There was cheese dust on my pillow.
There was cheese dust everywhere, in fact — cheese dust in places where no cheese dust should ever be. It was on my chin, the collar of my crusty old sweatshirt, my fingers (naturally). It was sprinkled, as if disseminated by a dainty cheese dust fairy, in a trail across my bed that led directly to the source of this Trumpian-hued catastrophe: an open packet of Nacho Cheese Doritos squashed between the crook of my elbow.
A cold rush of humiliation brought the memory of the previous night flooding back. To officially kick off a week of indulging all my vices in honor of Vices Month on Man Repeller, I had decided to double down and tick off a few in one go. After muting WhatsApp so I wouldn’t see any notifications from the ~* Girl Chat *~ group that wages a war of attrition against my free time every day, I rallied my friend who recently broke up with her good-for-nothing boyfriend for an evening of red wine (the vice I admit to around other people) and absolutely filthy gossip (my real vice).
“I can’t stay for long,” I trilled when we sat down at the bar, promptly using my throat as a wine luge. “I’ve got a big deadline.”
We stayed until the bar kicked us out. “It’s Monday,” the bartender said, shaking her head in disbelief. “Go home.” All plans of working on my story were abandoned. Did I mention that my biggest vice is being a tiny bit late for things? Walking home from the bar at an hour entirely too late for a school night, I stopped at the convenience store and bought an enormous packet of Nacho Cheese Doritos, my most beloved vice. I crawled into bed and ripped open the foil receptacle, liberating fistfuls of chips at a time. (Eating in bed, another vice.) Rinse, repeat. At some point, I must have fallen asleep, the packet open in my grasp. I’m not proud of it.
And I think we’re all caught up now.
I thought leaning into my vices for a week might be fun. Maybe even indulgent. I believe strongly in removing the cloud of guilt that seems to hover over women as we go about the little rituals that make up our daily lives. Why shouldn’t I make more time for cheap thrills?
A week later, I can confidently answer that question: It is possible to have too much of a good thing. My week of living dangerously — which mostly entailed eating poorly and talking shit — turned out to be one of devilish irritability. The sugar-infused diet didn’t help (chocolate, ice cream, more chocolate, eaten in bed), but it was actually the gossiping that pushed me over the edge. All week I indulged in this vice, talking about celebrity news at work and the antics of my friends at home. At first, it felt good in a sticky, syrupy way. But after a few days, it wasn’t fun anymore.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” my housemate said, not unkindly, as I launched into the umpteenth juicy Lindsay Lohan story. “But you’re being sort of a bitch this week.”
I rang in the end of the diet as I began it: drinking wine and eating Doritos in bed, feeling sorry for myself. The next morning I woke up early and, mercifully, hangover free. (I thank all the Diet Coke I mainlined — another vice.) I tidied the mess of my room and I disposed of the half-eaten Doritos and I turned my WhatsApp notifications back on. (I had 72 notifications. They were almost all about the FYRE documentary.) I got to work resplendently on time.
A vice is manageable only in small doses, like red chilli or karaoke. Restrict yourself entirely and where’s the fun in that? But veer too far in the other direction and it’s a case of ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’ This is true of my squeakiest, cleanest vices (my lateness) and the dirtiest among them (men with serious commitment issues who look like Dominic West). A vice should spike, not plateau. This week I was living in my own personal Okavango Delta.
I still can’t get the obscene orange cheese dust stains out of my pillow, but I’ve decided to let them serve as a reminder that I need some vices in my life. I just don’t need them in my bed.
Illustrations by Liana Jegers.