Posts Tagged ‘Drinking’

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging this week (apologies!) on account of having just started my first day job since moving to the UK. The work falls well within my zone of competence, the people are nice and the commute by bus, if longer than I’m used to, at least allows for a lot of reading. Even so, it’s been something of a shock to the system to actually have to GET UP and engage in all the daily palaver that constitutes being employed. My last Australian position finished in mid-December, which means I’ve been out of work for three months, and even though I spent more of that time moving countries, finding a house and getting settled in than I did writing, I’ve still grown used to the freedom of setting my own routines, working on my own projects and generally acting like the self-employed author I strive to become. Which isn’t to say I’m not coping – I always have in the past. It’s just that it’ll take me a while before I slip back into my old routine of frantically cramming word-work into every odd corner of the day, as opposed to stretching it out at leisure.

Stupid pragmatism.

Also, and apropos of absolutely nothing, I’ve given up drinking for April. So far, I’m succeeding. A few people have asked me if I’m doing it for Lent, to which the answer is a resounding no, as I didn’t even realise Lent was upon us. But I’d noticed (belatedly) that some people had given up grog for February as part of one of those internet-inspired thingies that appears every once in a while, and so I decided to give it a try myself, mainly out of curiosity to see if I actually could. The first couple of days were the most difficult – not because I’m anything even approaching an alcoholic, but exactly because I know I’m not, and therefore had to keep justifying internally why I was depriving myself of something I enjoyed for no particular reason. This was also exacerbated by the fact that the night of 2 April involved a dinner out with many, many friends as part of a philosophy conference paid for by the university, which featured – among other things – copious amounts of free wine. I stuck to water and still had a good time. The next night was another round of conference drinks at the pub. Though tempted, I kept to lemonade. It’s all been much easier since then, even during other outings with friends, which frankly is a relief: I’d been worried that not drinking while other people were would inevitably result in a situation where, past the first hour, everyone else would be drunk and on one wavelength while I trailed behind on another. Instead, it turns out that either my friends don’t drink as much as I thought they did, or else they’re still all awesome and interesting and interpretable to sober people while drinking. Either that, or I’m just crazy enough not to notice or care to the contrary, but still – it’s nice to know that, should the mood take me, I can have a night out without alcohol and still have a good time.

Dear Mr Rudd,

Australia is a nation of drinkers, and, indeed, has been ever since the first boatload of raggedy, starving convicts and their bored, resentful gaolers landed on the pristine beaches of Sydney-to-be and realised, somewhat belatedly, that their only form of viable entertainment for the next hundred years was distilled from sugar. The fact of historical precedence does not make alcoholism palatable, nor should we accept drunken violence as an unfortunate cultural side-effect. I am happy, Mr Rudd, to endorse social policies the like of which, had they been implemented a century past, would have seen Brumby Innes locked up, sent to AA and anger management sessions, served with a spousal restraining order and generally kept off the streets. However, I am not happy to pretend that alcohol  Рor, more specifically, its effects Рare all bad.

Which brings me, firstly, to your new anti binge-drinking campaign,¬†examples of which¬†already seek to instil youngsters with a healthy fear of government-issue puns, and, secondly, to the resigned conclusion of at least one educated commentator, who¬†doesn’t believe it will work.¬†As both a card-carrying member of the targeted demographic – that is, a young Australian fond of a tipple –¬†and someone who voted Labor at the last election, I feel¬†moved¬†to point out that the latter pundit is, in fact, correct, although he doesn’t¬†quite seem to understand why.

Allow me to elaborate:

We know you are lying to us. No rational-thinking¬†drinker – and these¬†not only exist, but¬†constitute the majority –¬†buys the government’s¬†theory that having more than two standard¬†drinks¬†per day¬†is bingeing. This is¬†because the word ‘bingeing’ itself, while certainly implying destructive behaviour,¬†does not differentiate¬†abuse from¬†normalcy¬†through so naively simple as a means as¬†scaling. More importantly, we as consumers recognise, even if the government cannot, that the simple¬†act of drinking regularly does not make one an alcoholic, any more than the act of taking drugs regularly is synonymous with addiction. In both instances, what makes a user one or t’other is choice: their ability to control consumption such that, even where it occurs frequently, it is not¬†a frequency born of need. Nor¬†should it impinge on an individual’s ability to function socially: to pay rent, maintain domestic stability, hold down a job and enjoy healthy relationships. Within those astonishingly reasonable bounds, there is easily room enough for a little – dare I say it – friendly hedonism. By itself, a hangover¬†does not¬†signal delinquency.

Yes, there is a dark side to liquor. Drinkers can behave rudely, badly, violently and get sick in public places. Often (if not primarily) they are young, sometimes under eighteen. Bad things can happen, but neither are they all that happens Рwhich means, Mr Rudd, that your scare campaigns are lying by omission. Perhaps you view this as lies-to-children, and therefore harmless, conscionable in service to a Greater Good. But we are not children. We, Gen Y, are self-aware teens and adults. We recognise condescension when we see it. We do not like to be patronised.  And we know, from experience, that drinking can be fun. 

Much like¬†abstinence-only sex education,¬†trying to scare¬†young folk¬†off¬†alcohol doesn’t work, because – Lordy! – they’re just¬†going to try it anyway. But teaching damage control – how to¬†drink in moderation,¬†how to tell if you’ve had too much, how to¬†eat first and¬†look after your¬†friends –¬†is life-saving. The best advice I ever received on liquor consumption was to¬†call it a night when¬†I started to hiccup,¬†have a glass of water every second or third drink, and to eat plenty of carbs beforehand, none of which vital information was forthcoming¬†either through school or government propagandising. And yet, if the aim is not to stop people from¬†drinking altogether but¬†rather to ensure a culture of responsible joviality, this is exactly what needs to be done.

In short, Mr Rudd, you are looking at things from entirely the wrong perspective. I understand you abstain from having a drop yourself, which is all fine and fair enough, but if Australia really wanted a leadership under which the new broom swept dry, we’d move to Saudi Arabia.

Yrs hopefully,

Foz

Delightfully, the good folks over at Village Wit have published a short story of mine called The Nihilist Ice Cream Parlour. Check it out!

For those who’re interested, the concept¬†came from a night out with philosophers – the night of this conversation, actually – after Zach posited the idea of a nihilist ice cream vendor. Everyone, naturally, thought it was hilarious, and I vowed on the spot to write a short story about it. Zach agreed, but not before making me promise to give him joint credit. I accepted. On we went.

A few days later, I found myself with a free half hour at work. I thought about nihilist ice cream, grinned, and wrote the¬†first version (850 words long –¬†the published iteration, due to submission guidelines, is 700)¬† in about twenty minutes. I printed it out, and, as it was a Friday, proceeded to the Melbourne Uni postgradute philosophy room to join my Long-Suffering Husband. Zach was also there. With a triumphant flourish, I dropped the finished article on his lap. He read it. I waited.

After about a minute, he looked up.

‘Foz?’ he asked. ‘I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, I just don’t get why.’

Turns out, he’d forgotten the entire conversation, as had almost everyone else. So in a way, the story is my reward for not ending up utterly drunk that night.

It’s like an After School Special come true.

When it comes to alcohol, there’s only two things I don’t drink: beer and sambucca. I’ll hack the sambucca if it’s part of a Harvey Wallbanger, but even so, not liking¬†liquorice-flavoured spirits is hardly¬†a handicap on your average trip to the pub.¬†The same cannot be said of disliking beer. It’s a social drink. It goes well in rounds, most people drink it, you can share¬†jugs, and¬†it’s markedly cheaper than just about anything else. Nonetheless, I drink bourbon and coke (shut up), which at least has the advantage of being readily available.¬†But since I’ve¬†been old enough to drink in pubs, I’ve noticed my choice of¬†beverage, apart from being, yes, boganly,¬†brings¬†an unintended consequence: the Sexism of the Straw.

Imagine this: a confident young woman in a ThinkGeek shirt approaches the bar and asks for a B & C. The bartender (male) takes in her appearance, the gaggle of unruly logicians with whom she has entered, grins, pours her drink, and puts a little black straw in it. Firmly but politely, the young woman removes the straw, wipes it on the inside rim of the glass, and lays it back on the barmat. Drink in hand, she returns to her table. The round goes on; the bourbon is consumed. Someone else Рmale, most certainly a philosopher of some description Рsaunters up and orders a jug plus same. When he returns, huzzah! Рthere is no straw. Perhaps, the young woman thinks, the bartender has learned. But she is wrong: for, lo, when next her round appears, the straw is back, protruding from her bourbon and coke like a tiny plastic javelin.

Now imagine this happens at every¬†single bar, everywhere, ever. I cannot begin to describe how annoying this is. Firstly, who drinks bourbon and coke from a straw?¬†For that matter, what adult drinks¬†anything¬†other than¬†cocktails¬†from a straw, alcoholic or otherwise? Secondly, why¬†would chicks need straws more than guys? It’s not like our¬†lips are weaker. It’s not even neater, or more¬†girly-girly-feminine, because any¬†possible element of girly-girly-feminine¬†gained by¬†the straw is instantly lost by the fact that it’s bourbon-and-fucking-coke. The highlight of this weirdness came tonight, not at the pub (for once) but a Chinese restaraut, where the (male) waiter¬†brought my Long-Suffering Husband and I two glasses of water: one strawless, for him, and one with straw, for me. I mean, water.¬†It’s not like there was even a slice of lemon there, or ice, you know, something to swizzle around: no. Just plain ol’ water. With a straw.

God help me.

There’s only two scenarios in which I’ve ever been served strawless: either the barman takes careful note of my straw-refusal and thereinafter learns (although usually they go to put the straw in a second time,¬†catch my expression¬†and whisk it out again, whoopsie!), or the bartender has been female.

O barmen of the world, take heed: renounce your ludicrous straws. If it’s absolutely necessary, put them within reach on the counter, supply on demand – who cares?¬†But for the sake of everloving sense, stop giving them just to women.

It’s enough to make a girl start drinking beer.