The modern mythology of the new year is steeped in broken promises.
-Spend it as a time of reflection, with friends
-It’s the best party year of the night
-Start the year with a kiss, and you’ll see it out with the same person.
Well, lovely libertines, I shall tell you a secret.
I don’t really do New Year’s.
I’ve been rather a party snob since I first came to the swing scene and found myself utterly spoilt. The idea of queuing in the cold outside a venue, to be crushed by numbers of drunken revellers at a vanilla club, having to face the hordes at the bar for drinks and the ignoble act of waiting patiently for a turn in the loo has always seemed rather a slap in the face when I venture out to vanilla venues. How much more so, therefore, do I dislike the prospect of New Year out on the town. The inflated prices, the endless wait for taxis, and above all the expectation that this, of all nights, is going to be the best night out I’ve had all year. Expectation of good things, without Machiavellian plotting to set them up, has always seemed to me to be a foolhardy notion. Good things don’t just happen to good people. You make them happen- for yourself and for those around you, or so I’ve certainly come to believe over the last decade.
I started this decade with no inkling as to what it would hold- it had never even crossed my mind. If anything, I’d been expecting much of the same- maybe a slightly polished version of life, obtained by hard work and virtuous life choices. A very typical New-Year’s-resolution kind of mindset. I didn’t even know about the swing scene- it was a notion only, of something people did in the 70s, with a few ideas about who was involved and why; all of which turned out to be completely wrong.
In the latter half of the decade, I went from baby duckling, full of mistakes, faux pas and laughable assumptions about how things work and would turn out for me, to the wisecracking mentor of the would-be Kings and Queens of swing. And now, here we are.
The decade is done- gone by in a flash, and though so much has changed, so much still remains the same. It just looks different now. Because your eyes and your mind are coloured by all the images of things that have passed. There is no way to turn back the clock- to unsee darkness behind glitter, or to unlearn hard lessons that keep us alive, yet make us cold.
Christmas and New Years, of all times, seem to be when those who still cling by a finger to the scaffold of conventionality, grip on most tightly. The avid sex demons go home to their families, the playful kinksters sit dutifully with their wives and provide those society chooses to acknowledge as important in their lives with some amatonormative validation. Herein lies the trouble with not being a part-timer, or a tourist: it can be a lonely time of year.
That’s not to say I’ve always done so badly at New Years- the last two I planned to stay in, and was then messaged up last-minute to hop on the bus and arrive just before midnight to the homes of some wonderful friends with benefits – summoned like a naughty genie. Invited to drink champagne and watch fireworks, and snuggle up in a moment of borrowed intimacy brought on in others who felt a pang of isolation at 11pm, in response to the inherent expectations of the occasion. There is always something wonderful about the spontaneous.
Yet this year- the end of the decade- feels different. For this one, I’m 99% sure there will be nobody there for me to kiss on the stroke of midnight, who I’d want to see the New Year in with. It may be silly to imagine one would see the year out with the same person- let alone decade. But this time I think it may well be the case that I will see in both 2020 and 2030 alone.
I won’t be completely alone. There will be people. And fun people- people who I like. Many will have it far worse. It’s just that this New Year’s, of all those I’ve seen, feels different somehow. This year, I would have liked to have been kissed in a way that felt like more than a fleeting moment of adhering to convention.
There are so many benefits to being a single woman on the swing scene- the lack of obligation, responsibility. The delicious men and women half, or twice, my age – all accessible to me without needing to worry about whether society would approve. The wonderful opportunity to get to know people as they really are- underneath- with all their secret tastes and idiosyncrasies, their adorable personal perversions and the fun, camaraderie, humour and endless adventures. The ability to step aside from the conventional need to choose a role and find someone to shoe-horn into it, in order to have company, sex and feel appreciated. The ability to love so many people, just a little, without needing to have anything back from them or watch as the horrible toxicity of expectations, life goals and public judgement turn a light, floating thing of beauty into a yoke and a chain. The freedom from fear that you will suddenly be cast aside- that it would even matter if you were, because everyone is just a friend and an adventure, and nobody ever has to make a choice between you and another where you might lose.
The wonderful thing about having so many people and not having all your eggs in one basket is that whenever you lose, you never lose big. Everyone is endlessly replaceable in the world of floating affiliations and ultimately expects to be sacrificed at some point to the great gods of hedonism or abandoned when the part-timers have ticked-off their bucket list. And, of course, at some point they will be back. They always come back. Once you learn to see this world- the swing scene- for what it is, and not drag in silly notions and expectations, you know how to play the game endlessly and never really lose. You learn fast, or it will break you utterly.
You learn never to heed the thousand small insults or misogynistic approaches. You learn to rise above the casual objectification from all corners. You learn that, above all, you must be strong- you must be invulnerable. You must never show bad manners by allowing your emotions to get the better of you. You must never make drama. You must take everything for exactly what it is and enjoy it as such- you must never daydream, or invest more than the tiniest sprinkling of effort. The effort you do place in anything must always be clearly for yourself. Your ego. Your status. Or generously dissipated to those around you in an ostentatious display of power and magnanimity to your selected circle. Anything more would make people uncomfortable.
Indeed, learn the rules fast and you’ll never lose big. You’ll always be okay.
Yet, you’ll never win big either.
You’ll never feel yourself blush at a kiss, where for a moment it feels like real love and passion, and takes your breath away. You’ll never escalate anything from casual friendships with benefits to someone who is actually going to plan to spend next Christmas with you. You’ll watch all the little people (I shall call them petit amores) float away one by one into something more stable. And you’ll never be allowed the dignity of being able to publicly mourn their loss from your life. You’ll always wonder, if whether it wasn’t for the politics and status you bequeath them in this very small world, your people would actually still be your people.
Ultimately, the good, single swinger is a Jedi. We shall not know fear, nor hate, nor love.
We shall not interfere in the complexities of ‘real’ emotions and relationships. We must be expected to go our own way alone, as and when we no longer serve a purpose.
We are all the unicorns of the swing scene.
This all seems a terribly cold and sad way to spend the next decade.
Therefore, my lovely libertines, for once I don’t really have a solution for you. Perhaps you have one for me? Perhaps you can make me some New Year’s resolutions that will see in the decade in style, with joy and a level of closeness that has evaded the end? One that somehow, while probably entirely unconventional in nature, transcends being put back in the box for the holidays.
I shall send you all a kiss of passion, to be with you for the drop at midnight tonight. If there is good company to see 2030 in with, then it is you.
My baby ducklings, lovely libertines, delicious deviants and sexy swingers: I love you all. Happy New Year.