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The Smug January Sunseeker Is 2024's Latest Torment

smug january holidays
The Smug January Sunseeker Is Tormenting UsKlaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

The first time you spotted one, you nodded in not-even-grudging respect. New Year’s in Merida #tequila? Yes, the Instagram Reel is smug – but fair dos. They had the foresight to plan it, book it and actually get on the plane, and they deserve to enjoy the sun-drenched spoils without your resentment sending bad karma their way. Frankly, there’s a lesson in it — you ought to do the same next year.

Admittedly the second – and third and fourth – times it happens, it hits a little harder. Them too, you think? She can barely order a Deliveroo; he forgot the rings at his brother’s wedding; and you distinctly remember her WhatsApping you to ask how to watch BBC iPlayer. How have any of these people got it together to sort winter sun in Hawaii?

It is the January mid-point when something finally snaps. A former colleague simpers in a Hunza G two-piece on a Cambodian island (#outofthisworld). Back in reality, it is 8.54am and you have just watched someone brazenly pick their nose and wipe it on the pole of your Central Line carriage. It seems unlikely there is a hashtag for that.

If you are reading this, it is unlikely you are one of them – for a start, they’re on a digital detox, apart from for Instagram and TikTok time. But whether or not they know it, they have inspired the latest culture war to divide our fractured nation. Yes, it is January’s noisy sunseekers versus the rest of us – bitter, pallid, and going nowhere fast.

smug january holidays
Catherine Falls Commercial - Getty Images

When did it happen? How did it happen? It does not make you a swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist to wonder… is this a conspiracy? The point of January is to wait for it to end: to suffer bravely through dark days, opening ClassPass, sadly, to read the descriptions of HIIT classes you don’t want to attend. It is about feeling drab, and guilty, it is for talking about self-assessment tax returns and getting – frankly – quite excited about the prospect of death’s sweet release. It is certainly not about living life to the fullest, about sinking sundowners in a bikini and nodding off in a hammock with a Pina Colada. Or, in other words — it’s not fair! Didn’t we all agree to be self-denying, masochistic and miserable together?

Celebrities have always been January sunseekers, of course. They are professional show-offs, and inciting envy is in their job description. Of course Kendall Jenner started the year in Barbados with Hailey Bieber; naturally Bennifer was in St Barths. Frankly, you’d have been a bit sad had Kate Moss not spent her birthday in Mustique with Sadie Frost, Lila and the girls before taking a PJ to Paris for her 50th birthday celebrations at The Ritz. We cannot blame them. They never claimed to be like us.

But these friends and colleagues – these people have commiserated with us on numerous occasions about the sheer philosophical concept of January! Over Christmas, you could have sworn your sister told you she was dreading its arrival – so what the hell is she doing in Morocco straddling a camel?

smug january holidays
Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

No wonder this inspires not just envy in you but cosmic-scale resentment. Plus the sheer, jaw-swinging marvel at the financial hit: you’re eking out a Sure deodorant and having pesto pasta on repeat until payday — how are they in what you have confirmed via virtual sleuthing is a £768-a–night king-sized room? Didn’t she go freelance last year??

Lastly, there is the nasty feeling of being left out – not invited, out of the gang, not privy to the cultural memo. It’s a nasty, lingering sting that reminds you of being in the playground. Especially when even your mother-in-law’s Pilates teacher seems to be away, Instagramming a peach sorbet sunset. Et tu, Brenda? And why do you follow her on Instagram?

Which leads neatly to the cure. There is really nothing else that works: you have to stop scrolling. That way madness lies – or at the very least, leaving a pass agg/plain agg comment under a good mate’s post ('I THOUGHT YOU WERE BROKE KATIE????'). This month, you must take care of yourself. Not by attending five HIIT classes a week, but by cutting toxic people out of your life. Like your sister, or Brenda.

Of course, you could also stop festering, stop renouncing all pleasure on principle, stop eating pesto pasta for every meal – at least give baked beans on toast a go! – and stop doing Dry January. You could choose plans, choose people, choose life?

You won’t of course. At least you got the memo: that’s not the point of January. #wishyouwerenthere

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