This weekend, unless a meteor crashes into Earth and renders our existence a laughable blip in Willow Smith’s all-knowing eye, we will finally get to do what is traditionally known as “springing forward.” It’ll be lighter outside for longer; the trees will begin to bloom with green leaves and pink blossoms; people will increasingly be in good moods. Sex will even be had. A lot of it. And it will feel good. Because, finally, joy has returned, and also we took a shower.
This time period — known in the Farmer’s Almanac as “spring” — is one of the great celebrations we share with our fellow humans. Some call it Sundress Season; others call it the Horny Time. There is many a name one can use to describe the first sight of naked legs, the great revealing of our dumpling bodies from beneath layers of down jackets, the reminder that our limbs haven’t seen the light of day since long before January 1. But if spring has long been associated with awakenings and beginnings, why don’t we treat it like it’s the New Year? Wouldn’t it feel nice to push our calendars back a bit?
If you’ll do me the small favor, think about bears. According to the North American Bear Center (whose website is, pleasantly, bear.org), bears begin to hibernate in September and October and don’t emerge from their caves until April. The five stages of activity for black bears are hibernation, walking hibernation, normal activity, hyperphagia, and fall transition. When does “normal activity” take place for a black bear? “From green-up in spring to the onset of hyperphagia in midsummer or fall.” Thank you, bear.org. That information is very illuminating to me.
Now, for contrast’s sake, consider your frame of mind at midnight on December 31. You’re drunk and eating leftover Christmas ham in front of the fridge. How about January 1? You’re hung-over and eating leftover Christmas ham in front of the fridge. January 1, for most everyone who exists in a region with defined seasons, is not an inspiring time to get back to the grind. When you make your first trip to the gym of the New Year, a black bear will still be asleep for another three months. You, on the other hand, are trying to digest a season’s worth of mashed potatoes while also figuring out how an elliptical works.
The folklore spread by oppressive women’s magazines and “Pure Barre enthusiasts” will tell you that when the New Year begins, so must your new health regime, but there is a reason why so many people fall off the “fitness” cliff on February 9. We’re really supposed to use January and the subsequent early months of the year for hibernation and wallowing, just like the noble bear does. We’ve spent the past two seasons debauching and debasing — particularly during November and December — and there is no shame in wanting to pick up some healthy habits before our lifestyles inevitably kill us. But have you ever wanted to work out less than at 6 p.m. on January 2 when it’s dark as a ditch outside and you’re still reeling from a miserable Seamless Sichuan order? No.
What I’m proposing is simple: Let’s treat the first day of spring (or alternately, the day after our clocks spring forward) as if it were the New Year. Resolutions, if that’s the speed you operate at, can begin on the right foot when the sun is shining and our bodies are uncased like so many naked sausages from the prison that is a knockoff Canada Goose jacket. After all, isn’t shame a great motivator? The first time I put on jean shorts this year (on vacation, sorry to brag), I was disturbed by how much muscle I’d lost in my arms and legs and all-over general body area. Oh, I thought. Time to start working out again. Conveniently, when the sun isn’t setting before happy hour, and the weather outside is mild and creeping toward pleasant, that’s when I feel most excited about getting in shape, because being outside is a nice change. Why not turn this walk in the park into a very slow run in the park? I’ll be fit before I know it. And if not, there’s always next spring equinox.
This may not be the year you actually stick to your strict “wellness” routine, but it could be the year that you actually do something as opposed to geotagging vague Instagrams outside a gym you don’t even belong to. And to all those who think I’m wrong, riddle me this: Have you ever seen an unhappy bear?