In my last newsletter article, I took on the art of end-of-year predictions. Predictably, I copped out by predicting that we wouldn’t get any smarter about a lot of things. Today, let me continue my proud tradition of journalistic excellence with another major exposé of a bogus holiday tradition that many of us indulge in but aren’t getting any smarter about.
I’m speaking, of course, about the New Year’s resolution.
Making New Year’s resolutions is an art as well as a science. But, like most skills, there are a certain number of basic techniques that can be learned that will make your New Year’s resolutions every bit as successful as everybody else’s.
Like all other forms of con, each classic style has a name:
Do you need to score points on someone by actually succeeding at a New Year’s resolution when you know your pal’s will fail? Do you really, really need to win a bet? in other words, do you freely admit that you are the kind of person who only needs to appear successful? Then The Gimme is for you. In its classic form, it can be executed simply by giving up something you don’t actually care for, or something inconsequential. I have succeeded at this technique in the past by giving up lima beans, cardigans, and “Dancing with the Stars.” Note, however, that this is a form that the cast of “The Sting” referred to as the long con, as it is first necessary to spend a couple of days setting up the mark by pretending to actually give a hoot about those things.
This gambit can be tricky to execute because it requires a trained accomplice, and significant others often balk at being called “a trained accomplice.” (Try “lovely accomplice.”) Anyway: in front of others, you resolve to give up rutabagas IF your partner in crime will promise not to curse in Mandarin any more.
Delayed Action (a la Libertine)
A classic, based on the Libertine’s prayer, in which a monk asks for sobriety and chastity, only not yet. It is best deployed at a New Year’s Eve party in front of people you know will tactfully “forget” all about it. I did this one at our company holiday party, by promising to resume my diet as soon as all this holiday stuff was over. Then, this morning, perusing my All Faiths, All Nations Holiday Calendar, I realized that there is always a holiday going on somewhere. As soon as I had checked all the dates, I smiled as I realized I was going to count this resolution up as a win for me. Or at least, that reality has forfeited.
Definition of Crazy
This one is a perennial favorite, in which we repeat the resolution that we have used the last several years without success. All it takes to succeed at this one is a talent for self-delusion, and a willingness to tolerate that smug look on your friends’ faces.
Hold Me Back
A clever technique, but one that requires some skill and a deep trust in your friends. Simply resolve to do something that you know they will talk you out of. It’s the equivalent of the grade school promise to challenge the neighborhood bully who is away for the summer.
Hell Freezes Over
An expert variation on “Bargain Basement,” this one involves making a really challenging resolution that takes effect as soon as something extremely unlikely happens. The classic form of Hell Freezes Over is to pledge a portion of any future lottery winnings to a good cause, like “Save the Parallel Port.”
Like performing for strangers? Make any promise you want, including becoming a cardinal or devoting your life to ridding the world of RG-59 cable, as long as you are at sea on a cruise ship full of inebriated tourists from Nepal who don’t know your real name.
Happy New Year