Ah, it’s that magical time of the year again. When Christmas and New Year are over and I realise that I’ve eaten seventeen people’s body weight in turkey and chocolate and that walking up three flights of stairs every day is not quite sufficient to burn it all off. Have I sworn off sugar? Damn straight! Have I joined a gym? Erm…sort of! Am I 100% sure that all of this will last until February rolls in and I realise that actually, yes, I do want to rip that person’s face off for having the nerve to say a word that sounded dangerously close to ‘cake’ in my nearby vicinity? Abso-fucking-lutely.
God help me, I want to be one of those people with willpower. You know, the kind of crazy magnificent bastard that can get up at should-be-illegal o’clock for a work-out, followed by some tree bark in yoghurt with a side of dandelion, and actually be happy about it. I can’t tell you how much I hate those people, while being simultaneously aware that it is mixed up with envy, respect, and probably a little bit of lust, if I’m honest. It’s all very confusing.
And yet I fall into the same trap every year. Say it with me now:
New Year, New You.
Or, in my case:
New Year, Old You With Added Delusions Of Grandeur.
I used to feel bad about my shortcomings, and then one day I heard a story that categorically reminded me that I could always be so much worse. We’re not talking about ‘serial killers’ or ‘Nigel Farage’, of course – you have to be a special kind of shitbird for that sort of thing. But in terms of the more banal types of human awfulness, I apparently still have a long way down to go. And, naturally, a perfect example was given to me through the glorious tradition of dating anecdotes.
A friend of a friend met a guy online and they started dating. Things escalated quickly and they became serious, but because of his work he had to spend a month at a time in Edinburgh and a month up North. He was apparently not earning enough, though, and she needed to constantly prop him up financially. This went on for a while, to the bafflement of everyone who knew her. She had, (I should say has really – she’s not dead or anything. Revenge this may be but Tarantino it is not) a lot going for her, while he apparently had all the charisma of a chewed-up chip. And yet said chewed up chip managed to have some sauce on the side, because the money he needed was to help support himself and his dastardly deeds with a woman he had going up North. I won’t say mistress, because it turned out she had no clue what was happening either. (Which incidentally begs the question – what the fuck is up, Scotland? This isn’t the only story I’ve heard like this since I moved here. Is there some kind of man shortage I haven’t been made aware of? The dating sites seem to suggest otherwise, but then they could all have multiple wives with fourteen kids for all I know. On a potentially related note, I may now be slightly paranoid.) He was also actively living with (and sponging off) this other woman in the months he was there and neither woman had any idea it was happening. Until they did, of course. One found out because she got suspicious and checked his phone. She contacted the other, unbeknownst to Mr. Chips, and then the best bit happened. They banded together and simultaneously told him to shove it up his arse. (I may be paraphrasing here.) Amazeballs. If there was any justice in the world, this is how all these kinds of stories would end.
But shit, man – this guy had a whole other world happening! How difficult would that be?! You have friends and work and, in his case, a relationship to sustain. Doing that twice? Juggling two lives for yonks before anyone finds out? Who could be arsed? A part of me marvels at it. Every year I insist that I will start fresh. By year’s end, I will be one of those people that look like their lycra running shorts have been sprayed as opposed to winched onto them, and then I remember what a world without cake looks like and dive face-first into the nearest patisserie. There would be no metaphorical cake-diving for this fella, though. He’d committed and he was running with it, the bastard.
And that’s when I realised the lesson this man had to teach me about the danger of aiming too high (or in his case, too fucking low). It’s a slippery slope. It starts off as well-intentioned ways of improving yourself, but it will inevitably lead to the creation of a secret life that will culminate in your eventual downfall. And what are new year’s resolutions, if not a well-intentioned way of improving yourself? Best to avoid them altogether, really, isn’t it? Later alligators. I’m off to buy cake.