You have given up something? Well, great, but keep it to yourself
This year, giving up is the new going out
When people cease to be impressed by your material possessions, looks and charity work, what do you turn to for validation?
How about the things you don’t do?
Carefully clearing every pleasure and convenience from your life, and wearing this sacrifice as a badge of honour, is a great way to bolster an otherwise lacking personality. In 2018, giving up is the new going out, and the new puritans aren’t suffering in silence: they want you to know all about it. Opt out of the 21st century at your peril; you could very easily become one of these people before you know it.
The no Netflix and zero-chill brigade
Is there any form of self-denial more performative than actively removing yourself from public view, or pursuing an analogue social life? It’s an easy way to appear intellectual, to assume that, with the exception of Planet Earth II (of course), screen = bad, while paper = good.
Even though trash culture is everywhere, detoxers revere books, candlelight and notepaper as wholesome and romantic. Meanwhile, their online lives represent a sickness that can be cured only by locking their phones in a drawer.
Thank goodness for that, you think, as they troop off on their detox, to stay in a luxe-shabby cottage. When they return, they’ll tell you how incredible and inspiring it was to be switched off from the rat race while you stare at the top of their head as they hunch over their phone, uploading all the photos they didn’t have the chance to post while away. The poor souls look utterly glum in every single snap: no amount of Facetuning could fix that abject analogue misery. You realise the main benefit of their detox was to you: a whole week without their musings was just the switch-off you needed, and now you’re ready to fire up WhatsApp to give them a good slating to your other digital-obsessed friends.
Most likely to say “There’s something so pure about not being contactable 24/7.”
Least likely to say “My scrolling finger got so bored that I’ve taken to picking my nose again.”
The post-booze preacher
A few weeks off the booze used to be a temporary health kick you couldn’t wait to break, but new teetotalism isn’t here to just rinse out your liver; it wants to purify your soul, too. Among the newly booze-free, there’s an unspoken rule – because, perhaps, alcohol loosens the tongue but theirs remains perfectly in control – you need to get evangelical if you’re going to make it work.
In our booze-obsessed culture, anyone knocking back a lime and soda will be instantly accused of being pregnant, a secret alcoholic or, more usually, booooring, so the non-drinker’s defence mechanism is quickly to turn the tables and clamber up to the pulpit. No more gentle ribbing and batting off peer pressure to “go on, just have one, it won’t kill you”; they’re about to unload soul-baring confessionals, in agonising detail, about why they’ve given up the demon drink.
I didn’t touch booze for much of 2017, and I have to say it’s hard not to appear sanctimonious when enthusing about clear-headed mornings to a lineup of ashen-faced booze-hounds. Improved mental health, more energy, increased financial buoyancy, oh, hello, I can see my toes again: every plus you describe feels less like a benefit and more like a targeted burn.
Just as the hapless victims of this abstemious sermon are about to concede and order a round of lemonade, someone will pipe up that Donald Trump doesn’t drink either, point and laugh at your Diet Coke, and lead the rest of your group to the bar for shots of Patrón while you’re left talking to the sole remaining teetotaller, a pregnant woman who cannot wait to get pissed again. “I’ve got a bottle of malbec and a straw all ready to go in my overnight bag.”
Most likely to say “It makes you realise how boring drunk people are. Oh, present company excepted, of course.”
Least likely to say “I’ll die if I have to sit through Newsnight sober one more time.”
The clean-eating competitive healthitarian
It’s hard not to be in thrall to someone who treats eating as if they’re a Jedi master and food is the dark side, refusing a canapé because they’re only eating cruciferous vegetables, tahini and popped sorghum until the next government. Because you can’t walk past a cronut without changing your WhatsApp status to “engaged to carbs”, you marvel at their restraint. Teach me, O healthy one! How do they do it? What do they actually eat? Sadly, they’ll be fixated on telling you what they . . . don’t actually eat.
Say goodbye to family favourites such as refined sugar – “it’s in everything, even air”, they purr, as you freeze with an eclair halfway to your mouth. Protestations about organic and free-range meat hold no water.
“Murder can never be kind – somebody still ends up dead at the end of it,” they’ll say at your toddler’s birthday party. Carbohydrates, “bad” fats and dairy are spoken of with the same fondness you’d reserve for a battery acid enema.
Despite early signs of a backlash against #eatclean, self-flagellation masquerading as healthy eating continues to be popular. Friends on complicated plans called things like Live 40 and Excel 1:2 (code for “forget the idea that eating was ever fun”) will prattle on in impenetrable healthimonious lingo about “legumes” and “coconut aminos”, and you will get to know their colon intimately. The thing is that, like parenting, skiing and growing up with an evil twin, you have to live through food puritanism to understand it, or indeed care.
Save time now by deleting any pals who’ve got a dietary revolution they can’t wait to discuss next time they see you. You will lose them to their cult of fellow nutritional hashtaggers soon enough anyway, #fitfam.
Most likely to say “In terms of toxins, eating ultra-processed foods is like spreading your morning toast with car exhaust fumes and the coughing fit of a passing stranger.”
Least likely to say “Dying for my doctor accidentally to switch my vitamin shot for an intravenous drip of chip fat and Jelly Tots.”
The corner-shop philanthropist
It usually starts at the supermarket. You can spot them having that crisis in the checkout queue, trolley overloaded: the realisation that they’re a small particle of dust on a bruise on the bum of the universe. They panic, want to become more meaningful, and live a life without consumerism but they’ve forgotten to bring their canvas tote bags.
They begin to shop locally – admirable – and gently rib friends for their certified Starbucks addiction. They finger fast fashion with distaste and wax lyrical about buying secondhand – although their attire looks more pricey vintage chic than a morning’s root through the “just in” pile in the local charity shop. Brand names disappear from their shelves, they cancel all online shopping accounts and talk a lot about going back to basics, in the process torturing their neighbourhood shop owner who dreams of being bought out by one of the big four.
The coffee at their local independent cafe tastes as if it’s been sitting under Julian Assange’s camp bed, but they’ll insist on meeting there to drive out the chain stores. Admitting they’re on an economy drive isn’t sexy enough; it should be a cause. Unchained from capitalism, everything they say and do sounds like Justin Timberlake droning on about his “most personal album yet”. “We’re just more real now,” they’ll tell you. “More connected to the planet.”
Earth, for all our sakes, please hang up.
Most likely to say “Shopping local is my way of helping to bring down Big Pharma.”
Least likely to say “I miss that buzz of getting the last three-for-two on Peruvian chicken.”
The ‘you got this’ positivity bot
What’s the use of having friends if you can’t while away the hours bitching about your other, nicer friends? Sadly, this tradition is under threat, thanks to the positive energy movement. Boundless unrelenting enthusiasm is the new bitcoin. Fridge magnet psychobabble, TED talks and the dreaded return of crystals: the entire world is your life coach.
Out goes wallowing in self-pity and eating your feelings in front of The Good Place; in come yoga mats, baffling conversations about your rising moon and being told “you can do it” in a series of hastily knocked up inspirational memes by a 22-year-old diet smoothie influencer.
If this happens to someone you know, you may need to assimilate to survive: talk about needing your “space” and how you need to realign your thought processes, buy a mindfulness colouring book, leave it lying around and pray that they stop trying to persuade you to do that half marathon.
Most likely to say “Be your own best friend. Negativity is a drain on your life force. That’s why you’re looking so old.”
Least likely to say “Sometimes I wake up with a thirst so searing that only the blood of my (many) enemies could quench it.”
– The Last Romeo, Justin Myers’ debut novel, is published by Piatkus in May. – Guardian