I went to a staff party recently. Historically, I don’t attend such functions as you don’t pick your colleagues, you’re just stuck with them, and they’ll quite often be people you don’t actually like. I don’t actually have an issue with any of my colleagues, and I work in such a dinky team my presence would be noticed if I did not attend. I stuck on my go-to party dress (purple velvet, £15 from a vintage store) and the one pair of high heels I own and toddled off.
My colleagues got drunk. Actually, my colleagues got very drunk. I, at 25 years of age, have quit drinking. I haven’t drunk alcohol for a very long time. I’m not allergic, it is not for health reasons, I didn’t used to be an alcoholic, and I don’t have a religious standpoint on it. I don’t have an issue with other people drinking; I just don’t do it myself. Perhaps I should elaborate. I will have a very small glass of wine very occasionally, if my other half has opened a bottle at home. Actually, I pour myself a glass, have three baby sips and hand it over to him. I don’t drink in the pub. I drink pints of coke. I may have a small glass of something at a friend’s house if they offer. When I go over and they say “bring a bottle” they mean fizzy or juice. If they come over mine, I don’t offer them alcohol. I cannot drink alcohol with food as it makes me feel sick. I don’t drink to ever get drunk. I don’t like the taste of alcohol, in any format.
It is funny as I thought I was rather in the minority with this, however the more I ask, the more people it seems my age are done with alcohol. When I was younger, drinking was pretty much all I did. I got drunk every weekend at house parties or in nightclubs or in parks or on benches. I spent every Sunday feeling dreadful and usually being asleep. Quite often, I woke up and I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. We sipped whisky from sports bottles in rows at the cinema. We put palm sized bottles of vodka in our underpants (the bouncers at the nightclub we went to were all male so couldn’t search you properly) which we drank from in deep gulps in the toilets. We poured whatever we had into our hot chocolate when we met in cafés. We got drunk, a lot. It was what we did. We didn’t really know how to have fun without it.
I started drinking when I was 14. This isn’t unusual or worrying or a signifier or any other kind of behaviour. Everyone I know began around this age or if not even younger. The last time I was at my Mum and Dads house my Mum was examining the contents of their drinks cabinet (both my parents being extremely rare drinkers. My Dad enjoys a pint of bitter occasionally; my Mum enjoys a nice glass of cider occasionally. That’s it.) My Mum clinked together the bottles of whisky, vodka, white rum and so forth. Most of these are presents or won in raffles. I have to admit it was actually hilarious when the conversation went as follows:-
My Mum: “Is this vodka?
Me: “No, water”
My Mum: “Is this whisky?”
Me: “No, weak tea”
And on it went. The white rum was water, the red Martini was flat cherryade. The bottle of Southern Comfort was drunk in a night of hideous regret at a friend’s house. We literally drank the whole thing in one night. The hangover next morning felt like there was a party in my head and I wasn’t invited. I stole everything in the house- beer, lager, cider, and spirits. I went off to house parties sounding like a one man band as all the bottles in my Eastpak (I’m showing my age now. Yes it was an Eastpak and yes it was decorated with badges, safety pins and all that jazz. The keychain on the zip was a tiny Converse) clinked and clanked and jingled.
We drank savagely and we drank fast. We wanted to get drunk. We got in fights; we held each others hair back when we threw up. We did a lot of stuff we shouldn’t. There were boys, older boys who had cars and their own flats. There were girls too. There was a party in the back garden of a friends house, where we jumped over the fire and slept in tents borrow from my Dad. There were parties down by the river were we set a gas canister we found on fire. There were parties in houses, where we played the drum kit in the attic all night and threw a wardrobe out of a window. There was dancing and drinking and kissing faceless boys, loud music and screaming and murmured I love you’s to your friends and then before we knew it, we were tired of it. We are all in our 20’s now and we are just done with it. We did it so much and to such an extent when we were younger, it’s just not fun any more. We drank a lot, and yes, I will be honest and Mum and Dad I am sorry, we took a lot of drugs. We don’t do either now. It’s not the done thing. We are not considered outsiders because of this.
At house parties, however many there are of us will sip one small Archers and lemonade maybe, and then switch to soft drinks for the rest of the night. I don’t bother drinking at all. In fact, I rarely ever bother going to the parties. It actually isn’t a lot of fun being the only sober one in a room full of very, very drunk people. Sometimes it’s funny, most of the time it’s just really annoying. Some nights, I find it such a laugh and it’s wonderful, but generally, I sit in the corner with the other sober people, where we talk about house prices and how fat we’ve gotten since our teens. It’s like we are ageing in a speeded up fashion. I think maybe we started a bit too young- physically none of us is older than 27 but in our minds, we are past it and winding down. We wanted it all and we wanted it too fast- drinking, drugs, boys, girls, falling in love, a house and a car and a job. We got it all, and now we find out the pressure of it all really. Its hard work being a grown up. Our teenage years were a study in hedonism and excess, and I won’t ever be able to live my life like that again. I don’t want to change anything I have now, but my best friend (since the age of 14) often asks me “Wouldn’t you like to go back, just for one night?” Actually, yes I would. Just once.
What I find weird, however, is the total acceptance from people your own age when you say “Oh no thank you, I don’t drink alcohol.” They are not even slightly bothered about this, even if they are out every Friday and Saturday pummelling their liver to a smooth paste. However, people older than you insist over and over again “Are you sure? Are you sure? Just a small one? Go on!” As if you not drinking is a personal insult. It’s sort of like ramming a steak down the throat of a vegetarian. I haven’t an issue at all if a friend is a drinker or not. I don’t mind. I know some people well into their forties who are still partying like its on sale for £19.99 and I don’t have any sort of issue with this. Why would I?
I stopped drinking for a lot of reasons. Firstly, I’m not a very social creature. Secondly, I can’t afford it. Thirdly, I am an idiot when drunk- loud, obnoxious, sweary, cuddly, weepy, stroppy and arrogant. Just awful. I hate myself when I’m drunk. I look in the mirror and see Jessica Alba’s younger better looking sister when in fact I look like the love child of Jabba the Hut and Velma from Scooby Doo. Fourthly, none of my friends really do it anymore. Fifth, I don’t like the taste of alcohol, and if I ever do try and drink to excess I just feel so nauseous it’s revolting.
It is funny to think about the life that you used to lead. I think alcohol belongs in the past for me. We do other things now, we eat more and we laugh more. We listen to music and we watch films. We go out for days and do things; we go to gigs and no longer have to wait for our Mums to pick us up. That’s pretty cool. We buy our own clothes and make up and we don’t have to go to bed when we are told. It is sweet how we now ring our boyfriends and say “I won’t be home tonight okay? We’ve got into a serious Brat Pack movie marathon and I can’t leave” instead of our Mums and Dads. We walk dogs together and sip frothy coffees in pretty little cafés. I had idyllic teenage years- it was only rock ‘n’ roll but we really liked it. But I love what I have now even more. It’s a quiet little life, but it’s a lovely one. I don’t ever want to stop lying head to head with my best friend on her floor singing “Lazy” by Suede. It’s a memory I treasure, and one that I couldn’t bear to be fogged by alcohol. If you like to drink, that’s absolutely fine by me and I have no issue with it whatsoever, but me and alcohol have long parted ways, and I don’t think we’ll meet again.