By: Jenny Foughner 

As much as we all like to pretend that New Year’s Eve is “just another night” (or even “just another night to party like it’s some year at the end of the 20th century”), the fact that it’s accompanied by an unavoidable, cosmically-sanctioned craziness – a fever that spurs otherwise rational-minded humans to purchase wildly overpriced tickets to wildly underwhelming parties and compels total strangers to grope one another on the street – makes it far, far more important than a typical night out on the town. You can pretend you haven’t caught the New Year’s itch (and aside from dent in your bank account caused by whatever open bar you’ll be at on Thursday, you might not have noticed the symptoms yet), but I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that the woman (or women) with whom you’re planning to spend your evening have been hit hard with the New Year’s madness.

Like so many other relationship phenomena, I blame pop culture for this.

Every popular television show of the last twenty years has featured at least one New Year’s Eve-themed episode, and every one of these New Year’s Eve-themed episodes centers on the drama of the Midnight Kiss. A wise person once told me that the emotional state in which one spends New Year’s Eve dictates how he or she will spend the subsequent year (I’ll neither confirm nor deny that this wise person was Summer Roberts from The O.C.), meaning that ‘to kiss or not to kiss’ is THE question (mostly for women, but probably for some men, too) in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the stroke of midnight. I’m not saying it’s logical or advisable to imbue one night with the power to portend whether you’ll enjoy a year of good lovin’ or spend the next twelve months under the weight of unending emotional strife; it isn’t. I’m simply pointing out the fact that sitting squarely in the middle of the seamy underbelly of New Year’s Eve is the widespread fear of having no one to kiss at the witching hour. It’s almost unavoidable.

It’s exhausting to think about how much time we waste wondering who we’re going to smooch at an arbitrary time on an arbitrary day of the year, especially when kissing on and of the other 364 days of the year is blessedly random and often delightfully surprising. The anticipation is what makes it all so deadly; either the moment ends up being perfect, or, more often than not, it ends up falling far short of our ridiculously high expectations, and we spend the rest of the evening wondering why we’re doomed to walk the earth alone. Perhaps not in so many words, but you get my point. I know for a fact that most women feel this to some degree, so even if your wife, girlfriend, blind date or paid escort has thus far managed to hide her mania from you, rest assured that she’s wondering how it will all go down and worrying that something might prevent her from solidifying her emotional well-being in 2010.

So what’s an upstanding gentleman like you to do? Until we come up with a cure for this hysteria, it looks like ‘laying one on her’ (official term) is your best bet. Make it a priority, even if you couldn’t care less about it, and trust that it’ll get you miles ahead of your blasé, lackadaisical male compatriots who can’t be bothered to fight their way through the crowd to their ladyfriends’ sides.

If you’re in a committed relationship, then it’s pretty clear who you’ll be kissing at midnight, but make no mistake, your date will be expecting you to be ready and waiting before the countdown begins. Should you find yourself somewhere besides right next to her, then get thee (quickly) to wherever she is and make sure to make it clear that you think kissing her at midnight is just about the most important thing of all things ever in the history of the world. (I doubt you actually think this, but in this instance it pays to pretend.) If you’re single and looking to mingle, or if you have a plan to “maybe meet up” with a woman you’re “sort of seeing,” then you absolutely must approach your midnight kiss with a seriousness akin to that of a monk worshiping at an altar. You don’t need flourish, grandeur or fireworks (of course, those never hurt), but you do need to get yourself together enough to show up and plant one on her as Ryan Seacrest chirps “happy new year”.

Of course, in three days this will all be moot, and we’ll all be safely ensconced in a shiny new calendar year. Drunken exploits will (mostly) be forgotten, and you’ll either wake up with your woman or wake up with strange party favors the origins of which you can’t quite explain. Although New Year’s Eve is all hype (due in no small part to celluloid chicanery), it doesn’t really matter; the kiss is important to your significant other, and that’s that. If you want to make your lady feel loved, special, and a whole host of other wonderful things, then take a moment to think about how great it feels to kiss her every other day of the year, and plan to make it happen – if only for her sake – at midnight, right along with the bajillions of other people who’ve fallen under the spell of spectacle that is New Year’s Eve. Regardless of how silly all of this sounds, maybe we can all admit that it’s also romantic and just the tiniest bit magical (even if you’re a die-hard cynic like me). Then, maybe we can all add “do not promote or partake in pointless drama” to our 2010 resolutions and call it a day… and a decade.