Even though we are getting ready pronounce our New Year Resolutions I bet you don’t know the real historical background.
Now don’t hold me to this ‘cause some embarrassing errors might be found but this is what I heard.
It all got started way back in late December of 1777 when George Washington’s wife Martha began pointing out some of his shortcomings. Now at that point old George was just the commander of the Continental Army — he had not yet become President so he couldn’t really issue an executive order to get her to cease and desist.
GW’s primary goal at that time was to win the Revolutionary War not fight a “Resolutionary War.”
Anyhow, Martha made several observations on how her husband could better himself. Her major gripes were:
1) His wig was dreadful
2) Those white stockings made him look feminine and
3) He had no business trying to take those boys out to fight at Valley Forge in the cold weather.
She encouraged the General to make amends on those points going forward.
Of course George, like many husbands of past and present, completely ignored her, but he did come up with his own resolutions. He decided to win the war, become President and go down in history as a Founding Father.
Washington’s resolutions were so extraordinarily successful that it encouraged others to try out the idea. Thus was born the ritual of New Year’s Resolutions.
Skipping to the present day I too share General Washington’s pain. My wife has made some resolutions on my behalf and they are as follows:
1) Get a new truck
2) Get some new clothes
3) Quit spending more money on fishing stuff than clothes
4) Go to a hair stylist
5) Quit chewing tobacco and leaving little spittoons around the house
Since I’m not a commanding general or reigning President I have less power to completely ignore her, so in the interest of fair play here’s an argument for both sides.
She says my truck is old, funky and nasty. Neither she nor my daughters will ride in it, nor will they be seen in the same vicinity as Big Red, as I lovingly call it. On the other side of the ledger, I agree that is old and funky. But not nasty. It runs nicely although it does have some flaws. It burns a little oil, leaks transmission fluid, has a world class squeak in the steering mechanism and the dashboard has dry rotted, causing it to fall into large, jigsaw-puzzle-type pieces.
It is however a pickup truck and it hauls, dirt, gravel, branches, and dead animals if necessary. What should one expect of such a working vehicle?
On balance, however she is probably right but I’m going to have to think about it.
On the topic of a new wardrobe, she says I need some pants, shirts, updated sweat shirts and a Sunday suit. I counter with the fact that I’ve got dozens of khaki pants and blue jeans. Are there some other kinds? My sweat shirts are comfortable and utilitarian although admittedly old. One thing that bothers her is that she can tell exactly how old because they have things like “Morgan County Football 1999” on them.
As for a Sunday suit I currently have one that I wear to church, to weddings and funerals. As far as I know my reputation has not been put into question because of that suit. I could, however bend on this request if she will order them over the Internet and I don’t have to go shopping.
It is true that I spend too much money on fishing stuff and so I’m going to find out how much she spends on those new clothes and spend a dollar less on modernizing my fishing tackle. That should be agreeable to both parties.
As for going to a hair stylist, it is quite simply a ridiculous request. I like going to Bulldog Barber Shop in Madison and catching up on the fishing reports.
Furthermore, they have reasonable rates for what needs to be done to my severely receding hairline. Any respectable stylist would take one look at my greying, thin hair and faint dead away. I don’t even think they would know how to navigate around my big ears without causing some kind of injury. No hair stylist for me.
Lastly there’s the chewing tobacco thing. She’s right and I’m wrong — period. I need to quit but even if have a relapse I’m not going to leave little spittoons around the house. That ought to be fair.
The final scorecard for my New Year Resolutions between man and wife reads like this: 3 on the yes side — 1 maybe — and 1 absolute no.
George Washington will probably roll over in his grave when he hears that I’ve caved in but hey, I’m no Founding Father.
Alvin Richardson is an educator, former coach and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.