I’m a fan of self-flagellation.
Not the kind that gave you those weird feelings in your crotch when that albino angel guy whipped himself in The Da Vinci Code, so you can just calm down, you dirty, dirty dog.
The kind of self-flagellation where you do something shitty, and willingly make yourself feel shitty in return for it.
I was thinking about it this morning as I did my own self-flagellation routine, when I opened the medicine cabinet to get some ibuprofen for a particularly heinous hangover headache. I opened the cabinet, looked at the ibuprofen longingly, and then closed the cabinet door, unfulfilled. If I drank enough on a weeknight to warrant a hangover headache the next day, then guess what? No ibuprofen for me. This is my punishment, and I deserve this headache. Maybe next time I won’t order a shot with that beer, I’ll just order the shot, or the beer, but not both. And also all those Old Fashioneds.
I do this because, at the root of my very essence, I know how fast I can become Caligula if left unchecked. If I didn’t have a mental judge that yelled “Punish!” at me on a regular basis, I would have taken over all whiskey, chocolate, and Designing Women re-run producing countries in the world by now and installed my own corrupt and self-serving dictatorship in each of them.
(Related – I should never be put in a position of authority over other humans. Anytime the subject comes up at work about me potentially supervising other people and I tell the boss that I would make those people wish they had never born, he laughs like I’m kidding, and I just sit there stone-faced like a serial killer and spooky music starts playing, as if, from thin air.)
Sometimes I self-flagellate in advance to stop myself before the bad thing can even happen. Like when I think, “Maybe I should just drive by Arby’s”. In order to not end up shoving a Chicken Bacon & Swiss sandwich into my face, I mentally say, “If you even drive into the Arby’s parking lot, it will mean that you will be 1,200 pounds by this time next year, and I will make it happen if you don’t believe me.” Then I picture the news coverage of the fire department removing the exterior wall from my house in order to get me out because I’ve gotten so big that I can no longer fit through the door – and that stops me from going anywhere near Arby’s.
Is this extreme? Yep!
Have I put back on the forty pounds I lost six years ago? Nope!
It’s not because I magically stopped craving the Chicken Bacon & Swiss sandwich, I can tell you that much, because I crave that shit NIGHT AND DAY. It’s because I’ve placed a dire punishment on even putting a toe over the mental line that says, “Maybe you should just drive by Arby’s?” Yeah right. I know who I am, and if I even go near that place, Caligula will kill or die to get one of those sandwiches, and I’ll be sitting in prison a year from then, tipping the scales at exactly 1,200 pounds.
As an aside, don’t worry – I treat myself every now and then by thoroughly destroying some chicken fingers but, to be fair, I don’t have the same kind of past, complicated relationship with them as I do with that goddamned sandwich from Arby’s. That goddamned delicious sandwich. Because it’s not enough that it has bacon on it! Heavens no, that wouldn’t be enough! It has to have black pepper-crusted bacon on it, the sons of bitches. And then that black pepper mingles with the sweetness of the honey mustard sauce and fuuuuuuuuuck yooooooooou Arrrrrrbyyyyyyyyyy’s.
Now if this sounds like an anti-fun way to live, it’s really not all that bad, and it keeps me out of a boatload of trouble. I can also tell you that I effectively used this system to quit smoking six years ago, which is a 100% good thing.
One day, six years ago, I looked at my last half pack of cigarettes, closed my eyes, and said, “If you take so much as a drag off even one cigarette ever again in your life, you will have a stroke and keel over and die IMMEDIATELY. You wanna try me, Caligula?” And I never smoked again. I didn’t even finish the pack. I handed it to Bobby and said, “Please take these with you and throw them out for me.” Even beyond not actually smoking, I have no desire to ever touch one again, because the swift punishment I’ve set up in my mind for smoking is so severe.
When I don’t feel like working out? That’s when I call myself a worthless loser who will go back to being a fuck-up for the rest of her life if she doesn’t change into the workout clothes in the next ten seconds, and then I do the mental countdown of 10 – 9 – 8 – …
Effective? You bet!
The only thing is doesn’t really work on is my disgusting and unquenchable thirst for designer purses. Believe me, I’ve tried, too. I’ve stood in the line at Macy’s, with a Michael Kors or Badgley Mischka or whatever purse I MUST have at that moment in-hand, and called myself all kinds of names and assigned a myriad of severe punishments, but I’m still walking out, holding that new purse.
I’ve stood in the mirror at the store, purse on my shoulder and said, “You’re a gross yuppie if you buy this purse. Why don’t you go see if you can find James Spader’s character from Pretty in Pink and go on a date with him while you’re at it, you fucking cheerleader scum? Why don’t you just go make fun of Molly Ringwald in gym class for being poor? Why don’t you just leave here and drive straight to the voter’s registration office and change your registration to Republican? I can’t believe you’re doing this. You’ve totally bought into the fashion industrial complex that’s been parting women with their hard-earned money for years. YOU ARE SO STUPID. If you buy this purse, I will lose all respect for you.”
Doesn’t work. Still leaving with the purse. So, I’ve obviously still got a ways to go.
Maybe it’ll take actual, literal self-flagellation for that one? The next time I walk up to the counter at Macy’s, I’ll just start whipping myself in the back with the purse strap until I’m bleeding and have shards of flesh dangling from my back. Of course then they would force me to buy it anyway because they probably have some bullshit corporate policy against “bleeding onto merchandise and then leaving it in the store” or some such nonsense. Screwed there, too, then.
Guess that means more purses for me.