It always takes me a while to decide what to give up for Lent. I was on vacation last week and this year Lent snuck up on me like a priest on an altar boy. (Too soon?) My friend Nick and I were lounging by the infinity pool when he said “Isn’t it Ash Wednesday?” I looked up from my Star magazine, pina colada and cigarette and saw that my vague intentions to give up sweets, drinking, smoking, and celebrity gossip were clearly already fucked.
On this same vacation someone told me that they had once given up complaining for a while and that doing so had made them incredibly happy. So I decided to jump on that bandwagon lickety-split, not least because doing so would allow me to continue poolside binge-drinking and chain-smoking for the remainder of my vacation.
But, after returning to the US and consulting with my cabinet, and by “cabinet” I mean my best friend Laura (who I learned had ALSO given up complaining for Lent, which was greatly encouraging, because God knows silent uncomplaining misery loves company!), I’ve also decided to give up celebrity gossip. Hopefully God will overlook the twelve junk magazines I read on my vacation.
Whether or not you believe in giving up things for Lent, or giving up things for Jesus, or Jesus in general, or God, there is something to be said for attempting asceticism at any time of the year. (In other news, I cannot believe I spelled asceticism right on the first try.) Abstaining from any activity will allow you to see the degree to which this activity has control over or effect on your life. With the absence of something, you are left to consider the size of the hole it has left behind. Were I to give up, say, french onion soup for Lent, I’m pretty sure I’d find that french onion soup has absolutely no control over my life, because I hate that shit and I never eat it. The cheese! It’s so fucking hot! And, like, completely separate from the soup! You have to fight with the cheese to get to the soup. Who wants to fight with cheese? Not me. Why can’t it all be put in a blender and pureed and THEN served? Like a smoothie!
Wait. Am I complaining about french onion soup?
Giving up complaining, on the other hand, has made it immediately and violently obvious that negative statements are as essential to my moment-to-moment lexicon as breathing, or my tongue. I wouldn’t say I’m whiny person– although I could be and have no idea of it, I hope to God I’m not– but I’m finding that my attempts at jokes and small talk are almost always built around something negative. And I slide into such talk without even realizing it; I’ve already broken this Lenten resolution about five hundred times. Just this morning I was e-mailing some ladies about shoes for an upcoming wedding and ended up making fun of the size of my own toes. It didn’t even occur to me until just now that I was not making a joke or stating a fact– I was, in fact, complaining. Although I’m also not sure of exactly how to define “complaint”– is it anything negatively phrased, or is complaining specifically an act of whining? How broad a net to cast? In any case, attempting to positively rephrase statements, such as last night when I caught myself and said “I love staying in on St. Patrick’s Day” instead of “I hate going out for the idiot parade that is St. Patrick’s Day”, has been like exercising a muscle I didn’t even know I had. (That is, of course, what she said.)
Giving up celebrity gossip has been quite a bit more cut-and-dry, but wow is celebrity gossip EVERYWHERE. I am averting my eyes from every newsstand, grocery store aisle, bar television and Facebook post and am beginning to feel like an Orthodox Jew at a strip club. When I’m writing and want to procrastinate (an urge I feel about as frequently as The Weather Channel shows Local on the Eights) I can no longer turn to gawker.com, jezebel.com, dlisted.com, or, if I’m really feeling no shame, perezhilton.com; instead I have been visiting and revisiting nytimes.com and all the sudden I find myself knowing a whole lot more about what’s going on in the wide world. Meanwhile my virgin unread US Weeklies are being stashed in a pile under my bed until I can binge-read all of them on Easter Sunday (No– you may not borrow them in the meantime. Let’s not get all crazy with the Christian values here, people.), and until further notice this blog is officially renamed No Fun For Any One.
I guess for the next month I am just going to have to write about the things I love instead of the celebrities I hate. It’s going to be absolute torture.
P.S. I do reserve the right to write about music and movies, not as celebrity products, but as art.
P.P.S. I will give away ONE (1) brand new un-read US Weekly to the first person who can name the movie from whence the title of this post came.