“Can I please have a line of coke and a wheatgrass shot?” In actual fact, you can’t buy cocaine and wheatgrass in the same place. You do need to go to different places to get your drugs and your health food, but there’s a particular type of person who ingests both with equal enthusiasm.
Meet the New Hedonists. They party hard – really hard – and then do some downward dogs. Instead of doing decadence 24/7 like, say, Kate Moss or Keith Richards, New Hedonists party part-time.
Some do it on weekends, others do it seasonally (summer is particularly popular). While they’re living clean, they’re scrupulously clean, limiting all toxins and impurities in a smug way that would do Gwyneth Paltrow proud. Then they go headlong in the opposite direction, towards excess.
“I go off on the weekend,” admits Amy, a 32 year old banker who regularly parties until 3am on Friday and Saturday nights with the help of amphetamines and vodka. “But during the week I’m really good. I take vitamins, I do Pilates and I jog. I don’t even have a glass of wine.”
Bravo Amy, ten points for hypocrisy. But most New Hedonists see nothing hypocritical in the extremity of their behaviour. It’s just how they live. They even manage to be pious about the fact they only eat organic and only drink decaf – when they’re not partying like it’s 1999 of course.
My friend Max is like that and I find it really annoying. Inviting him over to dinner is hell. He doesn’t “do” carbs or dairy, he’s vegan and he eschews wheat and sugar. He works out like a demon and goes on yoga retreats twice a year. He’s a Buddhist. But every Saturday night he’ll knock back scotch like water and obliterate himself by 10pm. Then he’ll keep drinking until he vomits, falls over or falls over in his own vomit. If I ever dare question his lifestyle or suggest he acquaint himself with moderation at both ends of the spectrum, he gets painfully condescending and manages to accuse me of being both uptight (for not partying like him) and unhealthy (for eating dairy and – gasp – wheat).
At those glamorous health retreats where people go to detox and do tai chi, the biggest spikes in occupancy are apparently the first week in January and the week after Mardi Gras.
This is typical for the New Hedonists who use healthy living as a form of penance for their sins. “Most weekends I have an ecstasy or two and stay out until dawn,” explains Belinda, a 30 year old real estate agent. “Every Monday after work, I do a really hard Bikram yoga class and sweat out all the toxins. I pick up some macrobiotic take-away on the way home and I’m in bed by 9pm. By Tuesday, I’ve put the memory of the weekend behind me and the rest of the week is really low-key. The most outrageous thing I do is have a decaf soy latte. But then the weekend rolls around again and I feel like I deserve to let loose. Then the whole cycle starts again.”
Ah, the balance sheet approach. This is the way many New Hedonists justify their behaviour; purity cancels out depravity, yoga cancels out cocaine and herbal tea cancels out 11 Bacardi Breezers. It’s lifestyle logic of the most twisted variety but not really surprising for a generation who invented the quick fix.
Not that all New Hedonists are necessarily young. Many are in their thirties or forties and may even be parents. These are the ones who use partying as a way to feel like they’re still 22. “I’m so responsible in every way,” says Gemma who is 37 and married with kids. “I’m the full soccer mum during the week but my husband and I like to send the kids to their grandparents every second weekend and go out partying and gambling all night. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean we’re like, you know, middle-aged and boring.”
Belinda expressed a similar sentiment. “If I didn’t go out clubbing and I just lived my clean weekday life, I’d feel like a nana. I’m young and single and I want to have fun. I love my tofu but I also love being a bit wild and dancing on tables.”
She’s not the only one. I’ve been reading a lot about Jennifer Anniston since she split with Brad because I’ve been worried about her. At first, things were very bad. While Brad kept bobbing up in third world countries with his impossibly photogenic rainbow family, Jennifer cut a lonely figure trudging the beach with her arthritic dog Norman. Then she discovered yoga and hooked up with Vince Vaughn. Jennifer introduced Vince to yoga and Vince introduced Jennifer to nightclubs, strip joints and gambling until 5am. A fair trade really; headstands by day, tequila shots by night. Go Jen.