I start the last day of 2004 scared. The dumb kind of scared. There’s nothing to be afraid of — I just feel anxious. There are too many things to think about today. I have seven hours left. You see — I’m not good at planning parties. I like the idea of it, of organizing details and purchasing plastic champagne glasses, but worrying about all the nitty-gritty bits is overwhelming. And I procrastinate so much, and New Year’s Eve parties seem so complicated. I try to be smart about it and make a to-do list, because if I write everything down, it’ll seem smaller, more definite — less scary. But the truth is, it doesn’t help at all. It’s a just a different way to procrastinate.
When I get on the road, the anxiousness disappears but my unhappiness doesn’t. There’s so much to dislike about driving around the United States of America, let alone trying to exchange money for goods. It’s a dumb kind of unhappiness — idly wishing that things would be better, that people would be nicer.
I spent too much of these last few months like this. Feeling a vague sense of unease. Doing things just because they should be done. Following to-do lists.
You know. Not having fun.
But the last day of 2004 turns out to be different. It’s warm, you see. The kind of warmth that belongs to early springtime — the ground is muddy and the trees are still bare, but there’s a sense that things are changing, that things are growing just outside your own vision.
I take off my overcoat in between trying to find leftover Christmas lights at Target and buying an extra bottle of champagne at the liquor store. And when I get home, I think — _why not?_ — and put on some shorts and unpack the sandals I got for Christmas. They were meant to be stored in a closet for a long time, to be almost-forgotten by the time summer came.
Walking outside feels weird. Everyone still has their Christmas decorations up: gargantuan snowmen waving at nothing and Christmas-light reindeer feeding on their lawns. But it doesn’t feel wrong, and that’s what counts. It dawns on me as I’m picking out paper plates at the supermarket that today could be more than New Year’s Eve. It could also be Pantsless Friday.
You don’t know about this holiday, because I made it up for myself. The idea started in my head a long time ago, maybe in a Sears dressing room when I was a little kid. I hated wearing pants. I don’t know why. Maybe because it took so many trips back and forth to find the right size, so much effort, so many too-tight and too-weird feelings as I tried each pair out.
I grew up and tried to be more of a grown-up about things. By the time I turned into a teenager, I only mildly disliked pants. There was still a certain regret the day of each year it became too cold for shorts and a corresponding joy the day it was warm enough again. I still didn’t know exactly why. Maybe it was the freedom summer promised.
The actual holiday came sometime in college. I picked a day when it was still imprudent to wear shorts — a hair too chilly for anyone normal to consider it, I mean. And if anyone asked me about it, I proudly exclaimed I was celebrating Pantsless Friday.
Nobody really got the joke, I think. But maybe it wasn’t exactly a joke.
I did this until I graduated. And I think I thought about doing it the first year afterwards, but it wouldn’t have worked in the workplace. I wouldn’t have gotten in trouble — it wasn’t that kind of office — but it would’ve been inappropriate. I would’ve been embarrassed.
But today is different. It’s the last day of 2004, and when it ends, I am not wearing pants. I am feeling happy. I am feeling free. I don’t know why.
(Maybe it’s because 2005 will be a good year, after all.)