40 Days and 40 Nights: What Did YOU Give Up For Lent?

We’re one week into Lent, and some very worthy abstainers tell us how they’re faring…

| UPDATED abstinence Facebook fast fasting giving up Lent meat Quitting Saying No Sex smoking vegetarianism

It’s been just over a week now, and the harsh, hungry reality of most of our Lenten fasts is sinking in. We spoke to 7 people to see how they were getting on with ‘giving up’ both the conventional and the more unconventional indulgences…

Sex- Saskia Goldman

Giving up sex is a bit like renouncing your faith. At least, for me, anyway.  It’s hard to do, your community will judge you, possibly even render you an outcast, and you’re left with a big book in your room that would now make exceptional firewood. (Bible/Qur’an/Karma Sutra). I was just disillusioned with the stuff. That sticky, sweaty business just didn’t fit with my fresh, pancake-pondered Lenten start. It was no longer me getting turned over, but my new leaf. Triumphant, I did some research. First, I came across Wikipedia’s definition of Abstinence:

‘Restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure’.

They’re not really selling it to us, are they? I continued my search for a new community of sexless beings like myself.  The blue light of the Wikipedia hyperlink at the end of my dark tunnel of celibacy lead me to ‘Christian Monasticism’.  This sounded like a bit of a laugh, sitting around, chatting about everyone’s best mate in the sky every day. I watched a documentary about French nuns once, and they all got really pissed. I was getting somewhere. Who needs the horizontal mambo when you can watch Sister Act and gorge yourself on communion wafers?

Forty days and forty nights? Pah! If Jesus can survive in a desert, so can I.

Facebook- Dani Fenton

We’ve all been there. “Once I finish this paragraph, I’ll just have a quick check of Facebook.” An hour later you’re on the profile of a friend’s cousin twice removed, checking her 2008 holiday photos. Well no more! With the added pressure of being a finalist and a spiralling Facebook addiction, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent.

Now you might assume self-will would be enough but not so with this social networking site. So I got a friend to change and keep my password, and onwards I go.

Firstly, work is more boring and seems more foreboding. Without any planned distractions, I realise I might just finish my essay within the next few hours. Secondly, we forget the actual usefulness of Facebook in inviting us to events, and allowing one to check the guest list before clicking attending. It also allows you to pretend you have far more friends than you really do have, whilst perhaps leaving less time to cultivate true friendships.

So far this facebook-free time has allowed me to spend my time talking to people – either on the phone or real life (I know, right!) and has made me realise how much actual time I do waste looking at people’s irrelevant lives.

Meat- Molly Clarke

I gave up meat for lent and, of course, immediately found myself in a sequence of pub lunches. The rare occasions when I manage to get hold of a decent pub meal, on the basis that someone else’s wallet is suffering, lead to an order of either a hearty burger or a bleeding blue steak.

Instead, I sat at dinner in the Hawks’ club on Sunday evening eyeing up the arrogant, laddish, somewhat crude burgers around me, while the slender feminine form of my veggie option sat rather neglected.

In general I’m a bit of a meat ‘snob’. I’d rather watch someone shoot a rabbit from my bedroom window of a house in the middle of the Scottish highlands, have it skinned in the kitchen sink, and be eating it within a couple of hours (true story), than absentmindedly munch the flesh of a pig that looks disconcertingly like it’s been made out of plastic. I feel like someone’s trying to trick me; turning an animal into a vegetable.

I’m not the classic animal-lover; in fact I’m pretty much indiscriminately allergic to them. But I like to think there should be a level of respect in eating a fellow creature; an awareness that we’re only eating it because ‘we’ were able to kill it and, should it be otherwise, we would deserve the same jungle-law respect.

Sadly my first week of stringent no meat has cost me a few potential opportunities to raise my glass to the delicious animal that has found its way onto my plate. Instead, metamorphosed meat keeps creeping up on me, unsuspectingly disguising its animal nature in layers of processing. So far the determination to sniff out all disguises is carrying me through…

Smoking- Tom Bardsley

Aside from lowering your chances of lung cancer, emphysema, cardiovascular disease and general death, I don’t recommend quitting smoking.

Everyone talks about the obvious benefits and the satisfaction in exercising such will power, but no one mentions the anxiety, irritability or constant patronising remarks from housemates: “Keep it up!” “I know how you feel!” No, you don’t. Having quit for over a week, my patience is now running dangerously thin, and it’s the people around me that suffer.

Before, the greatest thing about permanently having a fag wedged in my mouth was that I never had to actually talk to people. If pub conversations rolled into something tiresome (i.e. rowing) I could always step out for a smoke.

But now I have to sit twitching and knotting my fingers together whilst they ramble about how their boat has “Really improved this term” or who they’ve just bumped. I’ll take my outdoor carbon monoxide relief instead, thanks.

The problem was going cold turkey: I reckon I was about two hours away from some sort of Trainspotting-esque experience so I’ve decided to grant myself one cigarette a day. Or maybe two a day. Or maybe just two packs a day, or maybe – as Bill Hicks did – try and only get through two lighters a day.

Masturbation- Will Barrow

Giving up masturbation for lent is a daunting prospect for any male. On day 1, having no idea where even to begin with my 40-day restraint, I whacked the question (not literally) into Google to see if it had any tips (again, no pun intended) on keeping my chastity intact for the next six weeks or so.

God bless Yahoo! Answers. Assorted responses below:

“Amputation, both hands…unless you’re an early developer. Then I suggest castration.”

“Don’t give up masturbation, give up religion. Problem solved.”

“Get married. I hope you’re not in a hurry.”

The Internet can be a pretty merciless place at times, can’t it? Fair to say it’s been a rather gruelling five days since last Wednesday. I’m told it gets easier after week one, but cumpletion of this (h)arduous task could be a tall order. One thing’s for sure – I’ll need a stiff drink when this is all over…

Makeup- Leaf Arbuthnot

Since I ineptly began shoving on eyeliner at about fourteen, I have always admired those girls who don’t wear any makeup. I never use much myself – it takes me about one minute each morning to ‘put on my face’ – but I do feel damn ugly when I’m not wearing any at all. And that bothers me. It shouldn’t, of course, because, as we’ve all been told by our mothers, it’s all about being a nice person as opposed to a pretty one. Yet there is a persistent, unedifying strain of insecurity within me that conspires to make my day feel less super if I haven’t at least tried to make myself vaguely attractive to the world at large.

Not wearing makeup is interesting – concerned questions bombard from all sides, “Are you tired/in mourning/working too much/ill?” You become obsessed with the idea that your eyes have halved in size and that interlocutors aren’t looking at your eyes or whatever, but at your spot. There are plusses – feeling wholesome and pure, an extra one minute after breakfast, looking old-school. But overall, such benefits as these have not been worth the chronic mirror/camera fear.

Saying “No”- David Parke

I often think that as a society, we’ve forgotten the true meaning of Lent. So this year I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and refuse to give up something boring like chocolate, alcohol or religious observances, and instead go for something a bit more ‘outside the box’. For that reason, I’m attempting to give up saying “no” and hoping I can last forty days.

I’m not going to lie; it’s been a bit of a mixed bag so far. Although there’s a sense of satisfaction gained in fulfilling people’s requests, I can’t help feeling this is starting to spiral out of control.

On the first day alone I ended up with a Nectar card, multiple leaflets about diet plans and church groups, 4 copies of the Big Issue, and a profile on www.chinalovematch.net. I almost broke when I got propositioned in the toilets in Cindies, but quickly invented a rule that if I put my fingers in my ears, and therefore don’t hear the whole request, then I’m exempt from having to respond.

I’ve discovered that the key to not being exploited is essentially to cut down on human interaction. In short, if you see me around town, please don’t come up to me and ask for a massage.