I can never really satisfactorily explain why I don’t drink. The best answer I can give is “I don’t like the taste.” Alcohol was never a taboo in my house growing up; hell, if my Gran had had her way, I would’ve been downing Moet by the bottle by the time I hit 14. She maintains it’s the only way to drink (although now in her mid-80s, she’s slowed down to only two or three glasses a day).
I never really saw drinking alcohol as “rebellious”, in the same way I never really saw smoking as “cool”. Perhaps I am a bit of a control freak, but I don’t need a lubricant to be able to talk to people, and I seem loud and obnoxious enough without booze.
I will admit to being slightly worried a few quiet drinks could descend into a night of emotional and physical horror. I’ve seen many drunken football jocks and tottering blonde babes staggering between the Caxton and the Normanby over the years, and the “after” picture of a night out never really seems to match the classy look advertising sells.
That sounds elitist, doesn’t it? Like I think I’m better than drinkers. I really don't. Life would be SO much easier if I drank, even just a little. I’d avoid so many awkward scenarios around a dinner table, or a restaurant, or a BBQ, or a party. Maybe in the end it does just come back to taste.
Which is why I found myself, on a recent rainy night at my local pub, contemplating a finalist in the World’s Girliest Drink competition: a Chambord with lemonade and a twist of lime.
It wasn’t too bad, as I sucked it down through a straw - kind of like raspberry soft drink, with a hint of Listerine.
I have had the odd sip of alcohol here and there through my life, but the goal here was to drink enough to reach “tipsy” - the point where I knew it would be wrong to drive a car or operate heavy machinery. I didn’t really feel the need to get “drunk”; wasn’t keen on getting “blotto”; “paralytic” was right out; and “muntered” was just silly.
So I had a Chambord, and then I had a second one. And then someone had the bright idea of buying a round of black Sambuca shots. And that was awful, like somebody mixed cough syrup with the urine of a syphilitic dragon.
But then one of my fellow drinkers urged me to finish his beer, about 200ml worth. That was even worse, so much so I ended up spitting the last mouthful back into the glass. YUCK!
After an hour of this two-fisted booze-a-thon (OK, maybe not), the pub closed and we walked home. I remained upright, but was aware of a certain sense of giddyness about the way I moved. Things also began to seem much funnier than normal. I will admit to frequent giggling.
As soon as we got home, the overwhelming feeling I had was tiredness. I just wanted to lay my head down and sleep. Maybe it was the alcohol forcing my body to relax, considering how wound up I’ve been over the past few weeks arranging all these #30before30 activities, on top of everyday responsibilities such as working and performing.
What I found most interesting about the experiment was that a part of me remained conscious of what I was doing, and chastised the other part of me that kept saying silly things, or giggling, or speaking in an otherwise foolish manner.
“Welcome to drinking,” said my friends, when I tried to explain this phenomenon. “You need a few more, then that voice gets quieter and quieter, and eventually goes away.”
But I didn’t want any more. I made up a brandy and Coke, a favourite of my mother’s, but the taste remained too strong and sharp and bitter and nasty and I could only manage a couple of mouthfuls. So after three standard drinks and a sip or two of beer and brandy, I felt I was at “tipsy” point, and happy to stay there.
I’m pleased too. Everyone says drinking is “fun” but as the often only sober person, you regularly see aspects to it that don’t look that fun. Perhaps it is the fear of ending up with my underpants on my head talking to the Pope on the great white telephone that keeps me on the teetotal side of the fence.
However, my experience was not unpleasant. And while I’m not sure I will do it again, I can see the attraction for people in achieving a relaxed and giggly state through alcohol. I can even see why people would go further, and attempt to wipe out that voice of reason and give themselves over to inhibition. Hopefully more people choose the former over the latter.