This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Well I don't know about you, but I don't have a fucking clue how to do my job after ten days of not doing it—I am cheese now, I am the cheese man, my legs are made of them little Lindt things and my blood pulses thick with gravy, I cannot comprehend anything that is not prefaced by that magical Christmas-themed BBC logo card with the twinkling snow effect and that little alive sprout—and I am looking at my laptop screen just bewildered. What in... how the fuck do I do my job? How do type? Shh, shh. Just scroll through all the emails people inexplicably sent over Christmas and slowly delete a few until home time. Straight to bed and soup for dinner. Fend off the reality of an unfestive world with hot bowls of food and blankets.
But January is a long month, arduous and gray. And things are going to happen in it, every day of it. You need to know these things if you are to conquer them. You need to prepare for the onslaught of a harsh and uncaring month. Here's everything that's going to happen to you in January.
CONFUSION ABOUT THE YEAR
In olden times—come gather round, younglings, and let me tell you about the olden times—in days of yore, they had this special kind of money your grandma used to use to send you money for your birthday, and it was called "checks." You had to take checks to a bank to cash them. They were slightly too large to be folded up neatly in a wallet. You had to line up and hand them to a person. They would take three days to clear. It feels like grandma was really trying to make you earn your money, right? Is anything really worth $12? Is anything really worth lining up and talking to a person for? The answer, as checks will tell us, is "no."
But the old joke would go: well now I don't know what year to write on my checks.
And then—again in olden times, in the past—when you went to school and opened your fresh new workbook for January and went to write the date in the top right-hand corner of the page—or left-hand corner, depending on how deranged and insistent your teachers were—you would write last year's date, and then have to scrub it out with pen and write it again, and, oh god you've gone over the edge just rip the page out and start again.
And the old joke would go: I don't know what year it is! What am I like!
But then now, like, when do we ever write the year down? How frequently do we need to know the year? And the truth of it is: the only time we ever need to know the year is when we are calculating someone's age based on their birthdate, possibly while checking their ID at the bar. And we all do it in the same way: we figure out how old they were in the year 2000 (the easy bit) then add however many years have gone on from there (hard bit), and then sort of look up and to the right a bit, and... yeah, OK, you're 25? Yes: I can serve you alcohol. It can take anything up to March to figure out what year it is. Anything after that and it's possible you've had a brain injury.
IT IS THE FIRST OF THE MONTH, AND EVERYONE IS DOING DRY JANUARY
"No alcohol for me, thanks," they are saying, holding their hand over an empty wine glass. "I'm doing Dry January." You nod. That's not a thing. "Yeah," they say, stretching their arms, their voice pitching up a little with the exertion. "Went for a run earlier."
This is not interesting news. It is not inherently interesting to not drink for 30 days. The challenge is that it is a rub against the ordinary (nobody does Dry January because they are light drinkers who can easily do it—they do it because alcohol is part of their life, a social lubricant, a crutch), but not enough of a rub for it to be anything other than dull. Because the hoops you have to jump through, my God. A friend of mine asked me to an after work tea shop last January. Imagine: a tea shop. Tea! No alcohol! Just tea! For an entire evening!
Do you know what three rounds of tea does to the human bladder? Do you know how dry your mouth goes after three entire teapots of Earl Grey?
My dudes, I ate four brownies that night.
"Heh," they say. "I actually feel kinda good. I might see if I can keep it up a little longer, maybe until summer?"
TEN DAYS INTO THE MONTH AND EVERYBODY IS DRUNK
"Dry January is an entirely unsustainable concept!" they say, over Jägermeisters chased by rum. "The one month we crave and need alcohol is the one month we shun it!" Two bottles of vodka and entire thing of, of all things, advocaat. "Why did I try to be better!" they say, crying openly. "Why can't I ever be more!"
PEOPLE WHO DON'T ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THEIR DRINKING HABIT AT ALL AND THEN WONDER WHY THEY ARE TIRED AND SAD ALL THE TIME
"I'm glad I don't make empty promises of self-improvement to myself! [_Sound of an entire pint being very loudly gulped in one_] Those people who do Dry January are such smug fux! 'Ooh, I don't drink, I am an angel person!' Fuck off out of you! PUBS UNTIL I DIE! PUBS UNTIL I DIE!" –Me
"Ugh I slept so badly last night. Why am I tired all the time? Why can't I sleep?" –Me
"Haha, bit of a weird one: I spent all my money on beer so now I can't buy us dinner tonight? Can you get this one?" –Me
"Why can't I concentrate today? On the one constant and enduring love in my life: content? I only had two beers and a whiskey last night, before five hours of fitful and erratic sleep." –Me
"I, honestly, cannot wait to die." –Me
YOU TRY AND TACKLE THE SALES BUT HAVE A BIT OF WOBBLE AND EVENTUALLY YOU WILL LOOK BACK AT THIS WITH HINDSIGHT AND SEE IT AS THE EXACT START OF A CRISIS
Look at yourself, look around you: because you are in a line of 20 people winding around a provincial branch of John Lewis with the following discounted items: new sieve (-60%), big oven glove (festive theme but you'll use it year-round and it's only $3), impractically large novelty keyring (Kevin the Minion dressed in a scuba outfit, roughly the size of three oranges), new cheese grater (it comes with a miniature grater for nutmeg!), Christmas-themed chutney 'n' cheese set ($6), one unstuffed cushion cover (you do not realize it doesn't come with the cushion until the cashier takes the display cushion out, and by then it is too late to go back and get another, tagged up, filler cushion, and so you resolve to go back to John Lewis to get a naked cushion at a later date but it's a very specific size one that they discontinued in November)($6), toast rack (who the fuck racks out toast? Just eat it. Eat toast off a plate. If anything, a rack makes it cooler quicker)($1). And then you look around and think: I don't need these things. And then you look around and think: if anything, I could afford these any time. Why don't I just buy them any time? And then you look around and think: is anything worth this pain? No. Nothing is worth this pain. And you dump the whole lot into a cash register display of decorative chili oils and sprint out of the store so quickly and while crying that a man with a walkie talkie chases after you accusing you of stealing, and then, like the weak little creature you are, you go home and drop $300 on Asos jumpers that don't properly fit you.
YOU MAKE A BIG FUSS ABOUT BEING FIT THEN HAVE A LOAD OF LEFTOVER CHOCOLATE BECAUSE IT WON'T EAT ITSELF
Back to the gym for the full "half-hour sign-up procedure with a hench dude in a polo shirt jabbing his thumbs artlessly at a touch screen before upselling you the $110-a-month package," are you? Complimentary backpack, right? Went twice in one week (well, once: second time you took your kit to work and back which sort of counts)? Only, what's this: oh, it's that entire box of liqueur chocolates, two alternative chocolate option Chocolate Oranges, and that entire tin of leftover Quality Street that everyone in your family inexplicably doesn't like despite them being the best ones, that your mom somehow convinced you to take home with you. Well: It's rude not to consume these things. What are you going to do, keep them in a cupboard until they go all furry and gray? No. No. Best to ditch the gym and have a caramel cup 'n' First Dates night at home. Oh, look: You just put a pound on.
YOU TRY AND TAKE A GIFT BACK AND THE CASHIER ON THE SPECIAL GIFT RETURN DESK LOOKS AT YOU LIKE YOU COMMITTED A BAD WAR CRIME
They work, the returns desk dwellers, behind a special desk, a special low desk, a special low desk behind which basic actions such as "checking for a tag" or "taking a jumper off a coathanger" seem to take 60 or 70 times longer than usual, a bizarre alternate universe with a spiraling line behind it, and you bring your item back—for some reason your grandmother got you a onesie that says 'KE/EP CA/LM AN/D CUD/DLE U/P' down it, each word broken by a central zipper—and they look at you like you are, i. scum for bringing back your granny's appalling onesie, like, bro, do you hate your gran?, ii. scum for potentially wearing this item, sullying the lining of it, bringing it back with the tags intact and trying to claim innocence, and iii. scum for needing the $29.99 so desperately this early in the month that you would line up for 45 minutes with a special gift receipt to claim it. And you are. You are scum.
HAVE THE SAME FUCKING TIRED CONVERSATION ABOUT CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR AT LEAST 15 DAYS INTO THE MONTH
First day back at work is great—you just hammer your flat and useless hands against your work keyboard like Elmo trying to play piano and buy your one and only salad of the year in a fit of health-centered pique at Pret ("It's got nuts on it! Nuts and leaves! And it almost tastes as good as a sandwich!")—apart from all the endless, endless, endless conversations with everyone about what their Christmas was like ("I went to see the fam. It was good to have some down time, you know?" –literally everyone) and how their New Year worked out ("Quiet one, really. Few drinks." –literally everyone). But now we are all trapped in a sort of mass uncomfortable conversational gray area, where:
i. Every person you see for the first time this year will say (with a sort of joking half-heartedness) "Happy New Year," and you have to say "Happy New Year" back, because Happy New Year;
ii. Everyone will ask you how your Christmas was and instead of just saying "fine" and be fucking done with it you will actually start relaying your Christmas to them—because Christmas is a precious time special to you and you want to share it, to grasp onto the last warm dying tendril of it —even though you know they don't care and you don't care;
iii. The entire shape of making-coffee-in-the-same-shared-kitchen small talk has now changed, is now exclusively about Christmas, about how quiet it was, about how you wish you didn't have to come back (joking!), about how it was really nice to see the family, you know, and then you pat your stomach and say: few too many chocolates, though (joking!);
iv. And this can all fucking go on until February, because nobody knows when to stop enquiring about Christmas, or New Year. Christmas broke up with us, all of us. Stop bringing Christmas back up in conversation. It was good, OK! It was fine! Stop mentioning it!
And the dust consumes this fetid earth, and the trees ease over from their roots, and the sea dries salty on the ground, and the people die and the animals die and the sun slowly starts to wane, and yet you hear it, still, distant but howling, a whisper on the wind: How was Christmas?
Time you fixed your shits up, kid! You know your shits have been bad for months! You need to firm those fuckers up with fiber! Eat a yogurt! Eat a six-pack of yogurt! Martine McCutcheon eats these, and she shits like a dream!
EVERYONE LONELY WANTS TO FUCK, EVERYONE UNHAPPY WANTS TO FUCK
January 3, according to the hundreds of thousands of PR emails I came in to work to find, is some sort of dating watershed: the day everyone cold and unspooned over Christmas reactivates Tinder and OKCupid and starts messaging with wild abandon, and the day everyone locked in a loveless marriage finally takes the decorations down and has a very real conversation over the leftover Cointreau about how it's probably time for a divorce. And so the dating world is like a zombie apocalypse out there: Everyone is wild-eyed and hungry for flesh, bumping from hyped-up burger restaurant to hyped-up burger restaurant to hold ketchup-stained hands with each other before going home to bone under a slightly-too-small blanket, a flurry of dickpics, a hailstorm of emergency pubic waxings. Welcome to January, a hyperdating version of hell.
A QUICK STOCKTAKE OF LAST YEAR'S PROMISES TO IMPROVE SHOW DELIRIOUSLY POOR RESULTS
Oh, something's fallen out of your wallet while you're taking your credit card out to pay for a load of fruit (you're going to have a three-to-six day phase where you get Really Into Juice): oh it's... it's all of your resolutions from last year? Haha, you don't remember making this. What's on here... "Work out more"? Heh. Well, there were those four yoga classes you did with that Groupon. "Cook more healthy meals"... pretty sure I made chicken once, so. "Connect w/ famil—" listen, it's not my fault they don't know the rules of Monopoly. "Save 5 percent of pay every month" hahahahahahahaha. "Ask for payrise at wor—" look, the thing is, right, is having dreams will kill you. "Meet someone significan—" lists are stupid and for idiots! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to spend 40 minutes cracking a single pomegranate into bits so I can juice the fucker! Happy New Year, Sir!
YOU SPEND A THOUSAND HOURS OF YOUR LIFE Vacuuming UP PINE NEEDLES
Pine needles in your feet and in your slippers. Pine needles in your socks and in your shoes. Pine needles in alcoves and under carpets. Your rugs are needles now. Your skirting. And in the middle of it all, pine needle ground zero, that gray empty area where the Christmas tree once was, surrounded by needling chaos. Fuck Christmas. Fuck Christmas trees. Fuck everything.
THE SAD GRIM SIGHT OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE GRAVEYARD
It is quite sad though, seeing the trees all out on trash day, what once was loved left outside now to rot, browning and wilting, trash bag taped around their bases, lined up like prisoners ready to be shot. Everything lives and everything dies, you think, from the top deck of your bus. Except January, which lasts forever.
YOU ARE POOR AND EVERYONE AROUND YOU IS POOR
"EARLY PAYDAY, BITCHES! You get a present! You get a present! You get a shot! I get a shot! Ubers home! Ubers all the way home! Cocaine! Cocaine and Ubers! Christmas cocaine and Christmas Ubers! TWENTY. FIVE. POUND. PLUM. PUDDING. FROM. HARRODS. YOU. SNUB. DICKED. MOTHER. FUCKERS." –You, on December 24
"Oh Jesus Christ the last time I ate something that wasn't a single slice of white bread was last year" –You, on January 24
YOU FINALLY ESCAPE THE GRAY WET MISERY OF JANUARY, OF AUTUMN WITHOUT THE COLOR
January 28, that's how long you need to last. That's the general date that everyone on a monthly direct-deposit run will get paid on. "Oh, but I get paid a slightly different day to everyo—" nobody cares. We are in this together, now. We are all in our winter coats with our blankets round us, tins of Heinz Big Soup in the cupboards, soldiers in the storm. The nights are dark and early. The afternoons are gray and long. The central heating and the blasted wind are playing havoc with our skins. There is no merriment in mulling things anymore. There is nothing to look forward to, no candles to reverently light. January is a slog, of rain that goes sideways, of emotionlessly eating great large wedges of Christmas cake leftover from the good times, of counting out your big mug of change at the Coinstar machine, hoping you'll have enough for a big thing of pasta and some tomatoes. Still, not long left now. Only... god, how many more days of this? Oh god. Oh god.
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