Friday, January 2, 2009
No resolutions for Mr. Perfect
After a careful round of calculating self-analysis, I’ve concluded there’s no need for me to resolve anything to improve in 2009. I’m already an outstanding family man, friend, employee and all-around great guy.
I cherish most of my prime vices -- bourbon, cigars, beer, sloth -- and nurture them like a farmer who loves a garden full of weeds. So those are off-limits.
But here are some popular resolution topics and why I don’t need any amendments:
• Fatherhood -- I don’t know of any fathers who spend as much time with their children as I do with mine. Of course, in their defense, most of those fathers have real jobs with real deadlines and whip-cracking bosses. But if one of my daughters wants me to help her build a snowman I just call my buddies at the bar and tell them I’m going to be 20 minutes late for Happy Hour. Resolve to be a better father? How could I?
• Husband -- My shortcomings in this arena as perceived by one expert witness -- my wife -- are that I’m lazy, can’t repair common household malfunctions, refuse to pick up a paint brush, don’t care about how the house/lawn looks, blah, blah, blah. I’d like to offer rebuttals to these hurtful truths, but years ago I resolved to be peerlessly honest so guilty I must plead. Still, I once overheard her telling our oldest daughter that the secret to happiness was finding a man who could make you laugh. That certainly didn’t lead me to pick up any paint brushes -- there’s nothing funny about a paint brush. But I did resolve to do more entertaining juggling in front of her and to always do it naked.
• Be a better employee -- I’m always struck by the scene in “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie turns in his theme and imagines the teacher dancing across the room exhalting “A-plus! Plus! Plus! Plus!” as his euphoric fellow students carry him around in triumph. That’s exactly what I imagine is going on in the editorial offices at magazines seconds after I’ve hit the send button on some assigned or spec piece. Sadly, the best I can hope for is two weeks later the editor writing back to say “I like the lead, but the rest is a mess. Do the whole thing over and have it to me by the weekend.” Still, I always maintain the most tender feelings for those first drafts. I can only hope all those editors uniformly resolve to go easier on the Latrobe guy next time he turns in something he’s convinced is genius.
• Spirituality -- I pray constantly. Of course, I’m praying that I’ll hit the lottery, that the cop behind the speed gun is napping and that the people to whom I owe great sums of money will be transferred to Bangalore, India. I once came up with what I thought was a great line regarding spirituality: “I used to pray for money and got nothing. Now I pray for wisdom and need nothing.” I pray daily it’s a line I’ll one day actually embrace. Still, I think the line qualifies me as being plenty spiritual so to hell with that sort of resolution.
• Be less egotistical: The only reason I spend so much time telling myself I’m so great is because so many publishers and editors spend so much time telling me how much I stink. If I didn’t have this enormous, runaway fortress of an ego, I’d probably be forced to admit I’m a failure, chuck my writing ambitions and get at a job that might yield actual income. I’m not about to do that.
I suppose I could resolve to be less transparent when confronted with something I believe is absurdly preposterous -- like rolling my eyes when my wife suggests I take time out from watching the 12-hour John Wayne marathon to do something like clean the bathtub.
Her insistence that my eye rolling drives her crazy has made me more attuned to others who do it to me. Like when I mentioned to family and friends that I am once again making no resolutions because I am unable to detect any personal flaws that need correcting.
Typical was the gushing praise I got from friends who said things like, “Ohhh, sure! You’re perfect just the way you are! How could any resolutions possibly improve on the you we all love so much? Yeah, you’re the best! The best!”
Maybe I should resolve to strengthen my abilities to self-analyze because I detected several of these supporters extravagantly rolling their eyes as they offered this warm praise.
Or maybe, as a first step, I should just resolve to learn to differentiate between praise and sarcasm.