Thursday 12 December 2019

Katie Byrne: how to lose friends and alienate people

Let others eat cake: You don't have to participate in office shindigs
Let others eat cake: You don't have to participate in office shindigs
Wendi Deng and Bertold Zahoran
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

We're almost midway through the 'January Purge', the annual attempt to counterbalance the excesses of December with a spot of time-honoured self-flagellation.

If December is the month to put your foot on the accelerator while staring straight past the rear-view mirror, January is the month to jam on the brakes and book in for an NCT.

All the talk is of seven-day juice fasts, 14-day body shocks and 30-day challenges. And if you're not trying to shed pounds, you're trying to save them.

Enter the 'Spending Diet' - the very latest in January self-restraint.

While some of us are easing ourselves into the New Year by rifling through the 70pc off rail, others have embarked on a strict savings plan that will allow them to pay back the credit union by March.

For the uninitiated, a spending diet is an exercise in frugality. It involves swapping indulgent daily lattes with economical jar coffee from the work canteen and replacing eating out with eating in.

In theory, it all sounds rather inspiring. Quit reckless spending and you could have enough for a mortgage deposit within a year. What they don't tell you about the spending diet, however, is that you have to be prepared to sacrifice your social life too - and not for the reasons that you may think.

I know this because I embarked on a short-lived spending diet in November. "Nospender" is how I pitched it to friends and family.

Well, I may as well have told them that I was becoming a Hare Krishna, experimenting with urine therapy or exploring Taylor Swift's back catalogue. Even my mother ghosted me when I texted her the idea on WhatsApp.

The issue wasn't that Nospender allowed me to decline dinner party invitations. The issue was that I was breaking the pact that is implicitly made between women whose raison d'être is debt and DKNY. Nobody wants to be reminded of what they really ought to be doing.

It's much the same in the workplace. Telling a workmate that you're not in a position to contribute to the brown whiparound envelope is like telling your muffin-and-coffee-for-elevenses colleague that you're actually, kind of, on a diet.

Recent research by Nationwide Current Accounts estimates that the average worker spends €46,000 on their colleagues, based on a 40-year working life. This tally includes hot drinks, birthdays and after-work socialising. And yes, that's three zeros, €46,000, not a typo.

Spending this sum on your colleagues is entirely optional, of course.

There is no obligation to take part in the workplace lotto. Everybody has the right to choose a winter of existential regret as their colleagues fly out to Mauritius - no doubt talking about how stingy you are on the flight.

Likewise, you are perfectly within your rights to decline your colleague's MyCharity request. Honestly, it's no problem at all that you don't care about Syrian war orphans....

Let's face it, an aggressive savings plan is both a lifestyle change and an identity shift, and the friend who suggests that the hen party takes place in Carrick-on-Shannon rather than Barcelona is subtly ostracised in the same way as the colleague who religiously brings his lunch to work in a Tupperware box.

Sure, a spending diet will help you save a considerable amount of money, but you'll probably lose a few friends along the way too.

Cougar is declared extinct

Wendi Deng and Bertold Zahoran

Everyone is talking about 48-year-old Wendi Deng's relationship with 21-year-old Hungarian model Bertold Zahoran (pictured).

Some news outlets have described Zahoran as her "toyboy"; others have noted that Deng, the ex-wife of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, is just three years older than her new lover's mother. The pair reportedly began dating last May.

So far, so predictable.

Look a little more closely, however, and you'll notice a word that is conspicuous by its absence.

Compare the coverage of Wendi Deng's relationship to that of, say, Demi Moore's coupling with Ashton Kutcher back in the day - they got together in 2003 and broke up in 2013 - and another story emerges.

the inherently disparaging term 'cougar' is finally facing extinction.

Suffice to say, it won't be missed by anyone.

Irish Independent

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