When I woke up this morning, because of my usual 3-hour West Coast delay, Facebook was already all atwitter about an article that was rapidly making the rounds.
The article, prominent enough that a friend who isn’t even on Facebook had texted it to me, is about the pervasiveness of booze in the world of women, as seen from the point of view of a woman who has been sober for a few months.
Many people who hadn’t read beyond the title were ranting that people could take their booze from their cold dead hands and what did people know anyway. Booze is Good.
Others, like me, took the time to read the rather lengthy and wordy piece and then gave it a bit of thought.
Let’s start with this:
The piece, while I believe is well intentioned, does come off as a tad judgey and a smidge moralistic. I’d like my ethanol chilled, please. It goes better with the guac.
It’s also fraught with some serious hyperbole, which I think is a shame, because it detracts from some interesting observations.
1) Life is HARD, yo.
Here’s the hard truth. Whether you are a woman trying to make it in what will almost surely always be a man’s world or a mom juggling the needs of children and family and home, life is fucking hard. Women aren’t ever treated as equals. We always have to work harder for less. We will never be given our just rewards.
2) Booze is society’s answer to all the hard.
If you spend any time at all online or in the real world, you’ll know this to be a fact.
Booze lubricates conversations and events. It soothes ruffled feathers. It heals all hurts. If you ever complain about anything or mention that anything is hard, people offer you wine. No matter what time it is.
People joke endlessly about booze. People talk about it. A lot.
3) Women drink. Like a lot.
It’s not just a cliché. It’s a fact.
We drink for fun, we drink to relax, we drink to reward or comfort ourselves. It’s a societally acceptable way to do all that. So we do it.
Then let’s go here:
Sadly, I don’t think this article went quite far enough. I think the author stopped after laying out a few observations coated liberally with judgement.
Here where I think the conversation could go after everyone reads this piece.
Let’s take an uncomfortable look at exactly why women drink. Beyond the fact that society constantly pushes us to do so.
Remember point 1? Life. Hard.
We are always ON. Always fighting. Always doing. Being the perfect employee, the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the good daughter-in-law, the nice neighbor, the good sibling, all comes at a huge cost to ourselves and our well-being.
Our most common options for “time off” is either to work out or drink. And, as the author of this piece points out, even the line between those two options gets at times blurred. (To wit: 10 Races for Wine Lovers.)
And just so we’re clear, working out, for most women, is not about having fun and blowing off steam. It’s about looking good, so we can meet society’s standards for what we “should” look like. (Not you, I know, you totally run because you love it. I know.)
Booze is the great equalizer. For an hour or two, glass in hand, we can relax and be our true selves. If we’re not acting as we “should” we can always blame the contents of the cup. Expectations are lowered. We can finally be real with no real judgement. (Unless we get raped. Because then it’s clearly because we had too much to drink. D’oy. Let’s get real here.)
Fact is, booze is quite handy when it comes to helping us cope with the challenge, ignore the little voices inside that whisper that nothing should be this hard. It also dulls the anger, the emotions. (Please note, my use of the word booze, instead of the more innocuous wine is intentional. The effects are the same. The sugar coating, not.)
Because as we all know, emotions and anger are the most terrifying things a woman can show. An angry woman is a woman who gets shit done. A woman to be reckoned with. No one wants women to get angry. Well, men don’t. Like ever. Bad things will happen. Or good, depending on the point of view. An angry woman is a shrew. An angry man? Well, he’s just got something bothering him, OK? Lay off, he’s had a hard day.
So instead of telling women it’s OK to feel strong emotions, that anger and fear and sorrow are just as valid and honorable as joy and enthusiasm, we all tell her to chill out and have a glass of something relaxing instead.
Fell down and skinned your knee? Here, this glass of wine will help.
Pissed you were ignored at your board meeting again? Have a cocktail, you’ll stop caring.
Husband being a jerk? Come over, we’ll have a drink or five and when you get home it’ll be water under the bridge.
The message is clear:
Don’t get mad. Get drunk.
Don’t get busy. Chill out with a glass or three.
Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and burn our bottle openers in righteous indignation. You will literally have to pry mine from my cold dead hand. I’m not saying that drinking is wrong, that we should all instantly stop and fight the patriarchy. I’m just saying, isn’t it fascinating how we all seem to be living in some Brave New World parallel universe?
Huh. Soma anyone?
Tuck that away somewhere where deep thoughts go to stew.
And, while we’re at it, let’s also remember the part where we’re all genuinely so damn busy. So that we can find it in our hearts to have a little grace for ourselves and our fellow women. We can’t all change the world or even our lives. Sometimes we’re just in a tough place that needs to be endured, not fixed. Sometimes we really do have too much on our plate.
Let’s practice together. Grace. Not judgement.
The woman partying at the end of the pool might be caring with an ailing family member and only get one weekend a year to blow off steam.
The girl wasted at the office party might have just worked 7 straight weeks with no weekends.
The mom sneaking some wine at the back-to-school night assembly might have just folded an Everest sized mountain of laundry for a friend who just had a baby.
Self-righteousness doesn’t fix anything. Instead maybe we could all just bring a little self-awareness to the table. A moment to think “what is the purpose of this drink?” before we pour the glass. Not to shame ourselves, but just to keep tabs on whether we’re doing what we want rather than reacting to what we’re been told we should want. That seems like a good place to start, no?