Public Eye 12.28.12

Reflecting on the Town of Berlin’s decision to encourage public sobriety on New Year’s Eve, the event being family-oriented and all, it occurred to me that not once in my life did I attend a New Year’s Eve celebration with my parents.

In fact, I can’t remember the first New Year’s Eve celebration in which I participated, a circumstance that is either the result of the aging process or the extent of my participation. I suspect the latter, since I can’t remember last year’s party either.

I have found over the years that the amount of fun one has at these kinds of things can be measured not by what you remember, but by what others remember about you. It’s sort of a “fun factor,” i.e., the things others recall you doing divided by the sum of your own vague recollections.

Let’s say, for instance, that you remember turning off a table lamp and yelling something. That counts as two on your end of the equation. Others, meanwhile, have vivid memories of you turning off a table lamp (1), placing the lampshade on your head, (2) and exclaiming, “I’m Spartacus!” (3). So three divided by two gives you a fun factor of 1.5, which means you had 50 percent more fun than anyone else.

Generally speaking, however, if you had 1.5 times more fun than anyone else, the law of party mathematics dictates that the fun factor of your date, spouse or court-appointed guardian will be in inverse proportion to your own.

Thus, while you may marvel at your high 1.5 mark, your counterpart will not hesitate to remind you, repeatedly, that he or she had 50 percent less fun just because of you.

This disparity cannot be resolved, unless it involves the purchase of expensive jewelry and/or a long stay in the grovel pit.

This is precisely why my sister, brother and I never went with our parents to any event where grown-up amusement was on the menu. Our parents wisely concluded that it would not be good for us to go without food because of jewelry expenses or to wonder for days on end why our father insisted for a week that spit-shining the floors was part of a new exercise routine he saw in “Reader’s Digest.”

It was less complicated for our parents to leave us in the care of our older sister and then sort out on their return the cause of the calamities that had ensued in their absence.

That way, whatever might have transpired at the adult function would pale in comparison to the various incidents that occurred at home from attempting to, say, make instant wine from grape juice by adding yeast and shaking strenuously.

It is my firm belief that this practice helped make a strong marriage, especially since, as we scrubbed purple stains off the walls of the kitchen, my mother could turn to my father and say, “See, this is your fault.”

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