Opinion | (Don’t) party like a millennial
Around the world, research and anecdata indicate that millennials espouse the idea of a low-key New Year's Eve at home
In 1960, Ella Fitzgerald sang, “Maybe it’s much too early in the game/ Ah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same/ What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?" And as the year 1999 was drawing to a close, I remember feeling, for the first time, an immense annoyance with Fitzgerald clones. The questions started weeks before and went on for weeks after. Since I had no money and was rarely allowed to leave the house after 5pm, my 20-year-old self was resigned to have no good answers. If you thought being asked about your new year plans in 2018 was annoying, imagine how many times we had to hear it in the year of the new millennium. In the background, serious people worried about the (now ridiculous-sounding) Y2K problem. They worried that missiles would launch themselves and nuclear power plants would go kaboom because in the midnight hour computers would interpret 00 not as 2000, but as 1900. Nevertheless everyone still made time to ask, “What are you doing for the new millennium?".
Somehow we survived the international bug and I survived the local bugging. In the first week of January 2000, my college tasked me with the job of producing a short play and into its script my friend Deepa and I poured our irritations. Our protagonist recounted disastrous new year plans of her recent past and how for the millennium she intended to just stay in and watch Titanic, which she had been too cool to watch earlier. The setting of the play was intergalactic and the characters a tribute to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, but the sentiment was very close to home. In the final sequence, Babel Fish and the Cow from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and other characters queued up to sing My Heart Will Go On. And apparently our hearts did go on from that shubh millennial muharat into huge populations of people—some of whom are called millennials—who dislike the idea of communal new year’s celebrations or what used to be hilariously called “bashes".
By the time you are reading this, my friends, you will be so done with “doing New Year’s Eve" and so totally done with answering questions about “doing New Year’s Eve". And what a sense of relief to enjoy early in the year. Even if the age-appropriate answer you have been using is “nothing, re". By which I mean age-appropriate for young people. Around the world, research (part of which has been commissioned by that one party which has no stakes in all of us staying at home—Netflix) and anecdata indicate that millennials espouse the idea of a low-key New Year’s Eve at home. Young people seem to be exhausted by the herd, its horns and horniness and like Greta Garbo, “vant to be alone". An Indian study focused on the big metros says that only 41% of people had plans to party. The rest either planned to stay at home or go on holiday or at the very least “go for long drives outside the city".
A friend (who otherwise adores extravagant parties) remembered that December 1999 was when she had first vowed to never go out on New Year’s again. “I stayed at home, filled a purple bowl with roses and wore soft white pyjamas with a little lace and made myself a margarita." She was, as always, ahead of the curve. Social media posts about New Year’s Eve plans have been studded like a plum pudding with words like couch, cosy, socks, Netflix, self-care and always, always, pyjamas. These posts are sincere but also remind me of a Bollywood actor friend who was acknowledging his growing old by complaining about his very young and glamorous colleagues talking about “just wanting to eat some chaat, yaar" while lying in a lounger on the deck of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Keeping it real has never been so much hard work. And it has certainly never been as hard as it is when you are supposed to embrace the new year with grit and not gritty eyes.
In the recent past I have gone to some memorable new year parties—one which involved going from the party to the airport in costume and sequins and one where a returned-after-seven-years-in-Afghanistan friend made fake-nostalgia comments at the sound of crackers. Ah Kabul, she said, making me snort and giggle.
Now when staying at home alone is being embraced as a lifestyle choice, I am not sure what to feel anymore. I have an existential and glitter-based problem. If in the last week of December the newspapers are no longer filled with columns with the plans of the police to keep us from having a good time, who will we be? Will the future be filled with police memos about pyjamas? And this sort of contemplation of the future is why New Year’s must be rung in a state of dizziness and confusion. Why pretend that any of us know where we are going?
To my relief while metro types are embracing the sound of lorry horns (because that is what long drives outside the city mean) and their gratitude journals, others have spurned this nihilism. Small towns in Kerala planned huge New Year parties with themes such as Las Vegas (in Edapally), Blue Lagoon (in Kochi) and Red Carpet (in Tripunithara). Russian DJs featured. Ah Edapally. Sequins forever.
Cheap Thrills is a fortnightly column about millennials, obsessions and secrets. Nisha Susan is the editor of the webzine The Ladies Finger.
She tweets at @chasingiamb