Sunday, January 1, 2012


Have you broken your New Year's resolution yet? What's taking you so long?

Some people take their New Year's resolutions seriously. That can be a good thing: start the new year with a vow to improve yourself, or correct some detrimental behavior.

I don't do resolutions, myself.

Imagine some guy at a crowded party on New Year's Eve. It's a few minutes before midnight. He goes into the bathroom and lights a cigarette. Resolved: My last smoke forever.

He flips on the overhead fan so as not to tip off his non-smoking host. Then he crumples his pack of Winstons and lobs it deftly into a wastebasket.

Soon he's back in the living room with the other revelers. The clock strikes midnight, and on the wide screen TV, the big ball falls in Times Square. He yells Happy New Year! along with everyone else, grabs a woman he does not know, and presses his smoky lips against hers.

Fifteen minutes later he's back in the bathroom sifting through that wastebasket, in the throes of his first nicotine fit. There mighta been one last smoke in there, he thinks. But when he finds the package and uncrumples it, it is empty.

So he bums one from that woman he just kissed. The party's host admonishes them: if you must smoke, please step outside. They do. The woman has but one cigarette, for she too had thought of quitting, but at 11:45 changed her mind. She is willing to share it. It is a Winston, his brand. As they pass it back and forth, they fall in love.

Or something like that. It could be that a year later, they get married. Again it is New Year's Eve. This time, it doesn't even occur to them to quit smoking. After the wedding they fly off on their honeymoon – to Winston-Salem, or Marlboro Country, or some other ironic destination.

Or something like that. It could be that both are ticking time bombs, with monstrously carcinogenic tobacco sediments in their lungs already spawning cancer. But this isn't an anti-smoking rant, so I'll leave that stuff out.

No behavior will change because of a new calendar. Behaviors change because an individual wants to change. You want to quit smoking; you want to get off the couch and start working out. It doesn't matter whether it's December 31 or August 9. If you want to change some behavior to the better, there's no time like the present – if you'll pardon the cliche.

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