When I was about six or seven years old, my incredibly wise mother made a decision that stripped all the mystery and rebellion out of alcohol: she told me and my older sister that if we wanted a beer, it was in the fridge.
Before any of you admonish my progressive mom, I think she said these words knowing that her two whip-smart daughters were not likely to take her up on this offer. There was zero appeal to drinking for us from that moment forward. We couldn’t drink to rebel if our parents had given us the metaphorical keys to the cabinet – so we just never did.
As we got older we watched as classmates on various sports teams were suspended from games – and even from walking in graduation – for getting caught drinking and we’d just look at each other, shrug, and breathe a sigh of relief that we would never be found passed out in our front yard when the sprinklers went off on Sunday mornings.
Now, this is all bound within the very real fact that my family on both sides also contains its fair share of alcoholics. My sweet and loving dad grew up with an alcoholic parent who left deep emotional scars on his children, and there’s family mythology about one of my grandpa’s brothers dying as a drunk, living in a car on the outskirts of a Kentucky town. And we heard these stories growing up, so it was an added mental bolster to just not drink.
All that being said, when I became an adult of drinking age, I started to “practice” drinking. So many of my friends talked about wine like it would make all the fat from their stomachs relocate to their boobs overnight. I felt like I had to develop the muscle for it to be a proper adult. And I did. For a couple of decades. I drank margaritas on Fridays at Mexican restaurants and bought large bottles of Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire to share with friends, hoping that one day I’d be presented with a liquid so incredible that it would transcend all others and I’d have found “my drink.”
So I drank. Not frequently, but when the occasion called for it.
And I did find “my drink,” precisely one time in one bottle of Cabernet franc that I purchased from a winery that technically had been closed for some sort of violation. I don’t quite remember all the details – not because I got drunk there but because it was over a decade ago and the conversation has been lost to time – and that’s what getting older has done for my memory. I’ve been searching for its equal ever since to no avail.
But what I’ve found instead – without intention – is that over the course of the last year I’ve gradually stopped drinking. Sure, I’ve had the occasional glass of wine with friends over dinner, but it’s solely because I didn’t want to answer questions about why I wasn’t drinking a glass of wine. There’s just no love in it for me anymore. And as I’ve gotten older, most wine has gradually begun tasting like a mystical combination of rubbing alcohol and window cleaner with a hint of Car Air Freshener.
While this is 100% a personal choice, I’ve been a bit flabbergasted by the response of my friends, most of whom seem to think I’ve been abducted by aliens. How could I suddenly not like wine? Wine and women, women and wine! They both start with W! What’s the problem?
I even had one dear friend say something like, “How am I going to talk to you over dinner if you’re not drinking?”
It’s such an interesting stigma that’s accompanying this choice… like I’m suddenly no longer intelligent, capable of hearing a dirty joke, or conversation-worthy because I’m not drinking with them. It’s evolving into outright snide remarks and bullying. “Oh, right – no happy hour with you because you’re not drinking,” like I have some sort of Cabernet colored A on my chest. Like there’s nothing else one could possibly drink from 5 to 7 PM. Like I got stabbed by a bottle opener and I’m not able to get over it.
I don’t have any wise words on this because it’s something I’m actively processing every time I have to go to a dinner party or networking event. My introverted brain and lifelong hope for a level of social acceptance trap me in these internal conversations. But I know right know I’m going to follow Aunt Frances’ advice, be courageous, and order water.
image credit Wild Woman Sisterhood