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Life can’t be an Outback Steakhouse. No rules is just wrong

Trying to act responsibly in the absence of responsibility


Josh’s dinner. (We’re sorry you had to see this.) - CP PHOTO: JOSH OSWALD
  • CP photo: Josh Oswald
  • Josh’s dinner. (We’re sorry you had to see this.)

Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, I had the longest break from responsibility of my adult life. Work was breaking for the holidays and my wife, son, and daughter were headed to grandma’s for a visit. This was my window to eat, watch, and listen to whatever I wanted. But with great power comes great responsibility. And for the next five days, I spent much of my energy trying to slam shut the Pandora’s Box of diminished hygiene, productivity, and basic life skills that I so carelessly opened. 

I began vacation by trying to re-identify with my peer group by watching Costco portions of television. I hadn’t had time to finish The Haunting of Hill House since starting the series over two months ago. So from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., I watched the final four episodes. By hour four, I was so tired of those dolts talking about what was a dream and what wasn’t a dream, I was hoping Carla Gugino would knock on my door with a rat-poison tea party. Zero for one with holiday “activities.”

Living didn’t get any less weird from there. I stayed up later, slept later, and lost any reasonable scheduling for meals, as well as the definition of a meal. One day I ate a meatball hoagie, Jell-O salad, and fudge. For the next day’s breakfast, I had two sausage, egg, and cheese muffins from McDonald’s. Another day, I didn’t eat anything until 1:30 p.m. I tried to get a haircut, but saw the stylist who frequently mangles my hair through the window and scurried back into my car as she glared at me. I took a four-hour nap after a crazy morning of doing absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I brushed my teeth from the 26th to the 31st, but if you’re a gambling person, I’d put money on the under.

I’m not a great dresser, but these five days were an all-time low. I lived in sweatpants. I don’t even particularly like wearing sweatpants. The only thing anybody looks productive doing in sweats is exercising. Otherwise, you just look sickly. But I could not resist their siren song of inactivity. Trying to convince myself I was still on the straight and narrow, I tweeted about my “#vacationsweats” to make it sound cute that I was about to become a 600-pound shut-in. I was a suburban Frankenstein. I had all the pieces of a real human: hands, feet, sweatpants, but couldn’t quite figure the living part out.

In an attempt to regain some pre-vacation structure, I hit the grocery store … in sweats, of course. I cooked some chicken, cut veggies, and actually made and ate the entire salad. One hour later, I was manipulating an entire frozen pizza into my mouth and rummaging through my liquor cabinet like some kind of booze raccoon. I could not reverse engineer the monster I had become.

I may be exaggerating the debauchery. My activities are probably downright benign to anybody under 35. But I decided my life is actually easier — and dare I say more pleasurable — when held to a reasonable level of accountability. 

Jumping from one pleasure to the next is exhausting.


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