I have to admit that I’m writing this post a bit tipsy – one foot over the edge of sobriety, the stage at which, when you turn your head, your vision follows half a second later. When you stand up and it takes a moment to collect yourself, all the disembodied parts no longer moving under one manager. When your favorite kind of humor is inanity. When you blink and realize it’s slowed, deliberate. When you can’t find the word “deliberate.” That place.
On a normal day, you’ll find me with a no more than water, tea, or Diet Coke (though I’m trying to quit, OK?). I rarely drink at home; maybe a glass of wine once every two weeks, if that. It’s just not my particular vice. When I do drink, I can barely take it. I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy it – just that I cannot handle it. One glass and I’m at the stage described above. Two drinks, and well, my guffaws rival the bawdiest bordello-running madam. Three drinks and you could probably convince me I do run a bordello. I’ve never been what one might describe as “drunk” – so inebriated, I cannot remember what I said or did, or passed out (these definitions are fast and loose, obviously). I’ve never had a hangover. And though drinking can be fun, I don’t find people who are drunk very funny. And binge drinking and alcoholism are no joke.
All of that said, I have noticed that here in New York, I drink more than I ever have – all of it socially, and none of it inexpensively. Just today, at brunch with friends, I had absinthe mixed with champagne. That’s right, absinthe. Mid-day. With respectable people. By the end of the glass, I had a strange compulsion to discuss The Fall of the House of Usher. Then, later this evening, at another friend meet up, I drank a large glass of Malbec in several hasty gulps and wondered whether I should dare another. I didn’t.
Somewhere on the walk home, with all these fluids sloshing around inside and the cold air doing nothing to clear the fog, I got to thinking (if you can call it that) about why being in a city lends itself so well to imbibing. What is it about the hardened corners of city living that makes us freer to drink? Boston, for example, has the distinction of being the nation’s drunkest city, and I can attest to that. Once, an old friend from Boston, upon seeing leftover wine in my glass, told me, “That’s alcohol abuse.”
Obviously, drinking is often best shared, and in a city of nine million, I have plenty of opportunities to make friends and show off my slurred speech. Maybe drinking slows the hurried pace we normally undertake. Maybe drinking calms our nerves, jangled by car horns and constant lights. Maybe it’s because most of us don’t need to drive home. Maybe, despite the $15 price tag on a single cocktail, peer pressure wins out.
Speaking only for myself, it’s not so much what drinking does to me afterward, but the effect it has when I’m holding it. For a moment, I’m having a collective experience with dozens of strangers who I may otherwise never share another thing. We may nod knowingly at one another, pleasure derived from being human beings in the same space, doing the same thing. And then there’s what it does when I put the glass to my lips and take the first sip. There’s that sweet taste distinct to alcohol — the taste of being an adult.
But I don’t know. Put a little more in my glass and I’ll think about it.