And so New Year is upon us -- the season to be disgusted with yourself. After several weeks of self-indulgence, you have realized too late that your Christmas gift to yourself is an Alfred Hitchcock silhouette, a hangover that keeps rolling over like an accumulator bet, and the kind of debts that will one day see you classified as the first ever one-person Third World country.
At this point, deep within your soul, self-loathing starts hardening like quick-set cement. It is time to make a list, a beautiful, tear-stained list of life-changing resolutions, that will enable you to become the new you, the real you. You know, the person you always intended to be before the person you really are turned up and ruined everything.
Why does anyone bother with New Year resolutions? How many people do you meet who say, "I gave up smoking/went on a diet/stopped drinking at New Year, and it all went absolutely brilliantly"?
That's right -- none. If they erected a statue to New Year's resolutions it would show a person of indeterminate gender with a donut in one hand and a cigarette in the other over a plaque saying, "Oops!"
There seems to be a gremlin around in January that dooms any attempt at self-improvement to failure. And yet people still persist in believing that New Year magically melts away fat, nicotine cravings, relationship problems and career voids.
These are the same people who spend their lives waiting for the personal epiphany, the Damascene moment when they burst out of their underachieving chrysalis and show the world what they are really made of. This is the tragedy of human existence -- we all think we're butterflies waiting to happen, when maybe we're concentrating on the wrong creature.
In reality, most of us are snails or snakes. Snails carry everything they know and everything they are on their backs. They are bent over with the weight of it all, and they don't even realize it.
The worst thing is, just like real snails, that thing on their back isn't disposable -- it is where they live and breathe. Take away a snail's shell and it dies. I'm a snail -- my life blighted by imaginary burdens, every movement an effort, every breath a wail of self-pity. By contrast, snakes are geniuses at reinvention, shedding skins, past selves, like other people take off their socks.
What they don't realize is that these skins don't just disappear -- they lie around the place, creepy rustling superstructures of memories, mistakes and neuroses, complicating everything, getting in the way, just waiting for you to crack, and climb inside them again; have all the same feelings, make all the same mistakes.
Britney Spears is a born "snake," all that determined slithering from small-town America to Mousekateer to world-dominating megastar, and where does she end up -- slobbing around her local mall in a pink, stained tracksuit, looking spotty and cranky because her husband doesn't help enough with the baby. Small-town America, budge up and make room for one of your own -- Britney has found an old skin, crawled back into it, and it's like she never went away.
This is not to sneer at Britney -- she is merely an example of someone who literally ran around the world, changing absolutely everything but never quite managed to change what really matters -- inside.