A look back at old-school resolutions
Do you have a New Year’s resolution? It’s the third week of January and statistics show that 80 percent of all resolutions fail by February. But worse than that, 23 percent of resolutions fail within just one week, and a mere 19 percent are maintained for up to two years. Oh, come on people, make a commitment, and stick to it. Could be we are choosing the wrong resolutions, ones that they are self-centered and superficial. Possibly history, in the form of the Old Farmer’s Almanac can reveal our problem.
The number one resolution today is to lose weight, followed by 2. get organized, 3. spend less/save more, 4. enjoy life, 5. stay fit and healthy, 6. learn something exciting, 7. quit smoking, 8. help others fulfill their dreams, 9. fall in love and 10. spend more time with family. Only two resolutions, 8 and 10 put others first.
The almanac lists the top 10 resolutions in 1947 as follows. 1. improve my disposition, be more understanding and control my temper, 2. improve my character, 3. stop smoking/smoke less, 4. save money, 5. drink less/stop drinking, 6. be more religious/go to church, 7. be more efficient/do a better job, 8. take better care of myself, 9. take a greater part in homelife, 10. lose or gain weight.
May I point out weight is number ten in 1947 and it also mentions gaining weight. Does anyone making resolutions today choose weight gain? Of course, in 1947 people cooked most of their meals and used dishes half the size of ours. Many did manual labor and unless you were a boxer you never set foot in a gym as an adult. Kids walked to school, rode bikes around the town and if they did buy a nickel bottle of soda pop at the drugstore, it was only 8 ounces. Junk food was almost nonexistent and what was sold were tiny candy bars and popcorn in movie theaters. Times have changed.
In 1947, five resolutions, 1, 2, 6, 7 and 9, involved a desire to be a better person which would benefit everyone around them. Remember, these were the people who had lived through the hardships of the Great Depression and were soon asked to sacrifice family members or own lives in World War II. And they felt the need to improve their character and thought of others in their resolutions? No wonder they are called the greatest generation.
I have never heard anyone confess that they’d like to improve their own character. Maybe the character of their spouse or a colleague, but not themselves. Fifty years ago, people valued virtues such as a strong work ethic, moral character and spirituality. Today we have people who don’t want to work even when every industry, restaurant and store has a help wanted sign in the window. Possibly they are waiting for that corner office with a window. Where is personal responsibility and respect for character? Today people are smashing store windows and stealing anything they can grab, shooting fast food workers because they don’t get their burger fast enough, throwing infants into dumpsters and punching old ladies in the face for the sport of it. And what we care about most is our weight?
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I once had an acquaintance, a kind woman who mothered my young son’s friend. I saw her as a kindred spirit until one afternoon when we had a seemingly innocent conversation. I mentioned how I needed to lose 10 pounds. I bemoaned that my biggest problem was finishing my sons’ leftover food. Part of a grilled cheese or a lone chicken nugget was unconsciously popped into my mouth on the way to the dishwasher, errant French fries were impossible to dispose of even though limp and cold. My motto was, “Leave no ketchup behind.”
I had been instructed as a child that we never waste food. I took it to heart. Others can dish out their ziti and walk away with half of it still on the plate. Not me. “Clean your plate, children are starving in Armenia,” my grandmother would say and dutifully I did.
When I explained the perils of finishing my kids’ food, my somewhat thin and annoying acquaintance almost gagged and said, “Oh, I could never eat my children’s’ leftovers with all their germs.”
That ended our chances of developing a lifelong friendship. Sorry, women bond over extra pounds and their children’s half eaten cookies. Little Ellie gives me a lick of her bubble gum ice cream cone; I give my grandson half of my candy kiss. We taste each other’s margaritas and hot cocoa. We sample each other’s appetizers and desserts. That’s what families do, germs and all, which is probably why the number one resolution is weight loss.
Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.