I have never understood the allure of alcohol. Granted, I have what would politely be called a “weak constitution,” and the worldview of a crusty, embittered octogenarian. But I don’t think I have much of a choice here. The world of drinking is one where people use the word “hoppy” to describe things that aren’t baby rabbits. My friends “let wine breathe” as if it’s some fainting Victorian dame. Moet & Chandon? Bless you.
I was 15 when I had my first taste of alcohol. We were at one of my cousins’ weddings, and they had placed champagne flutes on each of the tables. Fantastic, I thought. I love sparkling apple juice! Then I drank some and recoiled in outrage. What was this pisswater? And what horrifying world was adulthood, where even the drinks were a terrible, terrible lie?
I still don’t know. In high school, they warned us about the dangers of peer pressure. But they never said anything about parental pressure. “Why don’t you go get a drink?” my parents will suggest to me at yet another cousin’s wedding reception. I’ll be standing with my arms crossed, clutching my virgin Shirley Temple. “Come on. A little wine? Beer? How about a nice glass of Scotch?” There is a note of reproach in their voices. “Be cool, man,” they seem to be saying. “Don’t be such a party pooper.” They’ll be asking to stay out after their curfews next, those hooligans.
Besides the weddings, my experiences with drinking have mainly been among my peers in sweaty dorm rooms littered with empty PBR cans and copies of The Marx-Engels Reader. Usually, I just spectate. One of my friends, when drunk, will start dancing blissfully to music only he can hear. He’ll ball his hands up into fists and pinwheel his arms until the people in his immediate vicinity have left in disgust, all the while contorting his body as if a brood of spiders were trying to colonize all of his nooks and crannies. This is a dance that ends friendships.
One evening, this particular friend decided to make us piña coladas. I’d had a pretty rough week, and for once I was willing to give this whole alcohol thing a shot, as it were. I had visions of bacchanalia, of revelry and merrymaking and maybe even a little bit of cavorting. At the very least, I wanted to get to that state where I could fling my limbs about with wild abandon, the personal space and well-being of others be damned. So we carved up the pineapples, tossed them in a blender, and poured in the rum. Skol!
Half an hour later, my face and arms were redder than Clifford the Big Red Dog slathered in Tabasco sauce. My heart rate was going like crazy, and I couldn’t even lift my Solo cup without trembling slightly. “I’m fine,” I rasped when some people looked with alarm at my face, which had by that point attained the approximate color and temperature of your average industrial-grade furnace. But then I started seeing spots, so I staggered back to my room and lay face-down on the bed to stew in my own ethanol-laced juices. This was not, I realized grimly, the carefree limb-flailing that I’d signed up for. Then I fell asleep. When I came to, Spider-Dancer and my other hall-mates were ranged around me, looking concerned.
I spent the rest of the evening hunched over a glass of water, swearing never to drink again.
But I can imagine what my parents would say if they had seen me. “Why not shots of vodka?” they’d sigh, shaking their heads at my inexperience. “You’re no fun at all.” To which I say: get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers.