Moderation, Metaphysical Hangovers and the Modern Mom

This entry is less about pregnancy than about bitching—and not, actually, bitching about pregnancy. I’m really tired of that freaking word.

Anyway.

The latest installment of the NYT’s Proof, a blog ostensibly about drinking (more on why I qualify it later), is called Moderation and the Modern Mom.  Anna Fricke writes about how after years of downing shots with 23-year-olds and being escorted out of the side doors of establishments by her husband, she completely gave up the sauce when they began to try to conceive. Even before he was pregnant, she entirely stopped drinking (and eating sushi—evil, evil sushi! Oh, I had some the other night, by the way).

In response, she says,

I felt maternal, wise and frankly relieved. I had worried for years that the alcoholism that ran in my New England stock had snuck into my veins and it was good to know that I could painlessly, easily, give up alcohol when necessary. And so, for 13 months, I didn’t touch a drop. And then I had a baby.

While I’m not abstaining entirely, I do understand why she felt relieved; alcoholism runs through my family’s veins too, and it has worried me that this tendency might, like a tumor, metastasize one day, and that would be the end of me as a sober, functioning member of society. It’s unlikely, though. I have always been the type of drinker who has fun and fun and fun until it gets late and I get tired and I suddenly realize that I am ruining my entire life. The next day, I don’t just wake up with a hangover. I arise to greet an existential crisis.

Writer and committed boozehound Kingsley Amis called it the “metaphysical hangover”:

When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover … you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.

Yep. It’s pretty much exactly like that. I don’t even need to drink much to feel this way; from what Fricke relates, I couldn’t have kept up with her. Still, this metaphysical hangover has served as a painful but effective check on excess.

So I understand where she’s coming from and where she goes with it. Once she felt like she had her mothering skills down and the baby was a bit older, she says:

I started to revel in taking a little of myself back. At night, after she was soundly asleep, I would cook my husband and myself dinner and pour a luxurious glass of wine. I sautéed, I sipped. It was just like the good old days. Except that it wasn’t. Because in the good old days, I would have had at least half a bottle by myself and would have started slurring non-sequiturs to my husband in the middle of “Damages.” And as much as I wanted to celebrate my newfound nighttime independence by getting pleasingly sloshed, I discovered that this was an impossibility.

I too have had a similar realization: that my drinking life has been irrevocably altered. I will not tie one on for a long, long while. I feel some relief about this, too. Because like Amis, I hate dwelling the next day on the conspiracy of silence you all keep about what a shit I am.

But! The point of this posting is: That’s just me. (Well, and Fricke.)  What I want to bitch about is this column, Proof, which every week features yet another entry about the woes and vagaries suffered by yet another ex-boozehound and how complex but ultimately satisfying it is to live the sober life.

I am so calling bullshit.

One of the things pregnancy has taught me so far is that sobriety can be seriously tedious. Unless you’re a master of the universe deciding the fate of nations or a bone fide Zen master, endless sobriety is, well, fucking endless. How I would love, just for a few hours, for reality to have the softened edges it has after you’ve had a couple glasses of wine or finished the last sip of an icy, tawny, sweetly biting Manhattan. How I would love for conversation to have that lubricated effortlessness, for the social bond to put on its fabricated but nonetheless pretty mask.

But if you read Proof every week, you’d think that our alcohol use—which archaeologists have physical evidence for going back at least 8,000 years—never offered these sweet reprieves. You’d think only misery, dysfunction and trauma were responsible for our tippling. It’s absurd, irritating and moralizing.

Why for the NYT is it the people who are unskilled at drinking, who suck at it, who fucked up its venerable traditions so royally that they had to give it up entirely, get to define it for the rest of us?

Bullshit, I say.

Sure, I’m grateful pregnancy has forced me to avoid the metaphysical hangover for the past nearly six months. But that doesn’t mean I don’t envy you your postwork drink. One of my cousins had a baby several months ago and many of her Facebook status updates mention her early evening wine. Ohhh, I can’t wait. I suppose I should be grateful for this as well—that after The Kid is born, maybe I’ll get to have my cake and eat it too: a couple of drinks but no next-day trauma.

But the rest of you: you should drink the hell on. Par-tee.

3 Replies to “Moderation, Metaphysical Hangovers and the Modern Mom”

  1. I’m happy to have a drink for you anytime! Though I’d also like to do so without hangover of any kind…

  2. You and Delirium should get together for a good long bitch about Proof. I don’t dispute the validity of a forum on the personal experiences of alcoholics, but as you say, they don’t have a monopoly on the subject of alcohol in general. The implication is that a TERRIBLE WARNING is the only possible subject in a forum on drinking. And yes, it’s amusing that a woman named Delirium Tremens is peeved at a column about likker.

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