – refreshed our minds about the year behind us. We saw the ways that we, as a newspaper and as a community, improved and regressed over the course of a single year. It was enriching, fortifying, challenging and insightful
I don’t miss it a bit.
Instead, at this time of year, my mind tends to travel further back. I remember gay New Year’s Eves such as the time long ago that my best friend Lyn, my girlfriend and I drove past two parties we knew about decided not to go in, feeling a little shy and also perfectly content keeping each other’s company for the night. It may have been the same year that we paid a somewhat outrageous cover charge to step inside a lesbian bar and leave after about 10 minutes, feeling overwhelmed by smoke and loud music and a distinct absence of people we knew.
I remember gatherings, small and large, at various houses I inhabited. I remember persuading Lyn to throw the party on at least a couple of occasions. I remember the point at which Lyn and I, pretty steady Dec. 31 buddies since meeting in 1992, decided not to care too much about New Year’s Ever as a “major event. ” Really, it’s just another night, we reasoned, and who needs all that pressure of deciding where to go and how to celebrate?
I remember further back, before I moved from Iowa to D.C., the New Year’s Eve in 1991 when my best friends from high school were putting together a party and I had already made plans to spend the evening with my first girlfriend.
I had officially broken up with her, but I thought maybe I’d made a mistake and decided to give things another try. I remember negotiating with my closest high school friend, Shalar, about whether I should bring this young lady to the party in my hometown – we processed what people might say while I agonized over what they might think. In the end, I decided not to go to the party – maybe I wasn’t ready to come out to my hometown public yet – but I remember being relieved that I was the one all freaked out about the idea, while Shalar treated my inflated worries as something of a non-issue.
In the end, I should have gone to the party with my friends – the attempt to patch things up with the girlfriend fell flat as I discovered exactly why I’d ended our fledgling relationship several weeks earlier.
I remember further back, before I came out, when I was an uncertain high school sophomore, I’m not sure what my friend were doing that year, but I was awkward and socially unsteady enough that it hadn’t occurred to me to find out. Instead, I settled in with my 84-year-old grandfather who’d recently come to live with us. I was still getting to know him – I was a shy kid who tended not to know even my extended family well – and we were just beginning to realize what a great team we made.
My cousin, who was in my grade and had been adopted by my grandparents when he was a small child, also lived with us. That year he and my brother went to some party where the punch was spiked and much yelling and punishing would occur when they arrived home at the same time as my astute mother.
But until then, it was just me and Grandpa watching the countdown on television. We listened to music he loved – an old geezer name Guy Lombardo – and talked about years past. We heard “Auld Lang Syne ” and wondered what they meant exactly by “we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet. ” Even though I was 14 and, some might say, sort of lame for sitting at home with an old man, I felt like I was in the right place.
My grandfather died a couple of years later, and that memory stays with me as one of the pivotal moments in our too-short relationship.
This year, five days before the big event, again I don’t know what I’ll end up doing. The difference between the Kristina of 2002 and the Kristina of 1984 is that I have at least identified a group of people who will spend the evening with me. Sadly, my grandfather can’t be among them.
Our night will probably involve some viewing of HBO’s Sex in the City marathon, but whether that happens in real time or via videotape remains to be seen. I haven’t made plans this year with the aforementioned best friend Lyn, because her girlfriend’s friend is hosting a shindig they’ll attend. And that’s OK – sometimes our standing date to spend New Year’s Eve together takes a break.
What most delights me about the upcoming New Year is the process of making resolutions, both my own and those around me that enrich my life in different ways. Lyn worked by my side at the Washington Blade from the day I started in 1992 until this past March when we both left the Blade and closed that chapter of our lives. She sees a lot less of me than she used to, back in the days where we’d take long leisurely breaks at the local Rite Aid and then bust our asses putting out each week’s issue of a legendary paper.
I don’t miss the year-in-review process, but I miss spending time with Lyn. A few weeks ago she “warned ” me that one of her New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time with me. I couldn’t imagine a better way to start 2003 – and I’ve told at least one other person who thinks it’s such a great idea that she’s made a resolution to see more of her own best friend. I can’t wait to make new traditions with Lyn, whether they involve Rite Aid or not.
Who better to take a cup o’ kindness with?
Kristina Campbell is thinking about making a New Year’s resolution to stop procrastinating, but hasn’t decided for sure yet. She’ll let you know in March. In the meantime, she writes biweekly for MW and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.