A few things to stop saying in the new year

December 31, 2012 

Forget about the usual resolutions, my friends: Forget about losing 15 pounds, alphabetizing your underwear, or whatever else you’re half-heartedly promising yourself you’ll do this year.

Face facts: You don’t need to lose 15 pounds because if you’re older than 45 the only people looking at you closely are other women older than 45, and all they’re thinking is “Do I look like her from the back?”

And unless guests need to wear hazmat masks when they step into your foyer, your house is probably clean enough. Stop watching “Hoarders” and telling yourself you’re out of control if you have more than three pairs of unmatched socks or haven’t done the dishes since this morning. And if you haven’t done the dishes since last week, so what? You don’t have to worry about that, either. Just bury them in the yard. Think of it as a new kind of crockery composting.

We need real resolutions; we need to change things, small and large, that matter. For women everywhere, therefore, I would like to offer the following New Year’s Resolutions of Things We Will Not Say in 2013:

1. “Oh, it’s only me!” Stop putting the word “only” in front of yourself as something to hide behind, like a veil or a fan, as if it’s girlie-cutesy. Such behavior turns out to be neither adorable nor feminine but is instead annoying, unnecessary and self-deprecating in the worst possible way. And that’s not just my girlish way of looking at things, either. “Only You” is a great oldies song, but automatically saying “It’s only me” is no way for a grown-up to talk about herself.

2. “I just wanted to say that ...” That’s another automatic apology that has got to go, folks. Just say what it is you just want to say. It’ll feel much better and, since life is short, you need to spend your time on the stage saying the important lines with finesse and aplomb.

3. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be OK with it, even though it’s not what I’d originally planned or anything.” Let’s make 2013 the year we leave our evil friend, Passive Aggressive Whiner, in the dust. If you don’t want to accept something, make your “no” emphatic and take responsibility for your action. If you are willing to be flexible, then do it without feeling sorry for yourself.

4. “No, really, they’re very comfortable.” You’re kidding, right? Have you seen platform high-heeled shoes? They look like they were designed for The Spanish Inquisition. Have you watched us try to walk in these things? It’s like a circus act. I have seen perfectly sane adult women swaying in gusty breezes because they have lost the ability to balance themselves. They look like they’re leaning forward and about to topple, but they blithely wave away all concern for personal safety by chirping, “Just look at the sexy peep toe!”

5. “This has got to change. Somebody has to do something about this. But what can I do? I’m only one person.” Every woman has a “this” keeping her up at night: the rights for girls to be educated wherever they live; violence against those who can least protect themselves; the systematic exploitation by some corporations of the environment; the plight of abused animals. We wring our hands and break our hearts, believing ourselves powerless. That is the first thing that needs to change.

Once again, we have to take away the word “only.” We have to turn the phrase “I’m one person” into a battle cry and a cheer of encouragement. You’re a woman, a citizen, a person of conviction. Not only do you have courage, a voice and a vote – you’ve got a whole gorgeous year to make trouble.

Gina Barreca, an English professor at the University of Connecticut and columnist for the Hartford Courant, may be reached at ginabarreca.com.

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