Lent is a time of self-denial. For a few days anyway.
To some, Lent is an intensely spiritual period when we abstain from certain luxuries or vices in order to feel closer to Jesus Christ and try to better understand his forty-day journey through the desert – during which he consumed no food and faced temptation from Satan. To others, Lent is a period of no particular significance to anyone (apart from those crazy Christians) that begins with pancakes and ends with chocolate eggs.
Whilst a column in which I lament the bastardisation of time-honoured religious festivals by avaricious confectionary corporations would, in no doubt, be a smash-hit, this column is going to focus on what I gave up for Lent. Or more precisely, what I didn’t give up.
I like to smoke. It feels nice, it gives me an excuse to spend as little time inside nightclubs as possible and it makes me look cool (or as cool as someone with no particular fashion sense, social skills or, indeed, friends can look). As a matter of fact, smoking is one of my few discernible character traits – hence the looks of scepticism when I announced to my friends that I was kicking the fags for Lent. My flatmates, being the ever-supportive chums that they are, immediately betted me a tenner that I wouldn’t last. I simply shook off their doubts; I could do it – I had God on my side!
Unsurprisingly, three days later I ashamedly went up to the tobacco counter at Sainsbury’s and asked for a pack of Mayfairs. As I puffed away on that dirty, delicious, cancer-inducing stick from heaven I felt dirty, as if I’d walked into one of Soho’s many fine Adult Stores and said ‘Could you recommend a DVD with some good Bukkake scenes?’ (Don’t pretend that you don’t know what that is). The guilt passed quickly, yet my friends are still making snide comments about how confident I was that I could give them up. Thankfully they’ve yet to start suggesting that God doesn’t have my back and asking ‘Where’s your Messiah now?’.
What non-smokers don’t realise is that it’s hard to give up. VERY hard. A seasoned smoker has to have the desire to kick the habit for good, which I didn’t. I fully intended to get up on Easter morning and enjoy a fag before eating my weight in chocolate; I like to smoke and I’m not giving it up just yet. Why put myself through the agony of denying myself nicotine for forty days if it’s not for good? Lent is supposed to be difficult, but not that difficult. Yes, we’re supposed to empathise with Jesus’ suffering, but I’m sure as hell not going to crucify myself on Good Friday. (Side note: Is it logistically possible to crucify oneself? I’ll have to ask my scientist friends).
We’re all habitual creatures. Some like to smoke, some like to eat chocolate. It’s difficult to make a major change to your routine, especially when others around you make no attempt to do the same, or in my case, reiterate their expectation of your failure every hour, on the hour. So to all who’ve already failed to uphold their Lenten promises, I absolve you. Don’t let others pass judgment upon you, especially the ones who didn’t even try. As for the bet my flatmates made with me, I’m going to honour that about as much as I honoured my decision to go smoke-free. After all, they know how flaky I am.