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[January 04, 2014]
Weekend: 12 resolutions that should be abandoned: Vowing to be a better person in 2014 is a waste of time, says Stuart Heritage. Just embrace the lazy underachiever you really are. Illustrations by Jean Jullien
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) 1 I must meet up with my online friends This is always a popular resolution. It is also, without question, the stupidest. An online contact is the perfect friend. Their profile photo is charming and flattering, they talk exclusively in witty little soundbites and, if they ever start to annoy you, you can click a button and never hear from them again. That's enough.
I guarantee that meeting these people in real life will be a profound disappointment. That zany guy who constantly spouts hilarious zingers on Twitter? He's a monosyllabic data entry officer with dribble in the corner of his mouth, who twitches and stares at people for slightly too long. That gin-obsessed burlesque and cupcake fanatic you've secretly had your eye on? She looks nothing like her profile picture, smells of rotten vegetables and cries for 18 hours a day. But the alternative is even worse. The alternative is that they'll be exactly like their online personas - overbearing and needy and desperate to react to everything with a tedious one-liner. Go out with a group of people you only know online and one of them will definitely try to kiss you. Which would be good, except they're internet people, so it isn't.
2 I'm going to read more books This is self-delusion. Look at your life right now. Look how busy it is. Look how you've started to eat standing up and urinate in the shower, just to claw back a few scraps of time from your corporate overlords. Who has the time to sit down and read a story about pretend people flapping about in a made-up world any more? Aristocrats. That's about it.
Also, reading a book means buying a book, and when was the last time you went into a book shop? They've changed. They know that you're just going to buy everything from Amazon now, so they've all cut their losses and stacked every shelf with a trillion different 50 Shades Of Grey knock-offs called things like Disciplined With Buttplugs and 20 Carat Strumpet. If you're going to read more books this year, it means outing yourself as a pervert. Is that what you want? 3 I must use my smartphone less What an exercise in futility this is. Why would you ever want to use your smartphone less? It's your entire life. You can't get to places without Google Maps. You can't win arguments without Wikipedia, or get through a single film without IMDb. You can't remember what any of your friends look like without Facebook. You keep all your notes on your phone. You keep all your music on your phone. Your photos. You're probably reading this on your phone. It's become an external hard drive for your brain. You may as well resolve to jam a screwdriver into your ear and jiggle it about a bit.
You'll miss your smartphone when it's gone. You'll have nothing to look at when you're left alone at a pub table. You'll be forced just to stare at the ceiling for hours when you wake up before your other half and they're asleep on your arm. What are you expected to do when you're on a train, or sitting on the toilet, or slightly bored, or just have two seconds when you're not being jammed in the face with lights and colours and noise? Think about stuff? Make plans to better yourself? Gain a sliver of self-awareness, even momentarily? Yuck. If anything, you need to use that smartphone more.
4 I must travel more Two things are intrinsically wrong with travelling. First, there's the bit where you have to get to your destination. This involves booking a flight on an impenetrable website, lugging a load of unwieldy baggage around an airport terminal jammed with morons, getting annoyed at the smug Fauntleroys who've bought Speedy Boarding, getting annoyed at the barging elbows who don't understand the concept of allocated seating and then, finally, spending eight hours with your kneecaps wedged deep into your nostrils while you watch a badly edited romcom next to a relentlessly screaming baby and desperately try not to calculate how long it'd take you to hit the ground if this pressurised tin can that's shrieking through the sky in a godless act of heresy were ever to fall apart in mid-air.
And what's at the end of this ordeal? Other people. Because, wherever you go, that's what you'll find. Sure, they speak a different language and use an unfamiliar currency, but they're still people. They'll still stand in your way, and talk too loudly, and deliberately pretend not to understand your requests for aftersun cream or a sterilised lance to pop all your infected insect bites, no matter how furiously you mime at them. Their activities might look charming, but ask yourself this: would it still be charming if it was happening in this country? If they were breakdancing in the street or dangerously overloading a moped with livestock over here? Of course it wouldn't. It'd be infuriating. All you're really missing out on by staying at home is the chance to Instagram a picture of the sky, and God knows enough people do that already.
5 I will get a promotion This is the year, big guy. This is the year that you show those bastards in head office what you're made of. You aced the McKenzie account, you double-digited Q4 growth and you personally ran more low-hanging fruit up a greater number of flagpoles than the Wilmslow and Harrowgate divisions combined. I'm sorry. I work from home. I literally have no idea what any of this means.
However, before you go charging up to your boss demanding a promotion, just take a minute. Sure, you might end up with a fancy new job title and more money than you can ever spend. And, yes, your partner is bound to love you much more than they currently do, because you've become the dynamic go-getter they've always wanted. But are you the right person for the job? You, with your clothes that limply hang off your ruined excuse for a body? You, who can't even ask for a cup of tea without first couching the request in 10 minutes of directionless context-setting? You, whom nobody trusts because you'd rather communicate in emails of cat gifs than actual spoken words? Probably not. This promotion isn't for you. Sorry.
6 I'm going to do more exercise It makes perfect sense for you to want to get in shape. I mean, look at you. You've just spent the last three weeks packing your digestive system to capacity with Celebrations and cold meat. You perpetually suffer from acid reflux. Your eyes are glazed and milky. You haven't bent over for days, for fear that your jeans will explode and blind everyone in a 30ft radius with deadly slivers of rivet shrapnel. You're pretty sure that you've started to seep gravy at night.
But is exercise the answer? Is it really? Think about it. First of all, it hurts. Attempting any sort of physical activity, if you haven't done it for a while, will basically render you immobile for a month. You'll stagger around, unable to bend your knees, deluding yourself that it's doing you good. And what if you start to enjoy it? You'll buy tight little tops and expensive shoes that are wildly overqualified to help you plod around a park twice a week. You'll start drinking grotty protein shakes. You'll fill up everyone's Facebook with maps and distances and stats, when all they want is to be racist and perv over people they went to school with. You cannot win. Just join a gym and never go, like everyone else.
7 I will lose weight Oh, what's the point? This isn't the first time you've decided to do this, and it won't be the last. But you got a Miranda Hart workout DVD and an instructional book about kale for Christmas, so people are obviously trying to tell you something. This may as well be the year that you finally lose weight for good.
Except it won't be. This is what'll actually happen. Next week, purely because it's January and you have been existing solely on a diet of chocolate oranges and beer, you'll notice that you've lost half a pound. At this point you'll decide that you deserve a treat and fall face-down in a pile of mashed potato. At Easter, you'll try out a new fad diet where you're only allowed to lick cauliflowers, and you'll lose weight again. But then you'll go on holiday and start eating puddings for breakfast. You'll have shifted that weight by October, but by Christmas you'll be in exactly the same place as you are now. All that effort, all that chronic yo-yoing, and you'll have nothing whatsoever to show for it. You're wasting your time. Instead, you should resolve to either gorge indiscriminately because it's your body, or exercise. I've already explained why that would be a disaster.
8 I want to try an extreme sport OK, you're having a midlife crisis. I get it. Can't you just get your ear pierced or try to seduce an office junior who's physically repulsed by you instead? Because at least those will only destroy your self-esteem. If your resolution is to take up an extreme sport, I promise that you will end up as a broken, sobbing pile of limbs waiting for a mountain rescue team that will never arrive.
Didn't you see 127 Hours? Didn't you watch that YouTube video of the mid-air parachuting collision? Or the first few minutes of Ghost Rider? Disasters and warnings, all of them. Take up an extreme sport and, at best, you'll have to cut off your own hand with a penknife. At worst, you'll become a supernatural crimefighter who can't stop setting his own head alight. Also, you're not the sort of person to take up an extreme sport. The Felix Baumgartner video where he did a supersonic freefall from space just made your genitals hurt. It takes you upwards of five minutes to lower yourself into a bath if the water is either slightly too hot or slightly too cold. You're going to look like a wally on a snowboard. Please just admit this to yourself.
9 I need to drink less alcohol How many times have you said this? You've contemplated cutting back on alcohol after every big night out since you were 16, and it's never worked. It didn't work after you wet yourself on a tram. It didn't work after you were arrested for dry-humping a bus stop. It didn't work after you were sick in someone else's coat pocket. What makes you think that, just because it's the first week of the year, it'll work now? Only about 8% of people succeed at their new year's resolutions, and most of those made frilly cop-out resolutions such as "Appreciate the sunrise" or "See the magic in a child's eye". A tangible, quantifiable resolution - especially one that's going to make you feel as socially awkward as "Drink less alcohol" - is bound to end in miserable defeat. Perhaps set smaller goals to begin with, for instance "Don't drink the dregs of strangers' drinks" or "No drinking on your own in the morning in a toilet cubicle at work", and see where you go from there.
10 I need to spend more time with friends Oh, your lucky friends. Imagine how enriched they'll all feel now that you're back in their lives. However did they cope last year, when they had evenings and weekends to themselves that weren't utterly dominated by your berserk insistence on turning up without warning, or asking to borrow money, or ringing them when they're eating, or just generally trying to pretend that you're all still students, even though you graduated 15 years ago and they've got important jobs and marriages and children that you do your best to ignore? Think how grateful they'll be when you tell them that you decided to see them only because you wanted to make a new year's resolution and it was either this or buying a cat.
What are you even doing with friends, anyway? You're an adult. You should spend your days in a miserable cycle of work and sleep until you drop dead from a mixture of exhaustion and lack of gratitude. Everyone knows that.
11 I should get a new hairdo A prediction: you will regret your decision to adopt a new haircut approximately a millisecond after the hairdresser takes his first snip. You'll have spent months looking at pictures of celebrities and wondering if you could get away with anything quite that bold. Then, on the day of your haircut, you'll realise that you actually look quite good as you are. But it'll be too late.
You're not even getting a haircut at this point; you're watching yourself star in a stop-motion film about regret. When it's over, you'll nod approvingly at the hairdresser. Then you'll muss it up with your fingers as soon as you're out of his eyeline and pray that it'll look better once it's washed. It will not. You'll spend the next week wearing a hat and toying with the idea of having a go at it yourself with a pair of nail scissors. People will stare, unable to work out what's wrong with you. Remember when Jonathan Ross got a haircut like a musketeer? Remember how you couldn't concentrate on anything he said, because you were so overcome with pity? That's your life now.
12 I'm going to call my mum more Obviously you should call your mum more. And maybe this year you actually will. Maybe this year your decision won't dissolve in a cloud of self-interested childishness, as it always has in the past. And maybe, when you do actually call your mum, you won't sit there, robotically uh-huhing to her anecdotes about the neighbours while you play internet poker on your laptop. And maybe you'll ask how she is, rather than simply responding to her questions with churlish, one-word answers.
But you won't, will you? You'll ring her twice, and that'll be it. Maybe you'll try to rationalise your lack of communication by blaming her inability to text or understand Facebook, but really it's because you're selfish and lazy. Didn't you watch Home Alone? Didn't you see the sad old man in church? You're the one who made him sad. It was you, you monster. Admittedly, his sadness is what made him a recluse, and his reclusiveness is what stopped that child from being murdered, so perhaps you're right. You shouldn't call your mum any more. Nor should I. My selfishness is saving children! Hooray for me! (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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