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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

I Hereby Resolve…

January 15, 2005

So, what did you do New Year’s Eve?

It was miserably cold, wasn’t it, and combined with the unimaginable horror of the situation in South Asia plus the tail end of a bout of bronchitis, I found it difficult to get into a spirit of celebration. On the one hand, I had neither the tickets nor the inclination to join the usual suspects in seeing the old year out; on the other, I felt that custom demanded some recognition of the occasion. Finally, faced with an evening of more scenes of devastation coupled with Gibson’s endless whining to go out and pee another six drops, I put on the four requisite layers, tied them all together with a couple yards of woolen scarves and lumbered forth a block and a half to spend a few hours in the bosom of some of my family.

"Oh good, Gram, you’re here. Come on, we’re gonna play Spoons." Oh goody, I thought, Spoons. Musical chairs with fingernails. Aloud, I said, "Gee, Spoons, I haven’t played that for thirty years. What fun!"

Well, it was. And for nearly two hours we passed cards and grabbed for spoons and screamed so loudly with both laughter and anguish that at least one neighbour was observed out on their front stoop, obviously trying to determine where the carnage was being perpetrated. Finally, glasses askew, band aids on both hands, and my 1942 Beauty Queen hairdo, fussed up especially for the occasion, wilted and listing to port, I pleaded pee-time for Gibson, re-wrapped my somewhat damaged person and fled into the snow and -40.

At home, having first taken Mr. Gib out to be drained of his pent-up piddle, I poured the last of the Bailey’s into a glass – well, okay, maybe it was a glass and then another glass - and saluted the brand new year. A few minutes later, I fielded a couple of phone calls wishing me the best for 2005 as well one from someone who ‘jes luffed me an’ wash gonna come sh-she me ri’ away if’n shummon cou’ jes bring him.’ As nifty as that sounded, I assured the latter phoned that I was too tired to be much company, hung up, and sought my repose. In the morning, I got up, made an assessment of my life and wrote out my New Year’s resolutions.

Yes, well, the New Year’s resolution.

Lord, how I despise those endless lists of promises and compromises. And though I know that you’re looking to me for leadership on this issue, it grieves me deeply to tell you that you’re looking in the wrong direction, that I am a weak reed, bending in the wind.

The thing is, what exactly are our most fervent intentions? Stop smoking; start walking. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Curl your hair; uncurl your lip. Bite your tongue; don’t bite your nails… the list is endlessly depressing and besides, what good does it do? You know, going in, that the new diet you begin this morning will, by evening, have you eating peanut butter with a spoon in an attempt to assuage those seven hours of stringent self-denial. You know the daily walk is doomed before the ink has dried on the page. You know…well, I don’t have to go on with this litany of self-negated reformation, we both know what an exercise in futility this whole resolution thing is.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t believe in taking stock and seeing what can be done better.

Once again I have every intention of getting those boxes of old photographs into albums so that I don’t have to rummage, every time, to find that pertinent one I know is in there, somewhere. Certainly, I will make every effort to establish a regular schedule of beauty care, thereby ensuring no surprises in the matter of hair colour and/or the appearance or not, of eyebrows. It goes without saying that starting as soon as this is finished, I plan to begin next month’s column so that my beloved and beleaguered editor need never again stew and fret its possible non-appearance. And, yes, naturally, I have plotted another new diet, the old one having gone sedately to its grave bearing smudges of peanut butter and flakes of butter tart pastry.

A new diet is, of course, a given – the quest for a taut and well-tuned body never far from my mind for lo! these many years. Not only that, at weigh-in last Tuesday, it was determined that our little chapter (14 members) of TOPS had gained an aggregate 36(!) pounds during the past 12 days of you-know-what and that my own share had been substantial. "Not to worry," we were told by June Hurd, our illustrious leader. "Remember, it’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year’s Eve that make you fat; it’s what you eat between New Year’s Eve and Christmas." Words to live by, June, and though they were instrumental in the development of Diet # (by my best calculations) 172, they did not resonate with me as did annual trying-on of the blue dress.

Ah, the blue dress.

Now, I know that the words ‘dress’ and ‘Ellen’ rarely crop up in the same sentence and for that, there’s an excellent explanation: I gave up dresses for Lent, oh let’s see, back in about 1965, and never saw any really good reason start again. But every now and again, a well-submerged feminine gene raises its frivolous head and demands equal time with the slacks and jeans. The last time it caught me all unawares and defenseless, was several years ago, in front of a sales rack in Saans. I had gone in to find a denim shirt; I came out, dazed and ill, with a blue denim dress.

It’s ankle length and slightly fitted, sleeveless and with a neckline that skims my collarbones, which are sometimes in evidence, depending where I am with my latest eating regimen. There are red and yellow tulips printed at the empire waistline and around the bottom of the matching jacket which fits as if it had been made to my somewhat changeable specification. And it was upon that fit alone that I had made the decision to appease my girly itch.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the dress was a whole size smaller than the jacket and no amount of sucking in or rearranging was going to make much difference. The truth was, unless I could make one of those diets work – and I mean really work – I would never have the nerve to wear that blue dress out in public.

So why didn’t I just take it back to Saan’s? Good question and I can only tell you that my tough little female gene really, really likes that dress and is hanging onto it with eyeteeth and toenails. It’s denim, got pretty trim, and shows off my occasional collar bones and the first morning of each New Year, I take it out and try it on.

It is a wee bit looser in the heinie, this time, but still smooshes my bosoms flat as fried eggs and there is no doubt in my mind that whatever resolutions I eschew, the diet one is there for the long haul. That one, and the one that suggests it should be another 30 years before I agree to another evening of Spoons.

I may be a weak reed and prone to eating peanut butter right out of the jar, but I am not without a strong streak of self-preservation.

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