Promises, promises: Okay, you could be better. But you could also be a lot worse

There's something about the planet tipping and calendar pages turning that makes us take a good, hard look at ourselves and say, "I could be better." Then, typically, we go out and get plastered. We wake up the next morning having forgotten our resolution, with absolutely no intention of changing a thing.

We've aimed too high. We've been too vague. What we need are guidelines for establishing attainable resolutions in the coming year. Because I've recently resolved to do something to help mankind, I have compiled a list of such guidelines for your New Year's use. Here you go:

1. Don't resolve to be a better person. If you're an asshole, learn to live with it. It's who you are. You cut people off in traffic; you judge your coworkers; you fart in public. The only reason some people like you is because, against all odds, they are bigger assholes than you are. The best you can do is to resolve to embrace your inner asshole. Either that or simply resolve not to shoplift from department stores anymore, and see if this makes you feel better about yourself.

2. Don't resolve to lose weight. You're fat. Join the club (a.k.a. America). Resolving to drop pounds is useless. Unless you are reading this while repeatedly running up and down a mountain with 12-pound weights strapped to your ankles, I'm afraid your pear shape is here to stay. Resolve to buy bigger clothes (i.e., pants that fit), or to stay away from sugar-glazed Krispy Kremes. Every little bit helps.

3. Don't resolve to improve your vocabulary. Nobody cares if you use "pernicious" or "vicissitude" in a sentence. Instead, resolve to use other, more ignorant words less often. Words like "like" and phrases like "I'm all . . . ," for example. You'll sound smarter, and unflattering comparisons between you and a 14-year-old girl will become less frequent. And, like, you'll be all happy and shit.

4. Don't resolve to be better with money or to plan for your retirement. Those resolutions are for people who actually have money and who typically are working too hard to waste time making resolutions. (If those people do make resolutions, they're usually along the lines of "Be nicer to my mistress," or "Stop giving Martha insider trading tips," and, therefore, are useless to you.) Try this: Resolve to stop vacuuming up pennies, or to roll the coins in the pickle jar that has been such a lovely addition to your living room décor. You'll be richer, anyway.

5. Don't resolve to drink less or quit smoking. It's a new year, not Lent. The best your addictive personality can hope for would be to smoke less while drinking (or vice versa). You could resolve to not drink and drive, unless you're a tabloid superstar, in which case you might just resolve to not drink while driving with your kids in the backseat and the paparazzi tailing you.

6. Don't resolve to find true love in the coming year. Chances are you're completely unlovable, not least of all because you're the type of person who resolves to find love within a specified number of weeks. Resolve to stop comparing all women to Charlize Theron, or all men to Dr. McDreamy. Tell yourself you'll think about dating in 2008. Or maybe just resolve to watch less television. You probably won't find true love any faster, but it'll help you forget your TV crushes and free up your time to find a real-life crush to replace them with.

7. Forget about being "greener" this year. Everyone's big on this "save the planet" stuff these days. But you know what? You'll write this resolution down on a piece of paper made from rainforest pulp produced by a company that habitually pollutes streams alongside its factory land, which is the former home of 500 rare species, now extinct. And don't get me started on that pencil you're holding. How about resolving instead to stop throwing Burger King wrappers out the window of your Hummer?

There you go. You may not be a better person in 2008, but you'll be alive, and that's a pretty good start. So maybe just resolve not to die this year. It's a resolution worth pursuing, especially if someone else has resolved to smother you with a pillow in 2008. If you're especially ambitious, you can make a second resolution to start now on your "Better Me" list for 2009. With a year to work out the details, you just might come up with something worthwhile this time.

 
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