One of the few things in life which bears a fundamental importance is fitness. Indeed, physical fitness is the fount of all other health: from the body to the mind and soul, if we are fit we are wide awake come the morning time, alert throughout the day, and smiling and cheerful all the while. Our food digests as a matter of course, we find ourselves full of energy and nutrients, and our skin glows.
Another of those things which are important are muscles. In fact, fitness and muscles go hand-in-hand: they are a veritable pair, just like more money and problems: though the world may be a curious place, and the Scottish philosopher David Hume cast aspersions in the eighteenth century upon the human understanding of cause and effect, still I feel confident when I assert that when it comes to muscles and fitness, you can scarcely possess one without the other.
Of all the muscles which make up the body, the most neglected are the facial. As we bask the summer months in the sun – lounging by pools with the brims of our upturned sunhats resting upon our brows; enjoying blissful moments of respite between mouthfuls of ice cream; our rears in repose atop bodies of grass, deckchairs and park benches, or sprawled over hammocks, chaise longue, and partially built brick walls – we utterly ignore the fact that the muscles in our face are receiving scant little exercise. Our eyes stay squinting into the bright light while our faces remain plastered with grins which waver only in intensity, becoming ever more languid as the months pass and the heat inevitably takes its toll.
Would you do squats every day but never a press-up? A downward dog morning and night, but never a crab or a cobra? We are lucky, to rephrase an old expression, that the wind does not change – otherwise we’d be stuck with our lazy summer smirks all year round. And yet sometimes the old expressions are the most insensible of all, for the wind does indeed change – but though our expressions modify naturally once we reach the colder months, still many of us neglect to compensate adequately for the prolonged and one-sided rigidity of the summer.
The point is that the muscles in the face ought to rest, recuperate, and rebuild, and can only attain gains in strength and definition, by virtue of doing something different over the winter period. This is the philosophy behind the winter sulk.
Now some people will argue that to sulk all winter long is to suffer from SAD; and I have been harangued in the past by hyper-sensitive acquaintances who, easily upset, demand that I oblige them by going out and procuring for myself a UV lamp. Such initiatives only show a marked level of ignorance within the general populace regarding the winter sulk. Of vital importance, especially in the early phase of any winter sulk, is routine: doing the same thing day after day whatever your emotional tenor. Certainly nobody embarking on a winter sulk in earnest would possess any inclination towards disruptive trips outside.
So, come the winter, frown. As with all fitness regimes, diet is crucial. For the winter eat crescent shaped foods, inserted into your mouth the wrong way up: croissants for breakfast, slices of melon for lunch, and sausages for dinner. For those with smaller mouths or desiring tauter physiognomies, eat shrimp or snack on potato chips. Bananas taken whole should remain the preserve of only the most experienced winter sulkers. Again, remember to keep the points of all these foods pointed downwards: in this way your sulk is not only maintained, but may even be enhanced. Care not for the scorn of others: it is your life and your future you are concerned with, and here contempt is due not to he who would appear miserable, but to he who is unwilling to appear miserable for the sake of a long term advance.
Diet, alas, can only take you so far and no further. While your face should retain the broad outlines of a sulk throughout the course of the winter, exercise is the essence of this programme. Do reps, alternately pulling your face into longer and shorter sulks – pouting to a greater or lesser degree, broadening and then narrowing your vision, furrowing your brow and twitching with your nose – in banks of ten, at least three times each day. ‘Reps’ is short for ‘representatives’, for these exercises are, so to speak, the elected officials of the system of government which regulates your face. That is to say that, living democratically, you have the power to choose or not choose to carry out these exercises. But your choices, though freely afforded, will come with a cost.
The feeling after you’ve cracked that first small smile come the spring makes it all worth the time. As your face gradually eases, your musculature shimmering in the soft spring light, the fine surfaces of your skin enveloped by a gentle air, you will feel truly yourself, as you yourself once felt and were always meant to feel, now and forever. Your friends will offer complements: you will be ready to own the summer. But come the winter, don’t forget to repeat the winter sulk!