I kid you not, a quirky phrase I love so much I wish I could say it every day.
As a 12-year old, sitting in my bedroom doorway in my pajamas, I had a straight shot to the black and white TV in the living room. I could see just a slice of my dad’s right arm resting on the orange flowered chair and in his hand was the glass teacup with his martini, a tiny pearl onion sitting at the bottom. He was watching Jack Paar on the Tonight Show. Before Jimmy Fallon, before Jay Leno, and even before Johnny Carson, there was Jack Paar.
I kid you not. I loved Jack Paar. So classy, debonair. He was sophistication defined, witty and sly, and always smiling. When I got sleepy, I’d crawl on the floor back into my room, pushing the door shut just short of closing so it wouldn’t make any noise. I’d still hear the audience laughter, distant at the end of the hall. If it was winter, it was cozy. In the summer, the curtains would flutter, but always the warmth of the laughter. It was delish. I kid you not.
Anyway, I have been, at various times in my life, quite a drinker but never a drunk. A therapist or a blamer might trace it to my father’s teacup martinis. I leave that to the epidemiologists to figure out. My drinking has fluctuated with the stress in my life as in if I’ve had more stress, it entitled me to drink more. Raising children was a reason to drink and then having the simultaneous hell of three teenagers uncorked another bottle. Then there was my career and work, people who crossed me, and the occasional fabulous victory, all of those had to be commemorated by a nice glass of wine or many.
After a while, I’d given my body a new reflex. Cocktail hour was the rubber hammer on my brain. Time to pop the cork.
So when my husband, pretty much out of the blue and completely without discussion, announced that he was going to quit drinking as his primary strategy to lose weight and get out from under the shadow of incipient diabetes, I was in awe of his decision (and appreciative because I need him to stay alive and healthy). And I was taken aback. Well, more than taken aback, because I wondered then how my own drinking could be accommodated in what would become a 50% non-drinking home.
“I’m not asking you to stop drinking,” he said. “This is just about me.” He bought a 12-pack of ginger ale and put it on the back porch so he could grab one on his way in the door at night after work. This was to be his new ‘system’ for unwinding.
Over 30 years, my husband and I have done a lot of things together but not everything. Still, it was unusual that he would embark on what was really a major cultural shift in our home with such complete determination like he woke up one day and decided to become a marathon runner with the first race scheduled for that afternoon. There was nothing to do, of course, but respect him and his decision but still it left me standing on a very small circle with my cold can of beer.
My affection for alcohol goes way back to the mellow sounds of Jack Paar. There are a lot of things to love about drinking and they’re not all about being inebriated although I have loved the coziness of a slight buzz for a very long time.
First of all, there is the look of alcohol, a foamy pale ale in a tall glass, the perfect glass of white wine, the glow of the ridiculously intense liqueurs in our cabinet, a blood orange one sitting in there right now is so beautiful, I’ve wanted to shed my clothes and swim in it. There is the beauty of alcohol and the forward-thinkingness that it conjures. Ah, I would think. I’m going to sit on my couch under a blanket and drink the tiny glass of blood orange liqueur and be a spot of loveliness. I kid you not. That’s how I think, in tiny little snippets, the big picture of my life having been stowed long ago with marriage licenses, birth certificates, and adoption papers.
I didn’t quit drinking when my husband stopped drinking but I stopped drinking as much. After all, it’s unseemly to be slugging them back while your partner is sipping ginger ale. There’s the pure rudeness of it and then there’s the not unlikely possibility that you will be a drunk idiot in front of someone entirely sober. This is not a risk I want to take. So my drinking, as if my magic, has been drastically reduced.
Here’s what happens when you don’t drink or don’t drink as much. First of all, you lose weight. I lost 12 lbs. in the past 5 months without thinking two seconds about it. It’s from not drinking as much but it’s really from not eating as much. It’s magic. The whole point about drinking, well, one of them, is that it lowers your inhibitions. Sometimes, that’s about sex. More often, it’s about Oreos.
Another great consequence of not drinking so much: sleep. I can’t even count how many people I know complain about insomnia. Quit drinking, my friends, and you’ll sleep all night. Alcohol puts you to sleep and then wakes you up, makes middle of the night evil. I haven’t seen middle of the night in weeks, it goes on without me. It’s astonishing to open my eyes and see daylight instead of searching for the light of my Kindle to keep me company through a wide awake stretch in the evil middle of the night.
I like what not drinking so much has wrought. I think. So much of how I saw myself, the picture I would paint if photographs weren’t possible, involved holding a glass of wine or a tall glass of beer. Who is that person now living with a man who doesn’t drink?
The same, I guess, but drier, classier maybe, a tea drinker, a shadow of my former sodden self, thinner, more well-rested, healthier no doubt, but still yearning for the bottle of blood orange liqueur sitting in the dark of the liquor cabinet waiting for me. I know it’s waiting for me.
I kid you not.