I Did Whatever I Wanted for 3 Days and It Was…Telling

Haley Nahman tried the hedonism diet.

My mom and dad’s parenting philosophy largely revolved around teaching me the value of hard work and, especially, earning life’s pleasures. Play dates came after chores; dessert came after dinner; spending money came after an 8-hour shift. I hated it as a kid, but over time developed a sort of Stockholm syndrome in regards to delayed gratification, becoming almost unable to enjoy things I didn’t “earn.”

Today, I’m the ultimate loyalist to the long game, which doesn’t mean I always play it as much as it means I feel immeasurably guilty when I don’t. My boyfriend calls me crypto-Catholic. (You can call me fun.)

Feel Good Month on Man Repeller seemed an appropriate time to re-examine my relationship with feeling good, particularly the part where I sometimes stop myself from it out of a blind expression of self-discipline. What would it feel like to orient my life around instant gratification instead? The idea sounded so alien I decided it was good, and thus the “hedonism diet” was born: three days of doing what felt good instead of what felt responsible, and not an hour longer.

For the sake of not burying the lede, this turned out nothing like my Yes Diet, mostly involved having a second roll or waiting too long to pee, and ultimately revealed the dull boundaries of my Tuesday-through-Thursday imagination. The diet also came at an interesting time: I was a week into a mildly depressed slump and less in touch with my desires than ever. I tried to use the diet as a sort of catalyst for emotional movement, but quickly learned my day-to-day life has little room from spontaneity outside the bounds of what I eat.

Speaking of which: As tepid a vehicle for hedonism as food is — the image of a group of people screaming down a highway to Vegas on a Monday seems more fitting – indulging in it with abandon was the main fantasy raised by people who learned I was on the diet. That’s either a commentary on the people I know, New York in general, or humanity as a whole. Will let you theorize on that one.

If you want to read my diary over the course of the three days, it’s below. If you don’t, I won’t blame you, and will leave you with a question instead: What would your hedonism diet entail? I have a feeling the answer might reveal a lot, but in my case, I kind of hope it doesn’t.

Day 1, Tuesday

7:40 a.m. I wake up wondering if I’ve ever slept worse, but feel inexplicably energetic. Probably adrenaline; a great way to start my hedonism diet.

8:02 a.m. After cleaning up and washing some dishes, I decide to watch Jane the Virgin while I eat a bowl of yogurt and granola. I was never allowed to watch TV before school as a kid and have maintained that rule as an adult. This feels weirdly indulgent. I love Jane the Virgin.

8: 31 a.m. I pick an outfit on my first try. A miracle since getting dressed has felt impossible lately. I put on leopard shorts, a mustard shirt and lace-up sandals.

9:36 a.m. When I got to work, I buy a small 8-oz. coffee. I’d rather get cold brew but the one I got yesterday turned me into a manic pixie nightmare, plus I don’t want to spend the extra dollar.

12:18 p.m. This morning has been stressful. With a new onslaught of work, I consider killing this very story, but I resist my impulse and decide to keep it on the calendar. An ironic hedonism fail.

1:53 p.m. I haven’t had a chance to eat lunch and I’m hungry. I realize I’m in the mood for a bagel and don’t second guess it. I’m wild.

2:05 p.m. While waiting for my almond butter and jam bagel from Black Seed, I let myself mindlessly scroll Instagram, something I normally resist. I end up on Sofia Richie’s account, find out she’s dating Scott Disick, and then wonder whether I’m out of touch and if that’s a good thing until my bagel gets called.

4:50 p.m. Work black hole. Hungry again. Guess bagels aren’t all that nutritionally dense? All we have in the office are almonds.

I run to Grumpy’s and get the only food item they have left: a piece of pumpkin bread. Weird choice after a bagel lunch, but it sounds good.

6:45 p.m. On my way out the door for a dentist appointment, I steal a piece of gum from Emily’s desk (sorry Emily!) without considering her feelings. Is hedonism just psychopathy?

7:13 p.m. Just got to my dentist on time and mildly have to pee but am not gonna go. SO THERE.

9:07 p.m. I’m getting dinner at a French restaurant with my boyfriend. The soap in the bathroom is on a pole that requires you do a jerk-off motion to get a lather. There is a jar of condoms next to the sink. It is a mildly sexual experience that I’m trying and failing to connect to my hedonism diet.

Thrilled to be here.

9:09 p.m. I refuse to Google whether air hand dryers cover my hands in feces, as my boyfriend is currently suggesting, which I consider a win, despite his pouting.

10:11 a.m. When we got home, we plop on the couch instead of going to bed, and I put on a random YouTube video, which leads to another and another. My boyfriend is great at putting together an interesting and educational YouTube playlist. Under my hedonistic guidance, however, it entails a girl giving herself a makeover for 45 minutes, a women giving unhelpful tips on “how to pose” by a dirty pool, and a 30-minute compilation of “jean hacks,” such as turning your jeans into a bag or turning your jeans into a larger bag. It’s truly some of the worst content either of us have ever seen.

Day 2, Wednesday

8:21 a.m. While getting dressed I consider whether wearing red shoes and a red sweater is too much, then remember such considerations are for another day.

9:22 a.m. I decide to text my boyfriend something we really should talk about in person — an impulsive decision I would normally not entertain. (It wasn’t worth it, for the record.)

1:52 p.m. For lunch I get a salad from Sweetgreen because I’m in a hurry and need to be efficient. Am too busy to entertain other impulses.

5:04 p.m. Elizabeth brings cupcakes for Ashley’s birthday, I go for the second one I touch. Bold.

7:35 p.m. At a lovely media dinner surrounded by people I’ve never met. Our bread basket has two biscuits no one is eating. I eat the first one. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

7:52 p.m. I eat the second one.

9:08 p.m. After dinner I realize I lost my ring, but am so embarrassing by the thought of crawling around on the ground that I decide to call it a loss. Very irresponsible.

11:38 p.m. When I get home I take a shower, brush my cat, and right when I am about to get in bed, decide to watch Jane the Virgin instead. I go to bed at 12:18, like a real party animal.

Day 3, Thursday

8 a.m. The first outfit I put on makes me look like a waiter, so I swap my button-down for a pajama top, which is probably inappropriate for the dinner I have later but is the only solution to the getting-dressed woes I’ve been experiencing of late.

12:52 p.m. I set up a therapy consultation. The best-feeling thing I’ve done all week.

2:43 p.m. I decide against a salad in an attempt to prove my desires extend beyond Sweetgreen. I try out The Dez, the new Mediterranean place on Mulberry Street. I get my food to go and start eating my pita on my walk home, like a kid who failed the marshmallow test.

7:05 p.m. At dinner with some girls. Everything we order is some form of bread or pasta, rounding out my inadvertent carb-only diet this week. After mutually agreeing it’s not embarrassing, we order vanilla gelato with rainbow sprinkles for dessert.

8:31 p.m. If I were truly following the diet I would get a car home. It would take 15 minutes, but I can’t bear the cost, and so I take two long trains home. It takes an hour.

11:11 p.m. When I get home, I clean my house, shower, skip TV and go to bed like an adult.

This may not have been the most thrilling time to live by way of impulse, but it was at least interesting to note that by doing so I saw almost no consequences (except perhaps a lack of nutrients), aside from feeling less guilt. In a way, I put my conscience to the test to prove it’s overactive, and I’m delighted to say it worked, for whatever that’s worth.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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