I’m writing this with a medium-level hangover, which makes the thesis of the post particularly unlikely. Essentially, I’m going to say that I’m OK with people – me included – getting drunk once in a while: I’m warning you right now so that you can stop reading if this is likely to offend you. The timing of the writing is a clever strategy* to ensure that I’m not overstating my case.
First, let’s get the necessary disclaimers out of the way. I know and fully agree that alcohol in anything but very moderate quantities is not good for you. I believe alcoholism is a serious disease and people should never be expected or forced to drink. Also, it’s still the case that my homeland has a drinking problem and generally speaking, most people would benefit from drinking less.
I used to drink way too much according to any standard – well, possibly with the exception of the standard that university students in the young post-communist Eastern European republics used to aspire to in the nineties. Believe me, this was a pretty suicidal standard.
The combination of an increasingly feeble mind and body (it will take a day to recover, at least); the maturing of Estonian society and to a lesser extent the maturing of my thinking; having a child and a succession of demanding jobs has drastically reduced my alcohol intake. I very rarely drink during the week – it drains my energy, makes the work mornings harder and also messes with my reading. I find it very difficult to read after two glasses of wine and in most cases, I’d much rather be reading than having that second glass of wine.** Going out also happens seldom to me these days, so my weekends tend to be abstinent as well, with the exception of an occasional dinner party.
Once in a quarter or so, however, I will get drunk. When it comes to alcohol, I’m like a squirrel, carefully hoarding my units and then using them all up in the course of one evening (I’m not entirely sure squirrels actually go on nut binges, but let’s stick with that metaphor for the moment). I’m sure it’s not healthy, but I’m not sorry: one must find a balance between what’s reasonable and good and between what’s an enjoyable life for you, specifically. For me, this is the balance – at least for the moment.
I do wonder, though, why I need this. It’s not that I’m generally unable to have fun without alcohol. I’m able to have heaps of fun with a book on agriculture in Ancient Mesopotamia and some Earl Grey. I actually also love talking to my friends without having trouble remembering/articulating the most basic facts about the world. Mostly, I think the appeal is in the permission to let go a bit. With all the commitments I have, it’s very difficult to program some irresponsibility into my life. The responsible me will usually win out.*** Unless I’ve had five G&Ts and that blog post I absolutely had to write next morning suddenly becomes irrelevant.
It’s often said that the intimacy people share when drunk is a false intimacy. (I mean intimacy in a platonic sense, the general love for the fellow beings one often feels when intoxicated.) I don’t agree. I adore having half-drunken conversations with my friends and colleagues, with occasional rants and possible admissions that you’ve always found each other extremely intelligent and charming. It is a genre of human interaction that nothing else can replace. It’s also not true that this closeness automatically disappears once you’re sober – doing some silly dancing together creates a special bond (I draw a line at karaoke, but to each their own). Mostly, an evening like this serves as an accelerator or nudge for something that always had potential to be there. You would probably have connected at some point anyway, but you never know – maybe not.
I’ve been practicing drinking for years and have established some ground rules to make sure the situation doesn’t get too out of hand. I want to be in a contained, safe environment – that’s why I usually like to host parties at my own home. I really do not miss the days of walking in the snow in my sparkly red sandals, trying to hail a cab. Also, if at all possible, no shots. When I start to feel that a) wow, I’ve been at it for hours and I’m not drunk at all! or b) I really fancy a cigarette (I don’t smoke), it’s time to drink some water. Drinking water is a great idea at any point of the evening, really.
One is of course not supposed to admit that one likes to drink – even if it’s only sometimes and not THAT much.**** I’m sure many would say that this is all very sad and I’m just trying to feel younger and glamorouser or pretending I lead a more exciting life than I actually do. Possibly, although I honestly doubt it’s about feeling younger, as I feel 19 anyway. I’m sincerely glad for you if you never feel like it would be fun to have a drink or thee, but it seems to be working for me.
*No, it’s not. It’s just a coincidence.
**Glasses of wine used as a symbolic unit of alcohol. I usually don’t drink wine.
***I’m not saying I’m always responsible, but I’m usually trying to be – or at least feeling bad for not being.
****It is my firm belief that only bad things can come for not acknowledging these things. Why on earth are all those people drinking if there is nothing enjoyable about it?