This year, faced with the usually fruitless but apparently obligatory task of making New Year's resolutions, I asked myself whether I am improving the state of the world by doing this. And if not, what can I do instead that would?
The answer is surprisingly obvious. The world would be much better off if I made New Year's resolutions for other people! For one thing, other people need them more. And for another thing, other people would undoubtedly be able to keep them better.
For all of you who are tired of making your own New Year's resolutions, feel free to adopt the following list. (Or give them to suitably imperfect relatives, friends or workmates.)
For the year 1988 I hereby resolve:
1. Not to talk about airplane crashes in front of someone who is about to travel on an airplane.
2. Not to tailgate (especially in a Bigfoot-type pickup truck).
3. Not to put a "Baby on Board" sticker on my car.
4. Not to put an "I Love (whatever)" sticker on my car.
5. Not to put any sticker on my car.
6. Not to complain about how much weight I've gained over the holidays if I wear a size 9 or smaller dress.
7. Not to block a line of traffic by waiting interminably for a parking place.
8. Not to speed up just as I reach a passing lane when there are cars behind me.
9. Not to make chauvinistic remarks in front of women. (I'll wait and do it behind their backs, as I do for blacks, Latinos, Jews and Catholics.)
10. Not to end a sentence with an extraneous "at." ("Where is the theater at?')
11. Not to subject other diners or moviegoers to my ill-behaved or crying children.
12. Not to kick the seat of the person sitting ahead of me at the movies.
13. Not to sit in the center of the row at the movies or a baseball game and then run in and out getting food.
14. Not to talk or whisper loudly in movies or any public place where others are trying to hear what's going on.
15. Not to talk about parties around someone who wasn't invited.
16. Not to assume that a woman bringing a car in for repairs must be mistaken about how the car has been behaving.
17. Not to assume that a man being kind or courteous to a woman has ulterior motives.
18. Not to assume that a woman customer knows nothing about and can't possibly comprehend mechanical or electronic equipment.
19. Not to scream in play outdoors at night, making concerned citizens anxious, wondering whether they ought to call police.
20. Not to park badly enough to ruin an adjacent parking space.
21. Not to scratch the paint of a misparked car with my car keys (even if they do deserve it!).
22. Not to assume the people I'm talking to have the same political or religious convictions I do, thereby insulting them when I denigrate opposing convictions.
23. Not to hang up without apology when I get a wrong number.
24. Not to ask the wrong number I reach if they're sure Janet doesn't live there (as if they're trying to hide her from me or they have broken into the house to answer the telephone).
25. Not to drive too fast on streets where children or pets may be at risk.
26. Not to wander in front of someone's camera as that person is about to take a picture.
27. Not to continually flip through TV channels with the clicker when other people are present. (Of course this is not meant for members of my family, especially not my husband!)
28. Not to smoke in "no smoking" areas.
29. Not to smoke in crowded areas even if there isn't a "no smoking" sign.
30. Not to smoke.
31. Not to play loud music in public places (or even in my own yard if it's going to annoy my neighbor).
32. Not to block a supermarket aisle by leaving my cart in the middle of it.
33. Not to let my dog attack unsuspecting passers-by, slobbering on them, mating with their legs, running their nylons or otherwise molesting them.
34. Not to push onto a crowded elevator or bus before the exiting passengers can get off.
35. Not to patronize others with pop psychological jargon. ("Get real," "own" your feelings, "buy off on").
36. Not to press fattening foods on friends who are dieting or drinks on those who are off the sauce.
37. And in general, not to do to anyone else anything I would not want them to do to me.