A little hedonism would be good for us all.
"A passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young," said Oscar Wilde. Poor Oscar, though, who lived in unenlightened times and suffered for his pleasures. But the hell if I didn't learn a thing or two from his highly quotable self about living a velvety, extravagant existence.
Hedonism, which means the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence as life's highest calling, gets a bad rap. (Or at least becomes a brand for resorts that seem like they're trying too hard.) But I say, if it does no harm, then call no foul.
Surely, you should aspire to be your greatest self, to be self-actualized. But come on! If this is our only shot at living, we must indulge a little bit. Am I wrong, darling?
So reach for all the meaning you want, but here are my thoughts on how to sprinkle some easy sensual pleasures into your life. After all, as Charlie Chaplin said, "What do you want meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning." (P.S. Quoting dead people who want me to have fun is a pleasure of mine.)
Do something out of the ordinary and unexpected.
We all have our reputations to live up to. (Or down to, no judgment here.) If you're rocking a gold-star perfect vibe every day, there's a distinct pleasure to turning the tables. Bring out your inner badass, your sassafras, your hot AF everybody-wants-that-ass. Or if you're known to be scary, give that resting bitch face a rest and freak 'em out with your sweet side.
Here are some suggestions for finding your flip side:
1. Play hooky.
Are you the always-present trooper who shows up for every meeting, never lets anyone down, shows up for work even sick? Call the f*ck in already, and do something fun on your day off.
2. Learn to say no.
I know, I'm supposed to say "say yes" to everything, and that has its place. But god, there's too much to do, too many invitations, too much of everything. Relish the chance to turn down something you don't want to do.
3. Take off your undies in public.
Could be on a date, could be when you're just running errands on your own. There's nothing more fun than a secret shared or just for your own self. (And the breeze is nice, too.)
4. Do something your entire family will say "What?" to.
Sign up for a roller derby team. Sky-dive. Dirty dance. Yeah, baby's not in the corner anymore.
5. Make up a fake you.
Break out a Swedish ski instructor persona at a sh*tty meat-market bar. Or take a solo road trip and pretend you're a moody French woman at a rest-stop Hardee's. How you develop your character depends on whether you're a pantser or a plotter (i.e. you make it up as you go, or you like to come up with things ahead of time.) Either way is fine. Trust me, you'll love it and so will Mimi, your inner French feline.
6. Hire someone.
Yeah, I was raised with a solid work ethic and the belief that "I can handle this sh*t. All this sh*t." But holy sh*t, I really hate housekeeping. I still do a lot of it, but every now and again, I hire a service to get in there deep. (Into my mess, I mean.) Believe me when I say I'll gladly sacrifice a daily latte in favor of a professionally cleaned apartment.
7. Put on costumes.
Don't save these for Halloween. Who wants to walk through their entire time on earth blending in? Buy the dramatic black hat and wear it to Target, unabashedly. Put on a Dominatrix-inspired wig to dine at a posh place. Rent a latex dress and up the ante on your attitude, and see if you can't fake your way through a wedding at the Plaza. Or just wear it to ride the subway; you'll find your people.
Help yourself, but harm no one.
I like to talk a big, bad bitch game, but the truth is I'm a super-softy. Sometimes, just loving everybody feels so good (especially when you expect nothing in return). Sometimes, just giving in to the quiet I crave is the key. It might not sound all that lick-your-chops luscious, but I think these things are very important and very quietly hedonic in a world that asks us always to live our pleasures out loud.
8. Give some money away.
It sounds more saintly than sinful, but there's a charge of pleasure that comes from being able to take a crisp bill from your wallet and give it to someone in need. When you do it, don't question a panhandler's motives. Just trust. It's an indulgence that feels nice all around.
9. Treat someone you love.
Buy lunch for a young colleague who tells you funny stories. Or spring a no-reason, feel-no-guilt gift on a friend you really like. If money's an issue, just tell someone who needs it something really nice. I still remember a woman who told me, "You're going to be a big deal in your life. I just get this feeling about you," and said she'd always wanted to tell me. Later on, I passed the same compliment to a young colleague who'd been laid off. When she got her new job, it was fabulous and she reached out in gratitude. As I told her, I was just telling the truth.
Oh sure, this sounds like a personal betterment thing. But with everything going on everywhere in the world, when I take a time out to sit with a book, I feel positively decadent. If you're someone who says you just don't have time for it, please sit down with a novel soon. It might just change your life.
11. Go somewhere, all alone.
Like, really alone. Ditch your phone at home. Feel that absolute delicious freedom of being a part of the world without alerting the online world where you are. Buy yourself lunch. See a movie. Splurge at a sex toy store. Sit under a tree and just gaze at the sky. Stop feeling weird to be unencumbered. You're lovely on your own, and knowing that is a true pleasure.
12. Let yourself let go.
The truth is, pleasures — even simple ones — are deeply personal. But the worst thing we do to ourselves is say that we should feel guilty for any of them. So what if you like wandering around shopping malls, or enjoy The Bachelor? Stop beating yourself up for things you do.
And stop beating yourself up for things you don't do. There are things you told yourself you'd do that just don't suit you anymore, or maybe aren't as important to you as they once were: Books you can't finish, even if you think you should. Skills that your mom and her mom had that you just don't or don't care enough to.
We're all a little tired, a little lonely, a little lost, a little hurt. Or sometimes, a lot of those things. Yet, we're still always pushing ourselves to do more, be more, feel less, find someone, answer something. A little hedonism would be good for us all.
Please, if I could give you any advice to quote me on, it's this: "Enjoy the immense pleasure in saying, 'f*ck it.'" I wanted to chastise myself for this not being very Wilde-an, but I'm choosing to believe he'd like it because it's true.
So f*ck it. And yes, that felt good.