Saturday, May 22, 2010




: lacking courage : cowardly

For the majority of my nearly thirty years, I did not drink alcohol for two reasons: my mother and my father. My mother is a social-only drinker, a glass of wine at a party or charity event kind of woman. She is also a woman of moderation, in every sense—money, food, emotion. Excessiveness was heavily frowned upon in my household. She always talked about drinking as though it were a bad restaurant that one shouldn't bother trying, in such a way that really made me not want to go there.

My father was an alcoholic. The smell of liquor conjures up memories of his breath as he kissed my cheek, a scent preceding any interaction I ever had with an actual drink. I didn't spend much time with him, of course, but in the time we did spend, he was almost always under the influence. One time when I was in high school, my friend Amy and I were stuck at the mall without a ride home. My father was the last resort, but he offered to pick us up. When he arrived, he bought us dinner at Knickerbockers, a crappy American restaurant attached to the mall. While we ate he sat in the bar. When we finished he gave us each $20 and told us to go shopping while he had another drink. We returned an hour later to find him sloshed; he drunkenly introduced us to another drunken man at the bar and kissed both me and Amy on the cheek. We called my brother for a ride home.

Up until this last year, the amount of alcohol I consumed added up to less than one of those squat little cans of soda stewardesses hand you on an airplane. I just never drank. It grossed me out, and drunkenness was exceedingly unappealing to me in many ways. Only recently have I began drinking, mostly because I'm tired of carrying the burden of a stigma my parents introduced twenty-five years ago. If I'm going to not do something, I want to not do it for my own reasons, not theirs. Fair enough.

But I have to admit how, for lack of a better term, intimidating alcohol is to me. In my head it is built up as a poisonous device that will rob me of all self-control, a virtue I hold onto like a wallet on a NYC subway train. During my first actual confrontations with alcoholic beverages, I felt a bit LILY-LIVERED; sips were scary and exciting, like a first kiss—you want to take the plunge, but you don't know where it may lead. But it wasn't only the physical effects that were scary; it was also scary to do something I had talked myself out of for a long time. It was scary to push my boundaries, to be outside of myself.

But not really outside. It was still me. It is still me. I'm just synthesizing.

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