The bubbly, the ball, the midnight kiss. Not all single ladies want a ring on it, but do they want a date for New Year's Eve?
Yes, it's almost here, that milestone of love and romance. This year, the holiday has its own movie (of the same name) filled with intertwining couples and a cast featuring Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jon Bon Jovi, Halle Berry, and oh-so-many more of Hollywood's sexiest.
There's love lost and found, confusing new love, love in an elevator, and sweet father-daughter love. Director Garry Marshall packs it all in, but back here in the real world, New Year's Eve is one of those nights of all nights when the date monster rears. For others, though, Plan B (not worrying about a date) has become the new Plan A.
"A lot of us are starting to wake up to the fact that those are silly traditions meant to make us feel desperate about having a partner," said Jayelle Hughes, 32, single and happy in suburban New York. "Just because you're single on New Year's doesn't mean there's something wrong with you."
Avoiding the feel-bad trap requires strategy, she said, especially in the bright-lights, big-city glare of ball-dropping New York City, where Marshall unfurls his film.
Hughes, for one, will seek out other single friends and certain "non-annoying" couple friends on New Year's Eve. "An annoying couple is one that is either constant PDA, ignoring their friends, or they're fighting all night long," she said.
Now that online dating has gone mobile through a variety of phone apps, hooking up - er, dating - in real time has never been easier and seems ready-made for New Year's Eve. Alex Weissner, 26, in Denver isn't interested.
"I've never been on a date on New Year's Eve, and I'm pretty sure most of my close friends haven't either," she said. She, too, will celebrate with a group of friends.
And that kiss? "I feel like so many young women out there need to have that date," Weissner said, "but honestly, why not just enjoy your life and you never know what might happen?"
Shannon Mouton, 43, in Washington, D.C., has been in several long-term relationships that involved being together for New Year's Eve. This year, she isn't. Like Weissner, she'll be with friends, with a likely stop at church.
"I did spend one New Year's Eve with just a single girlfriend of mine, and it was depressing," she said. "I knew I would never do that again. It felt like two spinsters sitting at home watching time and the world go by us."
It's tough for Jennifer Marcus, 25, in Fort Wayne, N.J., to be around coupled friends on New Year's Eve, especially since she just broke up with her boyfriend of three years.
"Part of me is dreading the holiday," she said. "I think I'll be really sad watching people around me with their significant others. But the other part of me is excited. I can spend the holiday with close family and friends, ringing in the new year with people that really matter most."
The New Year's Eve dread, for those similarly prone, sets in right about now, said 29-year-old Doree Lewak, who wrote The Panic Years: A Guide to Surviving Smug Married Friends, Bad Taffeta and Life on the Wrong Side of 25 Without a Ring.
"Women still feel huge pressure around the holidays - and certainly exacerbated by New Year's - to have a date," said Lewak, in New York City. "I don't think that moment has passed."
Lewak interviewed about 300 women in their 20s and 30s for her look at single life. "An overwhelming number felt angst and despair during the holidays and especially in places like New York, where the holidays really loom large," she said.
New Year's Eve and the midnight kiss, Lewak said, are "so tied up with having a significant other. I don't think women can articulate why. It's just so built into our DNA."
Christine Clifford in Minneapolis owns a resource site for divorcees, Divorcingdivas.net, and hears the same sentiment on a regular basis. She offers these tips to staying on the right side of happy. They could work for any single, whether divorced, widowed, or never married.
Plan ahead: Don't wait until the last minute. "Plant a seed early with several of your closest friends," she said.
Host the night: Occupy New Year's Eve and host a party, Clifford suggested.
Get out of town: "If money isn't an issue, plan a trip to a spa or resort. Go horseback riding, golfing, or hiking," she said. "Go to a place that you've always dreamed of visiting."