Southern Journal: New Year's Irresolutions

The only thing a Southern man should bother giving up? A hopeless resolution.
Rick Bragg

The best resolution I ever heard was my Uncle Jimbo's.
"Son," he told me, "I have give up lying."
"How's that working out for you, Jim?" I asked.
"It's hard, son," Jimbo said, woeful.
"How long you been quit?"
He looked at his watch.
" 'Bout 15 minutes."

By the standards of the average Southern male, he was actually doing quite well.

Resolutions start out noble and fine. After a solid year of beer joints, and buttered biscuits, backsliding six ways to Sunday, we stand on the threshold of a new year and swear that this year, it'll be different. We will do right, do good, for 365 long, long days.

Some of us--deacons, Sisters of Mercy, and my mother--make it, with prayer, almost to Valentine's Day. The rest of us are on Jimbo time.

I do not believe Southern men should be asked to make a resolution to start with. It's not that we don't have the will. It has to do with what we have to give up.

We promise to forfeit liquor, bad language, loafering, sloth, poker, and sausage gravy.

We resolve to go to church for more than just weddings, funerals, and dinner on the grounds when they are said to have homemade ice cream. We say we will take out the trash, even if it is not full. We swear off eating barbecue after 1 a.m., in our jammies, in the glow of a Frigidaire.

We promise to say "I love you" and mean it, and not just because the object of our devotion found in our pants a receipt for an eight-piece bucket and extra-large Pepsi. We promise not to cheat at cards, especially while playing children. We promise not to look at majorettes.

That is a lot to give up.

Still, after a healthy New Year's Day meal of hoppin'John, it's easy to be optimistic. With your belly full of collards, which our society equates with financial prosperity, and black-eyed peas, for luck, it's easy to go to bed with good intentions.

But with the dawn comes bacon. And then we drive by a sausage and biscuit and it all goes straight to Hardee's.

I think it would not be so hard if I lived inthe frozen wastes of the Far North. What do you have to give up in Rhode Island? Halibut? I could swear off halibut for the rest of my natural life.

Every year, because she loves me, my wife makes me promise to exercise more, to walk outside in good weather, even if that occasionally means it's uphill, and to walk in bad weather in the gigantic recreation center, which is--thank you, Lord--quite flat.

And I do walk, at least until I am lapped by the first septuagenarian. "It's hard to get around this thing when you're 86," one woman told me, after lapping me for spite, then sitting down to breathe.

"You should try it," I said, patting my belly, "at 286."

And so my resolve dwindles with every mile and every speed demon who was alive when Teddy stormed up San Juan Hill. But still, I resolve.

One year, I resolved not to get any speeding tickets.

The Alabama state troopers resolved to break my resolve and charge me $300 in state court north of McIntosh.

Another, I resolved not to get upset about something as piddling as football. That was the year we got beat by Utah.

Last year, I resolved to diet, drive slowly, exercise four days a week, and, sometimes on Sunday, be affectionate even when mostly innocent of wrongdoing, and not eat Buffalo wings in any Marriott, anywhere, unless it was the only thing on the menu (and sometimes that happens).

This year, I resolve not to look at majorettes. Again.