In the annual spirit of compulsive declarations, summations and resolutions, let me just say, I'm sorry.
For everything. The Crusades, destruction of the Mayan temples, the Spanish Inquisition, (really sorry for that), the Bay of Pigs and, not least, typing the word 'possom' when I really meant 'possum.'
But. You knew this was coming: I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a teenager and I'm an alcoholic.
I am also a gay columnist.
OK, I wasn't and I'm not. Nyet. None of the above. Never abused by a priest, never an alcoholic (well, not much of one), and not gay.
But any one -- or a combination of the above -- seems sufficient these days to explain behavior unbecoming a civilized human being. Not gayness precisely, but living as a closeted gay, in which case anything one does is pardonable because one has had to live a lie, which is not one's fault.
A quick review of the year's mea culpa parade reveals a trend we won't want to drag into the new year. Indeed, there seems to be some new contagion in the air, a virus that causes those infected to revert to their primal selves.
Celebrities, such as two starlets who left home without their panties, seem especially vulnerable to the germ.
Britney Spears found herself sans bloomers as she exited a car that also contained Paris Hilton, who, come to think of it, may be the original carrier of the bug that has infected so many.
Spears, the divorcing mother of two, apologized on her Web site, saying: ``It's been so long since I've been out on the town with friends. It's also been two years since I've even celebrated my birthday.''
Well, why didn't you just say so in the first place? Of course you didn't wear underwear!
Lindsay Lohan similarly flashed a crowd of preteens when she forgot to wear panties to the Kids' Choice Awards. She has begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
Then came Miss USA Tara Conner, who almost lost her tiara for underage drinking. After she made a tearful public apology, pageant co-owner Donald Trump decided to forgive Conner, who agreed to enter rehab and undergo drug testing.
Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA, didn't fare so well. She lost her crown for a photo collection that showed her baring breast and thong, and mock-kissing other women where the sun doesn't shine -- unless you're Spears or Lohan.
Other infected notables include actor/director Mel Gibson and comedian Michael Richards, aka Kramer on ``Seinfeld.''
Gibson, who got pulled over for DUI, expressed dissatisfaction with his circumstances by ranting to the Jewish deputy sheriff that Jews are to blame for all the wars throughout history. The star later admitted to fighting alcoholism, and entered rehab.
Richards, meanwhile, went into a racist rage when hecklers interrupted his comedy skit. He took his apology to David Letterman ``Late Show,'' where he promised to get to the bottom of the rage that caused him to ``talk trash'' and the U.S. to take war to another nation.
Yes, he did.
The germ apparently not only had infected Richards, but the entire U.S. government, including Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who resigned office when his sexually explicit electronic messages to male pages came to light.
Foley apologized, saying he had been abused by a priest when he was a teen and that he is an alcoholic. He also announced that he is gay, which seemed to surprise only Foley.
Finally, in the (BEG ITAL)coup de culpa(END ITAL), O.J. Simpson wrote a book that no one published and no one read, confessing how he (BEG ITAL)might(END ITAL) have killed his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, (BEG ITAL)if(END ITAL) he had done it.
But, of course, he didn't.
Public outrage led to Simpson's book being canceled before its release, and his publisher, Judith Regan of HarperCollins, was fired.
Regan did not apologize for her lousy idea, though she did announce that she was a victim of domestic abuse and that she was moving to Ireland. Simpson, thus far, has offered no apology. For anything. Ever.
And that, as they say, is a wrap on a year that would drive anyone to drink, but not to drink and drive. Be grateful it's over, be careful as you celebrate, and don't forget to wear your underwear. Ever.