Sunday, June 30, 2013

Confessions of a Non-Drinker

(This is written in response to a  New York Times opinion piece entitled "Booze as Muse")

They are possibly the four most boring words strung together in the English language:
"I'll have water please" (if a contraction is considered two words, then my prior comment is amended to read "five").

It is not an intolerance born of religious mandate nor fear of tumbling from some imaginary wagon. No, my total lack of imbibery emanates from the knowledge of how I respond immediately after the smallest whiff of wine or alcohol passes my lips and enters the combat zone.

The burning sensation in my chest, the difficulty taking the fullest of breaths and the time spent in various endeavors in the lavatory are not the thoughts one cherishes. Even four decades removed from being a high school and college occasional drinker and consistent up-chucker, there is little that would lead me to a determination that drinking and I should be on speaking terms.

The very infrequent times over the intervening years when I put my toe back in the water (or more accurately allowed something more powerful than two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen to navigate its way to my insides) have ended in abject failure. Thus neither birthdays, anniversaries, New Year's eve nor other similar cause to raise a glass is reason enough for celebratory swig. And  while earlier this week, after what seemed like whatever could go wrong at work not only did but exceeded all negative expectations, the suggestion that I deserved to take in  more than a few large glasses of red or white did not result in my following this seemingly sage advise.

Over the years, I have spent countless dinners watching others approve of the vineyard and year or find comfort in a favorite beverage to take the edge and sometimes far more off (figuratively, not literally). My role is merely that of observer.

Recently, as summer descended in all its anticipated glory, I attended a party celebrating its arrival. The house and yard were filled with two generations of drinkers. This was a crowd that clearly intended to vacuum up every last ounce of mimosa, every sip of scotch, bourbon or whatever the brain and body demanded and make certain that each red cupped beer sitting next to that famous ping pong ball was fully drained of its contents. As the level of the noise and laughter grew, I felt out of place and out of touch. Instead, my thoughts were mostly of what it could mean to send these people out into the night.

I know that my friends find many of my eccentricities (otherwise known as shortcomings) somewhat less than endearing, at best head scratching. And this abstinence, whatever its derivation, is but one more oddity. For those who are around me for the first time, my four word request (or maybe it is five) is inevitably followed with an explanation bordering on an apology. My wife's favorite line on the subject is that I am "boring", not merely because of my non-participation in a time-honored tradition but also as I do not drink coffee or tea, or anything remotely hot except for the very infrequent chocolate.

 I am not passing moral judgment here. The fact is that I am somewhat envious of those who can alter the universe, at least slightly, for a few moments. I wish I could have the choice whether to be one of them. I never think jokes are funnier,  stories more interesting, others cleverer, or enjoy the myriad of other amenities that flow as natural consequence from the flow. I am never going to be the life of the party based on alterations. But I know that this is the price I have to pay for not spending the evening discussing the problems of the universe with a toilet bowl.

And so I vow to look at the  half empty glass of water before me, in all its safety and security, as instead being half full,  and internally say four words (or maybe five) of appreciation to my long time very boring whistle-wetting partner: "I'll drink to that."


Anonymous said...

As someone who medically has to drink 2 glasses of Metamucil everyday, I say to you "cheers"--

MarciaAllar said...

And as someone who medically has to drink 10 glasses of water every day, I say "Bring it on!". We will live longer and more boring lives. Marcia