Letting yourself go is not exclusively a male pursuit, of course. It's just that men can get away with it. Last year, Tyra Banks publicly defended herself after photos of her in a swimsuit looking less than svelte were published in the tabloids. Jennifer Love Hewitt was on the cover of People magazine in December next to the headline stop calling me fat! after gossip blogs published photos of her in a bikini with captions like i know what you ate last summer. She's a size 2. This happens because we still secretly believe that a woman's job is to look good. Added girth on a man can be a marker of success, and a way of dealing with the stress that comes with it. You make it through another day in which you somehow manage to close another deal or file another brief. You stare blankly at bumper stickers on the freeway, or wedge yourself into the subway as the conductor squawks "STAND CLEAR DA CLOSING DAWS!" At last, you're home. What's nexta five-mile jog and a dinner of arugula and Evian?
Like hell. First you'll rinse the grime of the commute from your mouth with a bottle or two of pilsner. You'll inhale chips by the handful. With your hanger steak and your wedge of gooey French cheese, you'll pour the Rioja the wine-shop guy recommended. Before you collapse on your mattress with a sound like a thousand-year-old sequoia hitting the forest floor, you'll almost certainly want a big slosh of bourbon, as is your right.
The only hitch is sex. Letting yourself go and getting laid tend to be mutually exclusive, unless your name is Harvey Weinstein. The only men who can afford to walk the streets in sweatpants are those who have de-cided that new sexual conquests are not at the top of their to-do lists. Paul Kahan, chef of the Chicago restaurant Blackbird, sees a connection between his domestic happiness and his habit of cutting his own hair in the mirror. "Sometimes it comes out like a mullet," he says, "sometimes like a Roman helmet. But I've been in a monogamous relationship for 20 years. Who have I got to impress?"
Besides, taking yourself out of circulation for a time frees your mind to focus on other things. When my Year of the Cinnabon finally ended, I wasn't just bigger. I was better. A good farmer leaves a portion of his land unplanted each year so the soil will be richer the next. Letting yourself go can have the same effect on your soul, but you have to know when to stop. In the words of no less an expert on indulgence than Mick Jagger, "It's all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back."
What is so wrong with getting soft and sloppy? Whether your New Year's resolution was more time on the treadmill or more Twinkies, you can share your take in the comment section.