Don't change for the better 


Lounging around in the afterglow, you have to admit that the millennial New Year's Eve well illustrated how long, teasing foreplay can add greatly to the final fireworks. The celebrations were spectacular, from the Eiffel Tower to Lake Eola, where we spotted Glenda Hood and my friend who was drinking champagne out of a bag yelled after her, "Nice caboose!" (OK, it was me.)

One of the nicest things about the 2000 hype was that everybody seemed to forget about making resolutions, which is just as well. If anybody actually kept a New Year's resolution the whole world would be as skinny and smoke-free as prime-time TV.

And as much as you might will yourself to change, it's amazing how much change just occurs without anybody pushing it. You wake up one morning and you just don't want to smoke anymore. Kids who couldn't make an A with a stencil all of a sudden start studying and end up in grad school. You think you married Mr. Right and then you meet Ms. Right at the Dinah Shore Classic. You just never know.

Outside influence

The change doesn't even have to come from within. You can remain a funhouse freak all your life; odds are that the times will change to suit you, because the social standards we think are so unbending are actually pretty gelatinous, at least under the heavy hand of time.

Look at Oscar Wilde. He died in 1900, two years after concluding a jail term for being a witty, openly gay man. Today he'd be given his own HBO special for it. See? Trying to change or hide to suit social mores might seem necessary, but unless you're a violent criminal, the pendulum is eventually going to swing to your favor.

Maybe your biological clock has sonic boomed, or maybe you're feeling pressure to have kids. Eighty years ago you might have resolved to breed; after all, it was only 80 years ago that women were first allowed to vote. But now that women hold positions like Secretary of State and captain on "Star Trek," some are waiting a little while before jumping into life's biggest endeavor. And according to a recent Johnson & Johnson survey, 750 out of 1,000 first-time mothers surveyed thought that it was "socially frowned upon" to be a full-time mom. If attitudes toward a biological imperative can change, anything can.

Ten years ago a nose ring was as exotic as a cobra, and if you wanted a tattoo you might have had to resolve to go find one. Now it is not untoward for The Young People to have so many piercings they could be considered ventilated. Have a secret desire to accessorize with lip plates, powdered wigs or goiters? Wait five years, you might be in luck. Ditto diet. Our gym obsession -- remember that resolution? -- has been replaced by statisics that show we are fatter than ever. Perhaps the Internet has caused us to go from stair masters to chair masters, but it doesn't matter; the point is, we thought we had the answer, and then the question changed.

In the '70s wife-swapping parties were chic and if you were a scenester you probably were reading Erica Jong and resolving to have a lot more guilt-free sex. By the '90s everyone was so scared of sex that celibacy was talked about as a desirable option, instead of being code for, "I can't get laid anyway, so I'm going to say I'm not trying." Wait till the AIDS vaccine is invented: the whole world is going to look like Caligula. (Raise your hand, or something, if you've thought about being cryogenically frozen until this event occurs.)

Follow your nose

Drugs have gone the opposite route. In the coke-addled '80s it was accepted that everyone was getting impaired all the time and your resolve might have been to find a better dealer. A scant 10 years later, you might have resolved to attend your group meetings regularly. It's still surprising to hear someone order a beer at lunch, while the last few years have simultaneously given rise to the phrase "heroin chic." Getting wasted has become what sex used to be -- a Victorian secret, the thing everyone does to some degree but no one discusses.

Even Rob and Laura Petrie once slept in separate beds lest the viewing public think a married couple was doing something scandalous. But it was just a few years ago that an episode of Roseanne showed Roseanne's mother decked out head-to-toe as a dominatrix.

Public acceptance fluctuates like a strobe light. And you and I, being members of the public, sometimes see our standards change with them. So resolve yourself silly. Either circumstances will change around you or you suddenly will change yourself. Next time you're certain your life is on a set track and you'll be the same for always, remember this: Hugh Hefner got married. And Gandhi started out as a lawyer.


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