I spent the holiday break at various parents’ houses, moving back and forth between my husband’s parents’ home in New Jersey and where my father and stepmother live in Pennsylvania. During my sojourn in suburbia, I also had the chance to read a lot of magazines – isn’t it great when all of the cooking and cleaning is done by others? – which included several years’ worth of Runner’s Worlds that live in my parents-in-law’s basement.
I guess it’s not surprising that a magazine dedicated to a physical activity would celebrate January as a time of reinvention, particularly in the realm of the corporeal. But I noticed that the ubiquitous articles crowing about how January promised a “New Year, New You” appeared on every January issue… for at least the past three years.
(Jan 2015) (Jan 2014) (Jan 2013)
The promises are all essentially the same: Lose Weight. Run Better. Stay Motivated. And, of course, Buy More Things (new running shoes, mostly, or marathon entry fees). The only differences are the font of the declaration, and the attractive young white woman who graces the cover.
Now I am a runner, and I have a real soft spot for Runner’s World because my husband was an intern there the summer we met. But I’m also a drug historian and couldn’t help but connect the promises of Runner’s World to similar declarations about the use of alcohol and drugs. The idea of becoming a “New You,” which often means curbing or eliminating the use of intoxicants, is such a common resolution as to seem cliché (just google “New Year’s Resolutions” and see what I mean), and it applies equally well to advertisements for such recent drug-and-alcohol-related phenomena as e-cigarettes, vaporizers, treatment plans and even legalization, as it did to the cover of my running magazine.
E-cigarettes particularly make this appeal. In an ad for V2 electronic cigarettes (tagline: “Genuine. Satisfaction.”), another attractive young white person (this time a man, since we all know the Marlboro Man long ago made tobacco use masculine) suggests that with a “Resolution Starter Kit,” a “New Year, New You!” is available for only $49.95.
The ad’s promises are even more vague than Runner’s World‘s. While the magazine promises that you’ll “Run Longer,” “Eat Smarter” and “Sleep Better,” this ad suggests nothing more than what you’ll get for fifty bucks. The “New Year, New You!” promised by V2 is entirely dependent on the person reading the ad whom, we can suppose, most likely wants to stop or reduce smoking.
Marijuana was quite different. The Weed Blog asked readers if they had a “marijuana-related New Year’s Resolution,” and the author suggested several resolutions himself. The changing social mores surrounding the drug mean that a “New Year, New You” in legalized states could potentially let people resolve to start a marijuana business, get a pot-related job, volunteer for legalization causes or lobby to end prohibition. Unlike the ad for e-cigs or the countless resolutions made to quit smoking, nowhere did the Weed Blog suggest that curbing use could also be a resolution contender. The idea of a “New Year, New You” vis-à-vis marijuana is much more slippery: in places like Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Washington, it might mean becoming the owner of a thriving business.
Destination Hope, a men’s addiction treatment in Florida, also promised a “New Year, New You” when touting the benefits of its outpatient treatment program. The “possibility of a brighter, healthier and happier 2015” was available with their “tried and true” methods and, like Runner’s World or V2, readers were invited to “start the New Year off right by taking back control of your life.”
Still, for all of these things, the promise of a “New Year, New You” – that constant appeal to reinvention and redemption – can either ring hollow or ring true. What matters most is the intention behind the promise. Buying a copy of Runner’s World won’t make you thinner, faster or a better runner, in the same way that buying a V2 won’t automatically make you quit smoking. And resolving to own a legal dispensary won’t purchase you the real estate in Colorado to make it happen. For all these things – and for every resolution you might have – a New You during the New Year is only possible through some actual (and often boring) hard work: setting goals, scheduling time, keeping records, and refusing to give up.
Still, that doesn’t mean that 2015 isn’t going to be fantastic. With loads more changes in drug policy on the horizon, we can guarantee that Points will be there to guide you through the histories of our many current situations, and we look forward to spending the year with you.
Happy New Year, Points readers! We wish you the best with all of your resolutions!