New Years Day is always the worst hangover of the year, even if I didn’t drink on New Years Eve.
My family celebrates both Chanukkah and Christmas so the bender begins in the first half of December with night after night of fried potatoes drowned in applesauce and sour cream. Then our teaching ends for the quarter and every night someone has a great bottle of beer they were saving for an occasion just like tonight, which is inevitably at least 9% ABV. This usually leads to a couple rounds of progressively less and less special beers until the standard becomes “not O’Doul’s.” Then I hop a flight home and try to see everyone I met before college in two days. After 24 solid hours of reminiscing interspersed with 24 hours of eating, we’re off Atlanta to see my dad’s family for Christmas. We spend days gorging ourselves on foodstuffs that could only be called “grown-up candy,” like caramel pecans and walnut fudge. It’s slightly more dignified than eating Snickers and Milky Ways for a week straight, but definitely no healthier.
Our gluttony hits a climax on Christmas Eve with our annual roast beef dinner. My dad, once a professional caterer, throws on 4 or 5 world class side dishes, all soaked in oil or butter. Then my uncle makes my favorite dessert that I recently discovered is about two thirds butter; I immediately regretted asking for the recipe. The next morning we wake up, watch our cousins scream like banshees as they open their mountains of carefully wrapped toys (they’re adorable banshees, but banshees nonetheless). For brunch we have bagels and lox along with what’s left of the chocolate pie from the night before. After a day or two my siblings and I head back home for New Years with my mom and we stuff our gullets all over again until the 31st. Finally we have the last fancy dinner of the year, the last frantic hour of showering and dressing up, and generally the last drink of the year. At midnight we yell and scream and, after a couple more hours, head to bed.
The next morning I wake up in that withdrawal stupor that comes from burning through 6 months worth endorphins in 3 weeks. Everything hurts. My stomach finally exacts its revenge for the egregious maltreatment. My teeth ache from sugar rot. My legs hurt from marathons of freeze tag and touch football with my cousins. Even my face stings from laughing at too many family stories that I’ve already heard 100 times.
I look down at my protruding gut. It took a while, but eventually all the meat, cheese, and chocolate caught up with me and I struggle to get out of bed. There are no more excuses for excess until Passover. I remember that I’m an adult now and my body is my own responsibility but after all that revelry I don’t have the self control for a diet or the motivation for an exercise regime.
I think back to couples I saw kissing under the mistletoe at the mall. All that young love and excitement seemed adorable. It makes me sick. At least they probably feel like crap too as they look down at their own stomachs and nurse their own headaches.
I go downstairs for coffee with my family. I can’t believe how much time I’ve spent with these people. Why must we keep talking? Why can’t we just silently elate our caffeine addictions and ignore each other like a healthy family?
I look at the pile of books I brought home but forgot to open. I volunteered to give a presentation on Monday when I thought that in all that time off there would be plenty of good moments for a little catch-up work. I was mistaken. I crack one open but my brain is just as sluggish and stubborn as my body.
Then we march into the car and head over to some brunch party. Everyone wishes each other a happy new year, but I’m pretty sure they’re just hiding their collective enslavement to the universal hangover. All I can think about are the layovers and bus rides between me and my apartment as well as the piles of work looming on the horizon. I roll my eyes as I remember carefree December and stare into the cold, humorless face of January.
But, like every year, there’s only one thing to do; grab a “hair of the dog” mimosa, slap on a smile, and introduce myself because if I don’t meet someone by February, I’m going to have to spend Valentine’s Day sitting in the park muttering about how none of the happy couples around me are going to last more than another month.