When Ari, 18, was tiny, he asked me why people made New Year’s Revolutions. I remember laughing and explaining what the phrase really was, smiling at the malapropisms of children.
Except now, as I barge through my life playing grownup as surely as a little girl in her mother’s heels, I realize my son was more right than wrong. Every time we try to choose an arbitrary time to make some grand change, we are far more likely to revolt than resolve.
Here’s the problem: we have this time of year backwards. We let others buy us gifts they think we might like, and we then make promises to change things we believe are most wrong with us. Backwards, no? It would make far more sense to buy ourselves what we want, even if that is nothing at all, and to let others decide what we should change for the better.
Testing my theory, I braced myself and asked my son’s girlfriend, Pam, what she thought should be my New Year’s resolution. The kids told me not too long ago that I talk too much. I was silent for the first time in a long time. Me? Talk too much? But I thought for a bit about the noise level in our home, and had to admit that I contribute more than my fair share. I figured Pam would carefully venture out onto this branch.
“You need to shop more,” she said, with no hesitation. I looked at her, surprised. “You buy stuff for all of us, but you never get things for yourself. You need to shop more.” I glanced down at the scrubby American Eagle hoodie I was wearing (I don’t even know which kid it once belonged to) and wondered if she might have a point.
I will helpfully make New Year’s resolutions for others. To my neighbour somewhere within a one block radius, you can absolutely delay taking down your Christmas lights. But please resolve to bring your dog in at 7am after he’s peed; you’re the only one who apparently can’t hear him barking for half an hour every morning.
To the guy in the black BMW at the mall yesterday: you don’t have to quit smoking! You do, however, have to learn what the yellow lines mean, and understand that yes, your car is lovely, but you still only get one spot, especially at this time of year.
For that person I don’t really know but friended on Facebook by accident, you’ll be pleased to know you don’t need to diet. You do need to stop taking pictures of all your meals, though. If I’m not there, I don’t care.
For the woman I overheard in the diner planning to give up French fries in the new year, I say keep the fries and give up the nonstop bitterness over the fact he dumped you. Really. Fries are more reliable. Besides, everyone knows the best time to diet is after you’ve had the flu. A friend of mine says she is two flus away from her goal weight.
You despise your job, yet you’re resolving to watch less Real Housewives shows: find a new job instead, and stop making your coworkers exist in your toxic ball of hate. Some of them like the job, most of them need it, and nobody else will hire you if you’re leaking so much negative.
I look around at the people I care about, and realize I don’t want them any thinner, or more sporty, or even necessarily more sober. I just want them to be kind to themselves and others.
Everything else will follow.