In some ways a New Year’s party is like Mardis Gras, but I mean from a theological point of view. Mardi Gras precedes (theoretically, that is) the sober restraint and denial of Lent. A drunken butter blowout before you go dragging off to church to repent on Wednesday. Similarly, following the frantic bacchanalia woohoo of New Year’s Eve, do we not (theoretically) slump toward a virtuous future of resolutions and improvements?
The new year, I’ve heard, is a chance to start all over, as if that would help. Nice myth, though if I myself had a chance to do things again, I’m pretty sure I’d come up with completely new ways to screw up pretty much everything. I mean, the stuff I did wrong, I know how that went. I want to do it wrong in new ways.
In the meantime, New Year’s parties come along, and this week my friend Salina Robinella Cocachella told me that she was invited to a New Year’s Eve party. Unlike some such parties that require nothing more than a willingness to consume with enthusiastic abandon, this party was to include costumes.
“I’m wondering how to dress up,” Salina said.
“Maybe as a pop star,” I suggested. I didn’t mention that Salina is a Unitarian minister, so she’s kind of an abstract thinker.
“Ah,” she said, “like Renée Fleming.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Renée Fleming. She’s an opera singer. One of her roles was Lucrezia Borgia. I could dress up as Renée Fleming doing Lucrezia Borgia.”
“Opera singer?” I said, “Didn’t I say pop star? How would anybody know you were an opera singer? Wouldn’t they just think you were Lucrezia Borgia?”
“I could sing everything I said at the party,” Salina answered.
“Yeah,” I replied. “That probably wouldn’t suck all night. Why don’t you just go as a historical figure without the singing?”
“That’s even better. I could go as Søren Kierkegaard.”
“Holy moly!” I scratched parts of my body that were itching. “Who the hell was that?”
“You don’t know Kierkegaard? He was a Danish philosopher, probably the first existentialist. Or maybe not actually the first in reality, but the first to—”
“What if you went as someone people have actually heard of?” I asked.
“Or maybe the Indian king Ashoka, who helped spread Buddhism.”
“Exactly what I had in mind. Because who doesn’t like…know some Indian chief or whatever?”
Salina’s face was lit up with enthusiasm. “I like the idea of someone who helped spread Buddhism.” She paused in her headlong rush through obscurity. “Or maybe I could dress up as an idea,” she said.
I put my head in my hands because Lord, what was there to say to that?
“No, really,” she said. “Like the idea of free will.” She stopped and frowned. “But how would I dress as free will?”
“You could go naked,” I said.
“Oh, but it’s in January. Or what if I dressed as the idea of skinny dipping? Ha! I know how I would do it. I’d wear a flesh colored body suit, then I’d tie some branches on over the top of it. I could hang items of clothing from the branches. So it would look like I was undressed behind the branches.”
“But you’re a minister,” I said.
“A Unitarian minister. Can I borrow some of your underwear to hang on the branches? Mine are too nice.”