Letting people drink in peace

Booze is something people love to feel superior about, love to scold about, love to brag about, or like me, just straight up love.

I am not a moderate person, I know that about myself. I can’t leave a party halfway through, I have to stay until the end. I can’t have two pieces of chocolate, I have to have the block. I can’t just go for a run when I feel like it, I have to either not do it all or have a regime. I can’t just go on maternity leave, I have to write a book too. I don’t just listen to an album a couple of times, I listen to it 132 times in a row until I put poor Matty into a Taylor Swift -induced psychosis.

Etc etc etc and so on and so forth.

So when it comes to lockdown and alcohol, I cannot say that I have been following the “recommended” “alcohol” “consumption” “guidelines”. In lockdown I have managed to become much fitter, and a lot drunker. I know that I cannot continue to open champagne to simply watch tv for the rest of my life but … well, why the hell not.

Alcohol is an addictive substance, has had negative impacts on many people’s lives blah blah blah, but let’s put that stuff aside for the purpose of this and just think about the general alarmist atmosphere there is around how we talk about booze.

How you drink is just another thing in a long list of things you’re supposed to feel bad about. People love to moralise about other people’s consumption of it. First person pieces about giving up drinking have become their own sub-genre and every month or so there’s some news angle on how you should be drinking less. Standard headlines include: ‘Excessive drinking rose during the pandemic. Here is how to cut back.‘Should Your Cocktail Carry a Cancer Warning?’Time to face the brutal truth: there’s no glamour at the bottom of a glass

Slightly hungover on a Monday (I never used to drink on Sundays) I tweeted a poll asking people how many nights a week they were drinking, I followed it up with a tweet that I didn’t care about people whose answer was “zero” but I still got heaps of people who had to tell me their answer was “zero”.

So many people also asked me, “is there a zero option?”

Well, you can see for yourself there isn’t, the poll is right there, but also, is there a zero option? C’mon man, this isn’t Saudi Arabia.

I also had quite a few people tell me they were drinking more frequently, but their total volume was down, which was interesting, but also, are you in the game or not!! This is lockdown baby!! 

More than 5000 people responded to the very unscientific poll and the results ended up

32% 1-2 nights

25% 3-4 nights

20% 4-5 nights

23% every night

I have to say I was pretty surprised to see so many people drinking every night. Good on them. The only way out is through, and if what gets you through is wine every night, then I’m only going to cheer you on. Of course people can have unhealthy relationships with alcohol but maybe we aren’t put here to always be our healthiest most optimal versions. Maybe, it is ok to have a habit, such as drinking, that like pretty much every other habit you have, can change over time, and is sometimes in flux and sometimes wanes.

We don’t scold people for pretty much anything else in the same way we do for booze. Nobody gives a shit how many hot chips a skinny person eats (different story on judgement fat people get for daring to eat in public at all, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish) (that fish better be grilled not battered!!!) But in general there’s plenty of things people do that aren’t ideal for their health that largely go unremarked upon or questioned.

Maybe drinking can just be something you get a lot of pleasure out of until you don’t. Maybe it can be something you always get a lot of pleasure out of.

A sociologist messaged me to say there’s a whole field of Alcohol and Other Drugs sociological scholarship which bemoans how much alcohol consumption has been coopted by brain disease/neuroscience of addiction people or the public health officials who think it should be completely abstained from (probably the same ones who want us in lockdown forever)

What about all the people who like drinking? What about me?? What about doing something you enjoy even though it’s not great for you, or all of the social pleasure you can get out of drinking? Does that count for nothing? “You don’t need alcohol to have fun” I hear the moral chorus begin, well, I don’t need  alcohol to have fun, but have they ever had fun in their lives? Or are they too busy judging other people’s habits?

Good reasons not to drink:

  • If it is making you unhappy 

Other reasons not to drink:

  • To feel better the next day - why??? Why shouldn’t I be hungover?? Why must I always be at peak performance??

  • Not to lose control

  • Calories - too boring for words

  • General health - I have already mostly given up my other great love for my health, ciggies

I have taught my 3 year old phonics in lockdown, must I also ensure I moderate my drinking to two small glasses of wine on Fridays and Saturdays?

Some stuff I thought you might find interesting:

  • As always, if you liked reading me think out loud, you can buy my book of essays Trivial Grievances here

  • I was on Wil Anderson’s podcast Wilosophy. It was such an excellent conversation and I’ve had a lot of people tell me so too. You can listen wherever you listen to podcasts or click here

  • I read about Borecore in The Trend Report over the weekend and it really articulated the atmosphere of our culture at the moment, I thought. The timeline is insane with news, and also, the most boring TV shows and red carpet outfits. A little extract:

    • “We are cursed to live in interesting times, yes – and that may be why everything else in culture is so boring. We’re facing the death, we’re facing the disasters, we’re facing the politics: we’re facing it all. No wonder all of the other fillers of life are akin to chicken noodle soup, to dumplings, to sweet potato mash, to banana pudding: now is not the time to chew on anything hard, on anything difficult. Now is the time for low culture, low effort, low lives. Now is the time of boredom.”