17 October, 2004
No, I'm okay with this, thanks
I fell asleep in front of the TV yesterday evening, waking too late for it to be worth heading out to see Andy & Steve (The Ugly Jug Band) at the Golden Lion. Oops. Still, it means it'll be at least a month since I last consumed alcohol.
That hasn't been a deliberate abstention, just a combination of circumstances meaning I haven't been to a pub for several weeks. I don't drink at home. As it's gone on, though, I've increasingly realised I just don't enjoy alcohol.
Primarily, I dislike being intoxicated. I'm uncomfortable about the loss of control, and uncomfortable if those around me are drunk. Last week, while I was in Edinburgh, I 'missed' a party here in Lancaster. I hear it was 'great fun', with extensive drinking and dancing. I was very pleased to have been invited, but if I'm brutally honest, and steal an Alizonism, I'd rather have eaten my own faeces. Instead, whilst the revellers were languishing in bed on Saturday morning, I was watching the sun rise over historic Edinburgh, having climbed Arthur's Seat (okay, it's only 250m high) before dawn, with a totally clear head. I had a great time, which I'll remember for years, whereas if I'd been in Lancaster, I feel confident I'd have been thoroughly miserable. I hasten to add that that would be no fault of the participants - the company of friends would have been the overriding motivator to even consider attending.
No, intoxication isn't my primary dislike: I detest, even resent, hangovers. My lifestyle simply doesn't allow for 'down time'; if I'm obliged to lie-in in bed on a weekend morning because I can't otherwise function fully, I'm annoyed. As I've said before, I don't find hangovers remotely funny (mine or anyone elses). Contemptible, yes, but not amusing. It continues to puzzle (and inwardly, literally infuriate) me that the socially-expected response when one hears that someone has been hung over is to laugh and tease; the sufferer is also expected to laugh and comically wince, too. This is NOT ****ing comedic! ARGH!
Assuming one can minimise intoxication and avoid hangovers, the fact remains that I don't actually like the taste of any alcoholic drinks. I could like some real ales, but ideally they'd be served in quantities of about 100ml, as the first couple of mouthfuls can be pleasant, but I really don't need the remaining 80% of a pint. This is also the main reason I prefer to buy the first or second round of an evening, as I rarely really fancy a third, and it's less awkward to decline a drink when someone else is buying a later round than to buy that later round but omit myself. Somehow that exposes the unalloyed social obligation aspect and (inaccurately!) implies resentment at having to fulfill it. The result is that I end up buying myself a pint I don't want.
I don't like spirits. I used to think vodka was okay, but having tried Polish zubrowka, etc., the charcoal-filtered Swedish and Russian versions prevalent in the UK don't do it for me at all. Like the flavour of some beers, the sensation of the first swallow of vodka can be pleasant, but subsequent swallows are just a rapid route to drunkenness.
Whisky embarrasses me. I mean that when someone offers me a glass of their 'treasure', their particular favourite, no doubt expensive whisky, I feel awkward declining it, and even worse accepting, as it does nothing for me. I don't particularly like whisky, and the subtleties of a fine single malt are lost on me. I'd much rather the owner savours it himself (curiously I don't know any female whisky drinkers) than waste it on me, yet I feel expressing this would be a barrier to friendship, merely highlighting the lack of a shared interest.
Red wine is okay occasionally, though one glass is more than enough. If I was forced to state a favourite alcoholic drink, it would be fairly dry white wine. Yet I wouldn't rank it much higher than 'passable'. As with whisky, expensive wine is totally wasted on me. I feel confident I could distinguish between a £15/bottle wine and one costing £4.99 (and wouldn't pay less - let's not be foolish about this), but the fact remains that a can of Coke would be preferable to a glass of either.
I doubt I'll remain 'teetotal' (a word coined about 20 miles from here, as it happens), though I don't doubt I could, quite happily, if it wasn't for the social aspect. I can't deny I'd feel foolish routinely ordering Coke in a pub, not to mention paying inflated bar prices for it. It's not that I object to alcohol, and as the price of admission to social gatherings, it's acceptable. It's just that given a free choice of taking or leaving it, I'd have a nice cup of tea, please. A little milk and one sugar, thanks. Lovely.