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Blame Groundhogs and Violent Video Games

December 31, 2008

New Year’s Resolutions are for suckers.  By the most recent statistics, less than a quarter of the people who make resolutions actually keep them.  If your car only worked 25% of the time, you’d either get it fixed or trade it in. If you only liked your husband or wife  25% of the time, you’d think about trading him or her  in. If your kid only passed 25% of the tests he took in school, you’d be beating down the principal’s office (and maybe home) door. Think about it.  So why do we insist on making them? What’s the point, since they are probably doomed to failure within the first month?

I blame peer pressure.

Really. We blame smoking, drinking, teen sex, and drugs on peer pressure. We go out of our way to blame everybody else for our problems and our mistakes. We blame our parents. We blame our friends. We blame the media: TV is too mature, video games are too violent, and the music too suggestive. It’s all too misogynistic. It’s all too liberal. It’s all too… you get my point.  We like the blame game; it’s so easy.  Choose your target and your ideological affiliation, then fill in the blank. It all works.  Also, we have invested so much time and effort in blaming other people and other things for our miseries and shortcomings that we simply CAN’T back out now. 

I hear it all the time. Several months back, during my Thursday night constitutional at the local bar with friends, one of the other regulars asked me “If you could fuck any woman in the world, who is it?” The guy who asked the question is roughly my age – maybe a couple of years older – and works in the hotel management industry. What disposable income he has he tends to spend on beer and betting on dog races. He is, shockingly enough ladies, single.  I have to admit, I like him. We’re not fast friends, but he’s ok as a drinking buddy. He’ll buy a round sometimes, and he’s always friendly, even when he’s had a shitty day. Like most efficient managerial types, he’s learned how to compartmentalize his life.  Another time, while we were drinking, he informed me that he was something of a lady’s man. “Man,” he said to me, “I’m a friggin’ HOUND dude. Really. I love it. Can’t get enough.” Granted, I’d never seen him leave the bar with a woman; I‘ve seen him hug up on them, but that’s not uncommon at the bar. But I opted to believe him since he was a nice guy and since he bought me a beer on that particular night.  I like to give people the benefit of the doubt  when they’re generous.

On the night he asked me this question, he knew only really a couple of things about me. I like beer, I gamble a little on the horses (but not the dogs), I teach college, and I’m married.  He also knew my name— though he would sometimes call me Mitch or Mike. Again… the benefit of the doubt. 

The underlying assumption of the question was pretty clear. Since he knew I was married, he undoubtedly assumed that I was unhappy. This is also all too common at a bar.  I’ve met dozens upon dozens of drunk bastards who hated being married. They never came out and said they hated their wives; and it’s possible they don’t.  They hated the Institution. Now, keep in mind, there are certain relevant statistics here you need to know. Most of these guys were in their mid-30’s or early forties. Some of them married young.  Most of them never brought their wives to the bar… and I’m fairly certain, though I could never prove it, when they were home they were as meek and loving as housebroken puppies. 

So what was my response? I took a moment… mostly for dramatic affect… and answered him. “My wife.”

He was stunned. “Seriously?” He asked.  “Are you serious?”

“Yes. I am.”

I’m guessing he never heard that answer before, because then the poor drunken bastard went on for twenty minutes or so about how hardly anybody takes marriage seriously anymore and how cool he thought it was. “That… that’s just awesome… Mitch.”  I let him go on and on. He bought me a beer.  Then he wandered off, and when he left – I paid special attention – he left alone. 

How does this connect to resolutions? Simple.  My relationship with my wife is a good one because I married her, not the institution of marriage. I’ll go into the story of my wedding time, but suffice it to say, I was way more interested in marrying Melissa than I was in “The Wedding.”  The choice was deliberate, and the ceremony was, in my mind, a speed bump I needed to get over so that I could get on with the rest of my life. Most people get as far as The Wedding and assume the rest will work itself out… and they end up miserable bastards at the bar fantasizing about movie actresses and powerful women in politics. Their misery and their beer bellies aren’t their fault; it’s the wife, the kids, the mortgage. Even my buddy the dog betting, hopelessly single wannabe womanizer blames his losses at the track and his blue balls on larger issues.  The numbers were off. The dog didn’t run fast enough. The women were ugly, anyway.

New Year Resolutions don’t work because they operate on the basic assumption that something else is to blame for our bigger bellies, our inflated bills, our saturated livers, and our unhappy lives.  People who insist on making genuine resolutions make them on the assumption that if they fix one of the laundry list of things they see wrong with themselves that they will somehow be happy. You may be sitting there thinking, “What’s wrong with a goal, you bastard?” Nothing, I guess. I have goals.  But making resolutions is essentially our way of depersonalizing our issues.  It becomes an Orwellian edict. Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat less.  These are nothing more than underhanded  edicts that read more like this. Be miserable. Spend more money. Hate yourself more. And when you are full swing into the misery of it all, who’s to blame? New Year’s resolutions – and all those other people at the party and at work who were making them, too. They made you feel like you had to.   Then, out of a grand laziness we will tell ourselves is defiance, we drop those resolutions before Punxsutauny Phil sticks his head out of the ground and predicts six more weeks of snow.  Then we blame the weather on him, the goddamned fuzz ball. 

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 1, 2009 9:41 am

    What a refreshing answer to that question. :)

    I agree with the resolutions, although I did post some. None are surprises for me, though. We’ll see if I get them accomplished.

    What usually happens to me is that I end up accomplishing plenty of stuff that should have been on a resolution list every year, but in January I am not thinking of those particular things.

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