What are you giving up in January? Smoking? Alcohol? Meat? Your sense of humour? All of the above, or a carefully chosen selection?
It has become customary in recent years for some people to adopt abstinence for the first month of every year, sometimes (but less often) with the pious intention of continuing this new regime throughout the year.
— Dry January (@dryjanuary) December 14, 2016
Yet it’s a sad indication of our times: despite female liberation, the declines in poverty, globalisation and all of the other merits of the 21st century, we can’t have a bit of fun without a good old-fashioned dose of penance.
In fact, abstinence – often known as ‘Dry January’ – has gone beyond custom and been absorbed by the omnipresent Nanny State, which increasingly plasters advertisements across public transport encouraging us to better ourselves by abandoning the treats that give us the most enjoyment – and like lambs to the slaughter, we increasingly capitulate.
When did we become a nation of weaklings, riddled with guilt and self-loathing, keen to desert life’s simple pleasures?
Exhibit A: Veganuary. This started three years ago, and ‘aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go Vegan for the month of January.’
Q: What's worse than Dry January?
A: Veganuary pic.twitter.com/6wU2OOXUwH
— Alex Lewis (@Alex_Lewis_) December 19, 2016
‘A love of animals’ is the catalyst for ‘most’ and the movement’s website – you couldn’t make this up – is adorned with photographs of ducklings and baby rabbits, or ‘bunnies’ as they are probably referred to by the Veganuartics.
The problem isn’t veganism itself (although the diet denies adherents some of life’s most delicious nourishment). The issue is Veganuary.
If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, or concerned about the heinous conditions that animals are farmed in for mass production of ready meals and suchlike: excellent. Similarly, I don’t want to eat a battery hen or equivalent for as long as I live.
It’s up to you what you eat and how you eat it, just don’t think that by denying yourself meat and dairy for the first month of the year, you are injecting virtue into your diet.
Example number two: ‘Dry January.’ The idea is simple: don’t touch a drop of alcohol throughout the month of January.
Me when somebody asks if I'm doing Dry January https://t.co/X3jhTUnriI
— martyn (@martynhett) December 19, 2016
The campaign, run by UK charity Alcohol Concern, was launched in 2011. Alcohol Concern estimates that one in six adult Britons now participate in this abstention, which is indeed concerning.
Furthermore, the health benefits of dry January are widely disputed. Last year a professor of Health Sciences at York University said that despite Dry January’s popularity, it ‘does not mean it is effective.’
‘Unfortunately, this type of campaign has no rigorous evaluation,’ the professor wrote in the British Medical Journal. His comments were of course met with cries of protest. But he does indeed have a point.
Dry January is tedious. It sucks the fun out of life. It reminds us we should be concentrating more on the mundane. And it implies a certain degree of punishment for the fun had in the preceding months.
Optimism at the prospect of a new year is wonderful – optimism always is. Resolution is uplifting and encouraging and progressive. But pious abstinence for the first month of the year is tiresome. It’s indicative of our desire to have it all and have it now, but never to commit.
If you drink too much, drink less. If drink is ruining your life and that of those around you, stop. But don’t shake your head at every offer of a glass of wine or gin and tonic for the first month of the year.
In fact, January is so full of doom and gloom that it’s probably the time one most requires alcohol to make it through. Cheers to that.