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By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, January 8, 2006

This is going to be the Year of You.

This is the year in which you come first, and sometimes also second and third. This is the year you learn to say "Mine!" and "I don't mind if I do" and "Comin' through!" and, after those are mastered, "I'm about to lose control, and I think I like it."

For the first time in your life you'll learn how to stare at something delicious on a dinner companion's plate and ask, "Are you gonna eat that?" in a tone that makes clear that there is only one acceptable answer. Indeed you will learn to ask the question even as the desired morsel is in transit to your gaping, slobbering maw.

This year, you'll stop saying "Excuse me," and start saying " Excuse me???"

You're not going to be the victim anymore. You're going to rise above such petty feelings as "wounded" and "self-pitying" and get serious about actual revenge. Make a list of the people that (1) you're really peeved at, (2) you suspect you're miffed at but can't remember why, and (3) you're feeling slightly disconnected from, possibly because of some unspoken grievance that might be resolved through frank discussion. Now put a big X through all those names. Zero them out.

You'll need special music for your special year: "My Way," "It's My Party," "I Me Mine" and that Bobby Brown classic, "My Prerogative."

Requested birthday gifts from everyone you know: mirrors.

This year, ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you. For starters, take creative tax-return itemization to a new level. That wild night at Cafe Milano with the $775 tab swollen by vintage Barolos -- you spent much of the time talking about whether to move to Italy. Itemize under "Moving Expenses." Your new plasma-screen TV, bought on credit: Someday you'll give it away, so take the charitable deduction now . Go ahead, give yourself the "Tax Benefit of the Doubt."

This is the year you can't be bothered. When someone tries to ask you to do something you don't want to do, flick your fingers at the noisome individual and say "Shoo," the way you would dismiss a mangy cat. Other phrases to master: "I don't think so," "Not gonna happen," "Nope, nope, nope," "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-no," and the brilliantly subverbal but clearly negatory "Eh."

Here's a scenario: Your boss asks in a very polite voice if you would please terminate your two-hour coffee break and attend to a minor matter that you are generously paid to deal with. Old paradigm: "Yes, boss, I'll be right on that." New paradigm: "What is it about the phrase 'I'm not finished with my latte' that you don't understand?"

This is the year that you quit your terrible habits, including some or all of the following: smoking, drinking, stuffing your face, hating yourself, being ridiculous, being generally low and vile, kvetching when you should be kvelling, and, most of all, listening to stupid people and psychos who fail to perceive your profound greatness. In the Year of You, people gotta get with the program, or be shunned.

People need to grasp the fact that if an observation wasn't brilliant and irrefutably true, you wouldn't have made it to begin with. The proof of the veracity of a statement is its source in your spoken words. Don't say, "I think the moon is much bigger than the sun," because that implies uncertainty. You say so, therefore it is.

This past year was supposed to be the Year of You, and it wasn't. Why not? Perhaps because you didn't truly believe in yourself. You had doubts. You worried that at some level you were not truly worthy. And you were right, of course, but that's where you made your biggest mistake: You failed to implement a policy of Strategic Narcissism. Self-delusion and an almost monstrous lack of conscience are your aces in the hole.

If all goes as planned, by the end of this year, you will have become the person you truly are, inside, potentially, conceivably: the real hypothetical you. And then it's not just a question of a single year. The rest of your life will be a kind of Permanent Festival of You, with you as the guest of honor, toastmaster and chairperson of the executive committee. Your inner peace will be supplemented by your sense of absolute dictatorial power.

But it's possible that an entire Year of You could become tedious, maybe even start to feel a little self-involved. Because when you really think about it, haven't others been the source of your greatest joys and most lasting memories?

So let's recalibrate, and start with something very doable, which you have definitely earned:

The Day of You.

Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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