So it’s that time again. Lent. The time when perfectly sane people decide to give up things they enjoy and then take it out on the people around them. Oh, I know, I know, you’re just so unhealthy, you’re trying to make yourself a better person, it really is just the right time to give up chocolate.
Erm, no. No, it’s not. Let me offer a tiny bit of wisdom here. Do you really think giving up chocolate for 40 days makes sense before Easter? When there’ll be more chocolate around, on show, and given as gifts than any other time? Are you trying to hurt yourself?
There are varying reasons people give up stuff for Lent, the most obvious (and somehow, least applicable) being religion. If it’s about religion for you, good luck, sacrificing something to show your understanding for Jesus wandering in the desert for forty days. But maybe giving up your weekly packet of chocolate buttons isn’t quite the same as walking in ridiculous heat, un-cushioned sandals and lacking food and water. Just sayin’.
Maybe, if it’s about religion for you, you could take up something good, like volunteering, instead of denying yourself something that no-one else really cares about. But really, it’s up to you.
Now, atheists, agnostics, I’m talking to you. Why on earth are you putting us through this? Yes, I know, as humans we quintessentially want to better ourselves. That’s why we have self-help books. Books entitled things like ‘How to have Kick Ass Ideas’ and ‘Whatever you think, think the opposite’. We want to be better. That’s nice. Now will you have a goddamn cigarette because I’m about to stab you with my pencil. Quitters become really annoying, like Britta in Community:
You think denying yourself the things that you enjoy, purely because you enjoy them is a good idea? Maybe you should give up thinking for yourself for Lent! No-one’s asking you to give up your friends or your loved ones for the period, are they? No-one suggests giving up your children, or your hobbies. Why are you demonising the little things you enjoy that help you get through this chaotic existence? And you’re clearly only giving up the things that don’t matter. So really, what’s the point?
Maybe, just maybe, you should give up on having your aspirations dictated by the dates of a Roman calendar that may not even be translated properly. If you want to give up smoking, fine, do it. But don’t do it because suddenly everyone else is giving up something and you might as well be miserable together. Have you ever hung out with your friends when most of you are either in nicotine withdrawal, starving or would stab someone for a bite of chocolate? Not exactly a fun night out.
The worst one is giving up drinking. This will seriously damage your friendships. Not because everyone encourages each other to drink, or even because getting together for a drink is an acceptable social ritual. No, it’s because if you aren’t drinking and your friends are, you suddenly seem boring, and they suddenly seem overwhelmingly stupid.
Hold onto your friendships. If you’re going to give something up (and I really suggest you don’t) do it in private. Then if you want to come out at the end of forty days and rub people’s faces in it (the ones who haven’t denied themselves anything and thus are pretty damn happy) then feel free. They probably won’t care. They had a glass of wine with lunch. They gave up unnecessary guilt for Lent.
For those of you wondering where I’ve been- you won’t see me for about forty days. I’ve given up all the things I enjoy and will be wallowing in a hole of self-pity, righteousness and misery. That’s the spirit of the season, right?