Q: My dear wife is insisting on the idea of a joint New Year’s resolution for the two of us. I’m not totally opposed to the idea in general, although I don’t think I’ve ever really succeeded in seeing any resolution through for an entire year. The thing is, for health reasons, she’s trying to get me to agree to go vegetarian in 2018. I’ll admit that I could stand to eat less red meat, but I don’t really want to give it up entirely. Would it be better for me to agree to her plan knowing full well that I’ll have to be deceitful or should I try to go along with it for real?
A: The Texanist is neither an officially licensed medical doctor nor a licensed marriage counselor. He is, though, both a married man of some years and a lifelong carnivore. And the shingle hanging outside of his office does identify him as a provider of “Fine Advice.” You have come to the right place—and with a real doozy of a situation.
New Year’s resolutions are a nice idea, but in actual practice they rarely have the desired effect, which is usually a grand change in behavior. Like you, the Texanist has never, as best he can recall, completed one to his or anybody else’s satisfaction. “The Texanist does hereby resolve to come up with and stick to a physical fitness regimen in the coming year that will result in the loss of at least fifteen total pounds and a number of inches from his midsection.” “The Texanist does hereby resolve to meet the deadlines which he has prearranged with is editor.” “The Texanist does hereby resolve to come up with and stick to a physical fitness regimen that will result in the ability to peer down and—without craning his neck—see the tips of his boots.” “The Texanist does hereby resolve to reduce his nightly consumption of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.” “The Texanist does hereby resolve to pay attention when the missus is talking.” “The Texanist does hereby resolve to fish more in the coming year.” The Texanist could go on, but he will not, as he imagines that you have your own scrap heap of unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions upon which to ruminate.
The thing is, you and the Texanist are not alone in our annual shortcomings. A recent study on the subject of New Year’s resolutions determined that a full 88 percent of those who make such agreements with themselves ultimately fail. Completely unsurprisingly, the setting of unrealistic goals proved to be the major hurdle.
To ask a meat eater to abruptly go green is no small request. And to ask a content meat eater to go green against his will is nothing more than an invitation for disappointment. Your helpmeet, while probably well-intentioned, is setting you up for failure.
The Texanist cannot in good conscience counsel you to enter into a contract with your wife that you intend to breach the first time you pass by your neighborhood steakhouse. This would be wrong. But neither can the Texanist advise you to enter faithfully into the same agreement given that you’d have about the same minuscule chance of success as he would.
Still, the Texanist wants to leave you with some sort of option. Instead of going cold tofurky, which would only serve to open you up to certain failure, the Texanist recommends renegotiating the terms of your spouse’s proposed New Year’s pact.
Have you ever heard of the theory of moderation? It’s an approach whereby one exercises restraint with regard to the good things in life. The Texanist has himself had some success with this method (specifically, the strategy known as “portion control”) and would propose lobbying for an agreement that includes a promise of a small helping of self-control rather than total abstention. Though your wife should feel free to go entirely meat-free, perhaps your end of the bargain should be made up of baby steps, rather than a great leap into the unknown. Instead of doing away with all the meats all at once, offer to reduce the number of steak nights to a weekly maximum of one, honor the burger Tuesdays every other Tuesday, and make the weekend road trips dedicated to barbecue discovery monthly affairs instead of weekly. You’ll surely find this alternative to be both more realistic and more palatable. Fingers crossed, maybe your wife will too.
Here’s to success and a healthy, happy, and less arterially clogged new year to you and yours.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available at [email protected] Write to him there and be sure to tell him where you’re from.