Coffee without caffeine, beer without alcohol, coke without calories – we’ve become experts at denying ourselves things. In fact we’ve become so good at it we actually feel better when we manage to stop ourselves from enjoying the things we love – chocolate cheesecake for dessert? No thanks, I’d rather have a mineral water, we say, priding ourselves on our willpower.
Would you rather lie on the sofa and read a book scoffing a box of Maltesers or put yourself through a punishing routine at the gym for the fourth time this week? Gym of course. And what about another glass of red wine?”Oh, no thanks – I’m going sober this month.” I feel so much better about myself, we say, with a strained face.
We have our teeth professionally polished, we’re constantly trying to improve ourselves and do good deeds to lead more wholesome and longer lives.
A nation of spoilsports
Whatever happened to us? We’ve become a nation of spoilsports and bores, so obsessed with how we look, our fitness levels and whether we can manage to stretch out our lives like chewing gum by denying ourselves any form of pleasure – we’ve forgotten how to live.
I’ve recently stumbled across the musings of an Austrian philosopher by the name of Robert Pfaller – who believes life is only worth living if we eat, drink, celebrate and sleep with another. Well, hear, hear! I say.
Silliness for the sake of it
Mr Pfaller defends silliness and having fun for the sake of fun – without worrying too much about the consequences and whether denying yourself that sinful cheesecake or sneaky fag will really make you look better a few years from now or if a month of teetotalling will really add a few years to your life.
And even if you do manage to buy yourself a bit of time through abstinence- will those hours, months and years of ignoring hunger pangs and pulling sour faces at more free-spirited souls really be worth living?
True pleasure will never result from a cost-benefit analysis, according to Pfaller. In other words, if you’re constantly worrying about tomorrow and the consequences of your deeds – you’re not ever able to really enjoy yourself.
Skinny dipping, smoking, drinking…
As you can see Mr Pfaller has made quite an impression on me. He made me think back of my student years – of dancing on tables, skinny dipping, smoking and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow, blowing a whole months’ salary on a pair of shoes and scoffing entire tubs of ice cream in the middle of the night.
That was before the adult me stepped in with a stern face, stopping me from flirting with strangers, tut-tutting every time I lit up until I finally quit and making me feel bad every time I pour another glass. There’ll be a price to pay, my adult voice says. You’ll have a hangover, you’ll get fat, you’ll get wrinkles, you’ll make a fool of yourself, you’ll die…
Well guess what – a hangover is a small price to pay for a few hours of respite from life’s demands, I’m fat any way, I have wrinkles even though I stopped smoking and used sunblock, I make a fool of myself even when I don’t mean to and I am going to die any way…
Have our lives become too regimented, our minds too straight-jacketed by what society thinks and expects of us? Should we shake off the shackles and live a little?
OK, I know – we have children and having a smoke on the school run or a quickie with a toy boy in the shed will not go down very well, but maybe there are different ways in which we can learn to let ourselves go a little and reclaim some of those delicious delirious moments of wild abandonment and true happiness we experienced when we were younger.
My TIPS for happiness
Here are my tips for lightening up but be warned – you won’t lose weight, get fitter or learn anything from it – you might just have a bit of fun.
- Go through the house with a black bag and throw out everything that gives you a bad conscience – diets, to-do lists, the bathroom scale, self-help books. Smile as you feel a weight lift of your mind.
- Watch your children at play – now join in. Lie on the carpet, make bad toilet humour jokes and giggle uncontrollably. Now throw a full-on tantrum – kick your legs in the air, shout at the top of your voice and refuse to eat your vegetables. Demand more cake.
- Make sure your neighbours are not at home and the kids are fast asleep. Check again. Now take your clothes off and dare your husband to chase you naked through the garden…
- Don’t run, do yoga or any form of physical exercise other than sex for an entire week.
- Dance on a table – just make sure the table is quite sturdy.
- Have another glass of wine, eat that slice of cake without feeling guilty. Enjoy every sip or mouthful as if it’s the last thing you’ll ever taste.
- Don’t go to bed hungry – ever again!
Let me know how you get on!