It starts in 6th grade health class. The warnings. The hazards. The perils. The risks associated with our dear friend. Alcohol. Teachers, parents, and even the labels themselves advise us about the detrimental effects of alcohol on our bodies and minds.
That shot of tequila, they caution, will not only burn your esophagus (as it travels out of your 1 Tequila, 2 Tequila, 3 Tequila, FLOOR! shot glass and down your throat), but also cause your nervous system to respond with slurred speech, difficulty walking, and the inability to operate heavy machinery. Our livers, in turn, can suffer permanent damage from too many trips to Margaritaville. The beer drenched blood that courses through our bodies make us believe that calling a guy 300 miles away at 3 a.m. is clearly in your best interest, and that following that call with a few misspelled text messages and a pining email is perfectly normal. Like the song says, “Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-alcohol.”
Alcohol is the enemy. Or so they make you think. What about when just a little sip of the sizzurp gives you the strength to make that first phone call to your crush? Or, when the best way to cope with the awkward experience of running into your ex at a party is to pour shots of one of your dear friends Jose, Jim, or Jack? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Alcohol the Ally?
I was grateful for my buddy, Bud Light, when one summer night, unbeknownst to my friend, her summer fling was asking me about “us” and if I would be “interested.” I gulped down a few swigs to avoid answering the question and to try to achieve enough of a buzz to pretend I didn’t remember the conversation.
I’m not the only one who needs the sauce to communicate (nonverbal included). When Jordyn, 30, wants to have a chat of mild importance with her husband of 6 years, she still calls on Cabernet, just like she did when they were dating in college. Just one glass emboldens her to discuss everything from the “we-need-to-spend-more-quality-time-together” conversation to the “should-we-move-in-together?” conversations they had pre-marriage. On the opposite and less serious end of the spectrum, Lia, 31, chooses a Corona, or two, to provide the courage she needs to channel her inner flirt. A little rusty after breaking up with her boyfriend of 6 years, she is ready to get back on the horse – literally and figuratively!
But Alcohol the Friendly Spirit doesn’t just work her magic in the context of romantic relationships. My friends know that I can be an open book as easily as I can keep my feelings to myself and not always be forthcoming with information about my life. The smart ones have figured out that when they invite me, and my friend Pinot Noir, I’m much more likely to loosen my lips and share what’s in my heart, from the juicy to the jaded.
For others, cozening up with a cocktail isn’t about sharing or feeling, but about releasing! A number of the moms I know, like Serena, 28, swear by “mommy juice” (aka apple martinis). Martini Monday, their mini vacay from motherhood, is just one way for these hard-working mamas to stay sane!
So, yes, alcohol can bring us joy while causing us such pain! One drink too many can turn our best friend into our worst enemy. Such a fine line we tread between the excitement of dancing atop the bar and the agony of hugging the toilet. If only the labels and the warnings reflected the alcohol experience more accurately. Perhaps, warning: consumption may lead to the over confidence needed to perform Shoop at karaoke, but also may lead to crying into your beer on the bathroom floor.