Repent all ye repenters

This is the HMS Resolution. You try finding a Creative Commons image for this article.

This is the HMS Resolution. You try finding a Creative Commons image for this article.

“The first week I lost two pounds. That was easy; just water weight, it’s all just water. Week two I only lost a pound. Week three I lost half an ounce…no, sorry, more like two thirds of an ounce. Week four I regained a pound…”

I apologise for my first paragraph. It’s a highlights package from the emails I received from a friend who resolved last year to lose some weight. Unfortunately she was successful and has managed to keep her fingers out of the cookie jar ever since, leaving a permasmug grin where once a hungry open mouth used to be. It’s not that it’s not nice for her that she has lost a few pounds. It’s just important for me that she keep this to herself.

It’s not just her though, and it’s not just reformed fatties. It’s reformers in general and New Year is the worst time for them. Is there anything more tedious than a convert? Reformed smokers, over-eaters, born-again Christians/ Muslims/ Hindus, tee-total former alcoholics and abstaining sexual deviants – either stick to your chosen vices or keep your conversions to yourselves. These groups should be made to attend one another’s meetings to realise just how dreadful their stories of redemption are. The only people more excruciating are those who thrill the unwary with what they remember of the previous night’s dreams. I’m just thankful never to have met a reformed dream teller.

As with so much questionable morality, our tolerance of reformers can be found in the Bible. In this case the tale of the prodigal son is to blame.

Sometime back in Anii Domini, a sanctimonious middle-aged unemployed carpenter by the name of Jesus Christ arranged another of his regular get-togethers. Towards the end of an otherwise enjoyable evening, in lieu of coffee or a bowl of keys, Mr Christ set about boring his guests into retreat with a rehashed story about a prodigal son. Unfortunately © and the phrase ‘stop me if you’ve heard this one’ weren’t available until well into the PC (post crucifixion) era. The Prodigal Son is the story of a young man who took the option of early inheritance and headed off for a gap year. He quickly wasted his money and returned home to shed a few crocodile tears to his Jehovian father. Undeterred by his son’s terrible financial management, awful work record and disgruntled Thai bride, Dad put on a party straight out of the last page of an Asterix book (sans roast boar of course).

Anyway, the elder son, Nigel, complained to his father that while Junior was out slipping iron coins down belly dancers’ bell-encrusted thongs, he’d been slaving away in the fields by day and poring over the accounts by night – on measly wages and without even the concept of pornography to get him through the night. The younger son arrives back from Oy Vegas and the prize calf (hitherto, Nigel’s best friend and co-worker) is slaughtered to prepare a great feast. Nige points out to his father that such treatment has never been thrown his way; he’s never even been able to kick back with a few friends on a Friday, slit upon a goat’s throat, sacrifice a virgin or three and relax. Pretty reasonable complaint really.

Now I’m usually on the slacker’s side, but I’m with Big Brother here. Firstly, redemption is all well and good, except that it isn’t, in itself, an achievement. If once you were fat, but now you’re thin, you’ve just arrived back to a point that perhaps you should never have left in the first place. Now finally you can stop obsessing about your weight. You used to drink, now you don’t? Good for YOU, but ONLY for YOU: congratulations on reaching square one. Poor Nigel of parable fame has been building up the family business the whole time, with no goat hors d’oeuvres, thus no friends, and a nerdy English name to make matters worse. Perhaps the prodigal one should have started making himself useful before there was a rave in his honour, start building up a bit of credit before the overseas bills arrived.

Secondly please stop telling us things we already knew…in fact that were pretty obvious to most of us in the first place, hence why we didn’t need redemption to begin with. I’m far from being without vice, but I do try to at least remain painfully self-aware enough to know not to bother anyone else with my various futile and eternally repeated recoveries. I don’t want to hear from a smoker about how easy it is to breathe now – I made this discovery straight after switching from embryonic fluid to air and have never looked back; didn’t even need a patch! Yes, recovering alcies, mornings are more agreeable when you don’t start each one with a hangover. Same goes for my shrinking emailing friend. You don’t need to convert me; I’m not of the chubby persuasion so I’m not going to start believing in muesli just because you insist on discussing it with every meal. It’s easier to get around not carrying 100 pounds of extra lard you say? You’re preaching to a svelte choir that’s been singing since birth.

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