In 2001 I was twenty-four years old and visiting Paris when I bought a really great pair of pants. They were red and silky and had dragons and Chinese symbols embossed on them and cost only sixty francs, which wasn’t a lot, about eleven dollars. I bought them on the street from some hippie Romanian woman. (I don’t actually know where she was from, but she seemed Romanian.) I might have thought they were real silk at the time, but if they had been, they probably would have been sold in a store with a dressing room by a French woman wearing all black. Because I bought the pants on the street, I didn’t try them on. Luckily they were a perfect fit: tight on top and flared around the ankles. Maybe they fit a little too perfectly. Right after Paris I went to Italy and ate gelato every day, and I couldn’t wear the pants for a while.
There aren’t a lot of places where red-silk dragon pants are appropriate, so I decided to wear them only on New Year’s Eve, for luck. I felt pretty good about this. It seems as if nobody has traditions anymore, so sometimes you have to make one up. Every year in late December, friends would want to know if I was going to wear the dragon pants again, and I would say yes, and when I wore them, strangers would ask where I’d gotten them, and I would say Paris, and then I would tell the story about how I’d eaten all that gelato in Italy and the pants had gotten too snug. Everybody liked that story.
On New Year’s Eve 2013 I had a dinner party for some friends and served Chinese long-life noodles, to go with the pants. We ate the noodles, and I guess we also had too much wine, because we found some old marshmallows in my cupboard and decided to start the grill and roast them, even though it was snowing. We had all had a terrible year, and someone suggested we burn our problems. So we found some paper and wrote down the things that had been making us unhappy and dropped them onto the coals. I burned my ex-boyfriend, and my terrible boss, and my student loans. Someone else burned homophobia. Then we really started getting into it, burning the war in Syria, and suicide, and global warming, until someone burned Kim Kardashian, and that lightened the mood again. One friend wrote something on a piece of paper and tossed it into the fire without saying anything, and no one asked her what she’d written, and then everyone started to do the same until all the paper was gone. We roasted the last of our marshmallows on a pyre of anguish, and even though none of those problems really went away, it felt good. That was my favorite New Year’s.
Last December 31 the pants ripped as I was pulling them over my no-longer-twenty-four-year-old thighs. I called an old friend to tell her; she had been there since the beginning of the tradition and would understand why I was upset about something as dumb as ripped pants. She listened and then said that maybe the pants weren’t very lucky anyway. She said just because you do something every year doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing it, especially if it doesn’t make you happy. She said I should keep the parts that were still good and make something new from them. She said nothing is forever. She said that tradition is the illusion of permanence, which I thought was very wise of her until she told me she was just quoting Woody Allen. She said fashion is ephemeral, and so are pants, and we both laughed. She said that I am not the same person I was when I was twenty-four, and I can find a better-fitting pair of pants.