Life can’t be an Outback Steakhouse. No rules is just wrong | Just Jaggin' | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Life can’t be an Outback Steakhouse. No rules is just wrong

Trying to act responsibly in the absence of responsibility

click to enlarge Josh’s dinner. (We’re sorry you had to see this.) - CP PHOTO: JOSH OSWALD
CP photo: Josh Oswald
Josh’s dinner. (We’re sorry you had to see this.)

Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, I had the longest break from responsibility of my adult life. Work was breaking for the holidays and my wife, son, and daughter were headed to grandma’s for a visit. This was my window to eat, watch, and listen to whatever I wanted. But with great power comes great responsibility. And for the next five days, I spent much of my energy trying to slam shut the Pandora’s Box of diminished hygiene, productivity, and basic life skills that I so carelessly opened. 

I began vacation by trying to re-identify with my peer group by watching Costco portions of television. I hadn’t had time to finish The Haunting of Hill House since starting the series over two months ago. So from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., I watched the final four episodes. By hour four, I was so tired of those dolts talking about what was a dream and what wasn’t a dream, I was hoping Carla Gugino would knock on my door with a rat-poison tea party. Zero for one with holiday “activities.”

Living didn’t get any less weird from there. I stayed up later, slept later, and lost any reasonable scheduling for meals, as well as the definition of a meal. One day I ate a meatball hoagie, Jell-O salad, and fudge. For the next day’s breakfast, I had two sausage, egg, and cheese muffins from McDonald’s. Another day, I didn’t eat anything until 1:30 p.m. I tried to get a haircut, but saw the stylist who frequently mangles my hair through the window and scurried back into my car as she glared at me. I took a four-hour nap after a crazy morning of doing absolutely nothing. I can’t tell you how many times I brushed my teeth from the 26th to the 31st, but if you’re a gambling person, I’d put money on the under.

I’m not a great dresser, but these five days were an all-time low. I lived in sweatpants. I don’t even particularly like wearing sweatpants. The only thing anybody looks productive doing in sweats is exercising. Otherwise, you just look sickly. But I could not resist their siren song of inactivity. Trying to convince myself I was still on the straight and narrow, I tweeted about my “#vacationsweats” to make it sound cute that I was about to become a 600-pound shut-in. I was a suburban Frankenstein. I had all the pieces of a real human: hands, feet, sweatpants, but couldn’t quite figure the living part out.

In an attempt to regain some pre-vacation structure, I hit the grocery store … in sweats, of course. I cooked some chicken, cut veggies, and actually made and ate the entire salad. One hour later, I was manipulating an entire frozen pizza into my mouth and rummaging through my liquor cabinet like some kind of booze raccoon. I could not reverse engineer the monster I had become.

I may be exaggerating the debauchery. My activities are probably downright benign to anybody under 35. But I decided my life is actually easier — and dare I say more pleasurable — when held to a reasonable level of accountability. 

Jumping from one pleasure to the next is exhausting.

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