My partner is a teetotaler. In other words he is a person who does not drink any alcohol whatsoever. He claims to have gotten drunk once or twice in college with hijinks ensuing, but I don’t buy it. The only time he’s ever drunk anything in my presence was early in our courtship when I pressured him into downing a glass of Bartenura Moscato one Friday night (alcohol content: 5%, taste: Ginger-Ale). He spent the rest of the evening looking at me with a kind of subdued snide grin, like he was holding in a radical and scathing condemnation of my personality that once unleashed into the world could never be recovered, shattering my bravado in one instant of Bartenura-induced honesty.
The condemnation didn’t arrive and he never tasted alcohol again in my presence, despite increased pressure, and this to my great chagrin. For I am a person who enjoys alcohol in many contexts, and it is a pleasure to drink with people—to have them over for dinner and together to climb to the holy heights of the perfect buzz, to linger there, and to slowly begin the descent to sobriety. It is also a pleasure to drink alone, to steal an hour in the bar on the way home from work, along with the locals in your Brooklyn suburb. But one thing it is not a pleasure to do is to drink with a person who is not drinking. What happens, I can tell you from many mismanaged evenings, is this: the rhythms of the conversation which you have come to know and love and rely upon become as unsynchronized as they are on a bad date; the sober person maintains their metronymic precision while the drinker’s tempo is reduced to the pleasure principle. As the person drinking becomes less commanding and less circumspect with every glass of wine, the sober person becomes more so, certain that they are either being or are on the verge of being swindled into engaging unrigorous thoughts. The sober person’s eyes narrow, the drinking person’s paranoia increases, and suddenly, you are your parents circa 1992 and no amount of alcohol is enough to erase that image.
We’ve all been the drunk person and we’ve all been the sober person. I was the sober person for a while. It sucks being the sober person—the sense of being defrauded is high and a feeling of contempt hidden around every corner. Also I dated a person who was an alcoholic. Let me tell you, those people do not care if you are keeping up with them.
But it’s no fun being the drunk person or even the buzzed person, either. And it sucks to live with a person who doesn’t like your drunk personality, especially when your drunk personality is just yourself but actually liking yourself. I am a person who always wishes I was a person who is funny. Wine goes a long way toward making me feel like one. Le sigh!
So for now I do my drinking with friends or alone or sometimes over dinner with my partner, but rarely, and if so only a little and only if the evening’s entertainment is not interactive. So don’t be shy if you’re feeling lonely and dry. Come and have a drink. I know a great bar in a Brooklyn suburb.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer. She lives in Brooklyn.
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