Just in time for the holidays, our resident self-help guru gives tips on how to keep from indulging like a beast.
Here is something I learned from Meet the Werewolf, a children's book by Georgess McHargue, originally published in 1976:
"If you are wondering whether a person is a werewolf, look first at the eyebrows. If they meet in a point over the nose, chances are good that the person is a werewolf."
Chances are good?! I was maybe nine when I read this passage, and although most of the kids I knew weren't particularly hairy, there were teachers in my school with some pretty intense cybrows – not all men, either. I should have known better than to believe this stuff, but I still watched these adults very carefully, looking for the thorn scratches or dog bites they may have acquired while running around in wolf form.
Luckily, Meet the Werewolf also detailed several methods of becoming a werewolf, which I sincerely believed might come in handy if I had to defend myself and the girls I liked against these monstrous teachers. Some of these methods were obvious, like getting bitten, getting scratched, or being born with werewolf parents. Others were stranger and a bit too detailed for a children's book, like the long passages about making a pact with the Devil by performing a ritual on the night of a new moon:
"After repeating the spell, rub yourself with lard or some other kind of animal fat mixed with camphor, anise, and opium. Tie on a belt made of wolf skin. Finally, kneel down inside the large circle, but outside the small circle. This is important, because if you are inside the small circle, you may be snatched away by spirits."
I did not look forward to the time in which I would have to cobble together enough allowance for a wolf-skin belt, figure out how to buy opium, or rub anything called "anise" on my skin. Luckily, I was never forced to become a werewolf, and of course I eventually realized that werewolves and devils were all nonsense anyway (that's what your 20s are all about, right?).
However, each year around the holiday season, I am reminded of one particular passage from Meet the Werewolf. It's just a short couple of sentences concluding a paragraph about worldwide werewolf habits, but I've never been able to shake it:
"In Scandinavia, werewolves gather together on Christmas. They break into alehouses and drink all the beer they can find."
These words initially burned themselves into my brain because I couldn't stop imagining a posse of drunken werewolves in prowler masks and Santa hats, their hairy arms slung across each others' shoulders, howling out carols to the snowy winter sky. I still enjoy imagining such a spectacle, actually, but mostly I think of this image in terms of how my clients tend to act around the holidays. It's not a complex metaphor. They act like drunken, thieving werewolves.
I don't say this to defame my clients. I've been there myself. If New Year's Day is all about starting from scratch and erasing bad habits, it's partly because the preceding month has been all about indulging bad habits and blowing all your scratch. In the years before I truly touched myself and began helping millions across the world do the same, I was a holiday wreck just like everybody else. In the days between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, I attended every party I could, huffing chestnuts, slamming peanut brittle and mainlining aperitifs. My bathroom became a vomitorium, my bedroom a brothel. And each morning I looked down at my expanding waistline, held my hand to my aching head and wondered where have I been? What did I do? Just like the werewolf when he wakes naked in the woods.
These days, I spend the holidays guiding my clients through the minefield of the holidays, a period of time when their vices and abnormal predilections are so easily teased to the surface. Alcoholics, shopaholics, deckthehallics – all can find themselves transforming into uncontrollable beasts if they're not carefully observed and extremely disciplined. Of course, since I like the metaphor so much, I treat them like werewolves.
No, I don't blast them with silver bullets – that would be far too expensive and might lead to more legal woes for me. Also, according to Meet the Werewolf, "It is vampires that can't stand silver bullets. Werewolves just laugh at them." As many of my clients know, I do not like being laughed at, NOT AT ALL, so this idea is right off the table.
Instead, I recommend two preventative tips over the holiday season, and the first is a strong dose of mistletoe. Believe it or not, at one time, mistletoe was thought to have magical powers and was used to ward off werewolves. (It was actually put to this purpose in a recent episode of Dr. Who.) Later, mistletoe became that decorative branch we're supposed to kiss under during the holidays. I do believe there's a connection, as the werewolf represents an unleashing of base appetites, and the mistletoe represents togetherness and love. I advise my clients to keep loved ones close during the holidays, and to keep the focus on celebrating togetherness through intimacy, conversation and kindness. This is a natural repellant to beastly, self-destructive behavior, and seems to keep most of my clients in line.
My second preventative tip involves constructing a steel cage within the client's dwelling to which only I have the key. They enter the cage before the moon rises and of their own will, but once inside I do not let them out, no matter how much they beg. When the dawn breaks and they have become calm, they are allowed out, unless they have LAUGHED AT ME, in which case I keep them locked up until lunchtime at least.
Depending on how wild you typically get during the holidays, I recommend trying one or both of these techniques. Mistletoe is cheap, time with loved ones is cheaper, and if you need help with a cage I can personally drop by to give you one. Heck, if I find out that your eyebrows meet over your nose, I might just drop by with a cage whether you asked me to or not!
Seriously. I'm watching you. You better not be a werewolf.
More of Chad Fifer's self-help advice can be found here.
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