Way Too Much Symbolism Rides on January

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January is not like the rest of the year. I don’t know anybody who likes January. And February’s not so great either.

Too much rides on January, too much symbolism, too much hope. Our years are too top-heavy. We shouldn’t hold our breaths for January. But we do.

We wait expectantly to see what the new year brings, or at least we talk about waiting expectantly, as if a new year were a delivery truck.


Others of us make resolutions in January, but later we realize they might be hard to deliver.

So we go back to waiting for the truck to see what the new year might bring. Good news or bad?

I exaggerate, of course, but that’s all right. It’s January and life is black and white, a list of do’s and don’ts.

January is made for TV, network TV, nice and simple. A ball drops in Times Square. An old man hobbles off stage left. A cocky newborn in diapers, miraculously walking moments after birth, enters stage right.

This is why we should not take January seriously. It is an aberration. Never judge a year by January. Yes, this is a resolution. It will be broken.

Sometimes we don’t even wait for January to end before we’re sizing up a new year. Maybe we’ll give it a week or two and already we’re looking for a trend, a tone, for the year.


What does it mean that you quit aerobics? You are (a) a lazy slob destined for a heart attack (b) not a joiner, destined for nights alone in front of the tube (c) someone who enjoys more intellectual pursuits, destined for a Nobel Prize. We do all this even though the emergence of a year’s personality is impossible before, say, June, by which time we’re already thinking about next January--”Who knows, maybe next year, I’ll. . . .”

This is known as looking ahead. All Americans do it, incessantly, relentlessly. To stop, you must enroll in a 12-step program. Then you can tell everyone you meet, incessantly, relentlessly, that you are living one day at a time.

But even politicians get 100 days before we’re reading about what a visionary/scaredy-cat and/or hard worker/long lunch taker he or she is.

New years are different. They need a label right away, preferably a designer label, a dictate from somebody who can set the right tone--the correct tone, political or otherwise, preferably a combination thereof.

Is this Donna Karan’s year or L.L. Bean’s? Are we to eat arugula or iceberg, sweet potatoes or miniature carrots? Should we all become vegetarians?

In and out lists are to new years what Cliff’s Notes are to Trends in Medieval Greek Literature, the graduate course. And the retention ratio is about the same too.


I remember that last year belonged to The Woman, and that the ‘80s was about greed. I remember that Queen Elizabeth called 1992 an annus horribilis , which just goes to show, once again, how very different the very rich are from you and me.

If your daughter-in-law decided to sunbathe topless while having her toes sucked by someone other than your son in the presence of your grandchildren, would you chose Latin to let the world know how you feel?

No doubt the queen, too, is waiting expectantly to see what the new year will bring. Here’s hoping that no members of the Royal Family get hit by a delivery truck.

But I don’t mean to imply that January is all bad. It is not. It is good for clearing heads, inhaling deeply and letting the air circulate through the recesses of the brain. This works better if done outside in the cold.

Unless you have one, of course. In January, people get sick a lot. If you can’t clean your brain, you’ll have to settle for blowing your nose. Honk for January if you can’t quite cheer.

This is not bah humbug, believe me. I know my traditions. Christmas is over, thank goodness for that. January is white sales and new sweaters, a dearth of parties, hunkering down. This year, too, there will be new people in Washington.


But I don’t want to get started on that. No sense in being too hopeful, not in January with all its tricks.

New Year’s Resolution for a Nation: Let’s stop daydreaming and get to work. January will be over sooner than we think. I mean, I hope . (Sorry, this hope thing can sneak up on us all.)