Following essay by Chuck Palahaniuk, author of Fight Club, published here:
In addition to exercising regularly and eating right, I make it a top priority to commit suicide every couple of years. Little girls might dream of the picture-perfect wedding, planning and envisioning the ideal bridal gown and the glorious release of white doves, but since I was little I've been planning my supreme self-murder. I've edited and honed the tableau: me as corpse with as little mess as possible. Nothing fancy, no shotguns or nooses, no swan dives from high windows of the Chrysler Building.
As a newspaper reporter, I was sent several times every winter to cover the same scene: a family found dead after they'd tried to heat their home by bringing a charcoal barbecue indoors. In each case, the carbon monoxide had suffocated them while they slept, and I'd visit the location with paramedics and police. And those dead nuclear families, Mom and Dad and the kids tucked into their beds, they looked . . . really great. So peaceful. Without any sign of rictus, vomitus, or spasm. Their faces so smooth and relaxed they might still be asleep.
If you ask me, that's the way to go. I'm probably prejudiced from living in a state where it's legal to ring down your own curtain, next door to another state where you can choose to die. Sometime I should tell you about being invited to a going-away party where the host drank phenobarbital. I didn't know a soul there, especially not the host, who was only weeks away from a natural death from colon cancer. A friend of a friend of a friend had phoned me in tears and begged me to escort her, because it seemed bad form and a touch pathetic to show up stag for such an event. It's amazing, but between Judith Martin and Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, no one has covered the etiquette for this situation—what to wear, what to bring as a bread-and-butter gift, how to address the dying stranger. What's worse is I didn't know about the Final Exit aspect of the party until the guests were asked to join hands and light candles. This was my blind date with death.
Self-euthanasia is major trend in the making. Each year in the United States, some 26,000 men die by their own hand, including some smarter, braver men than you and me. Hunter S. Thompson. Kurt Cobain. Spalding Gray. David Foster Wallace. These were men of infinite accomplishment, finances, and talent, and we will miss them. But if you're going to check out, you must first promise to take on a more difficult task. You'll have to wait 7 days, and in that last week of your life, you'll have to perform what I glibly refer to as the Three C's. Don't worry, the time will fly by. Like the final week at a job you hate, every moment will be gilded with nostalgia and sweetened with the knowledge that you're a dead man walking. The Ultimate Temp. The game's almost over, and you're just running out the clock.
The first C stands for Clean. Clean your bathroom. Clean your car. Do the laundry and scrub the grout. Pull out the refrigerator and wipe behind it. Wash the windows. Do everything. The second C stands for Cull. Ransack your files and discard everything except your most important papers. The same goes for your closets and memorabilia—really, all your possessions. If you haven't looked at it recently, toss it. Donate it. Destroy it. Throw all your history and secrets into the garbage. Do the same with the aged contents of your medicine cabinet and kitchen. Also, spring for a really good haircut. Despite popular superstition, human hair does not grow beyond death, so you might as well look good. Treat yourself. Pamper, pamper, pamper; you have my permission.
Any man will tell you that it's not the big disasters that finish you. No, given an invasion by hostile space aliens or an attack of flesh-eating zombies, most guys will grab their coats and hats and run out to join the fray. Even a run-of-the-mill earthquake or forest fire constitutes a nice change of pace. Instead, what grinds us down are the parking tickets. The spoiled food in the back of the fridge. The dirty clothes at the bottom of the hamper that haven't seen daylight since 1995. Once you allow a critical mass of these petty annoyances to collect, you're sunk.
Regarding Culling, my point is: If you can shave, you can live.
The third C stands for Connect. This means contacting everyone you've known and saying something nice. No matter how much you hate them, let go of that bitterness. Identify some aspect of each person, something you've secretly admired or envied or coveted, and praise that something. Say how jealous you were of his career or happy marriage or a particular merino wool mock-turtleneck sweater.
Yes, this process feels like a huge humiliation, but what do you have to lose? Forget your self-pity. Forget your anger and defensiveness. Forgive everybody and forgive yourself. In another week they'll be gazing down into your casket, feeling just awful. So for now, throw them a bone. Give them a break.
Beyond that, fully imagine your death: the cozy warmth, the pleasant wooziness. The sound of your favorite film or music playing in the background. Envision your sparkling bathroom and empty filing cabinets. Then imagine the world without you. The same traffic jams and famines. The same political crap fights and your team never making the playoffs. People will forget you. Everyone will forget you. You're no Kurt Cobain, so just light your barbecue and toast a marshmallow. . . .
But if you've completed the Three C's, chances are good that you won't bother. Because by then you'll be surrounded by friends who now recognize you as a valuable, sensitive guy. Your oven will be clean, your car vacuumed. In the same way you procrastinated on your taxes, you can procrastinate on your death. And, at least for the moment, your hair looks . . . really great.