For reasons that will be explained in another blog post, I’ve suddenly got quite a bit more free time on my hands, which has given me the chance to head out for drinks with some of my male colleagues on Fridays. It leaves me again reflecting on the role of alcohol and drinking.
Firstly beer. I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed drinking beer and so I only do so very occasionally. I’ve probably drunk less beer in my entire life than others drink on a heavy night at the pub. Un-needed calorie consumption turns me off a little bit, but the fundamental truth is that it just tastes bitter to me, and not in any enjoyable sense. So, I find myself a little jealous of the beer drinkers. I can’t reward myself with a beer at the end of a hot day. Beer isn’t the wonderful refreshing and relaxing drink it is for others. I don’t have a liquid item that I can keep in my fridge and break out when the good times roll.
Then there’s wine, which I do drink – I suspect part of that is making a statement that ‘I’m not morally against alcohol, and let me show you’. But when I think about it, the plain truth is that wine leaves me almost entirely neutral – it’s an unusual taste in my mouth, neither bad nor particularly good. It certainly doesn’t set the pulse racing.
As we left the bar last night, a friend lined up some strange flaming shots, which in following the lead of others, we knocked back. I’m not sure rationally what this was about either. Did any of us enjoy the taste of the shot? I suspect not. Did it come at a financial price? Yes. Did it give us more alcohol to make us relax more? Perhaps marginally. But I suspect the main reason behind why this act was done, was to do with male bonding, a shared experience, and overcoming a difficult challenge.
It all still leaves me thinking about what all this gives us. Some clearly find drinking pleasurable, which I’ll just have to accept as true. Alcohol seems to help relax as well; stories start flowing (there’s a tipping point in any night (from the perspective of a sober listener) when they become rather too long and without a point), and there’s a sense in which a good time is had. For some people, it might also encourage them to switch off, dance or speak to the opposite sex. It seems like a lot of effort for very little gain, and that if you pursued the same goal through other means (say hiking up a mountain, or playing sport), you could get better results.
Going back to drinking though, there’s almost no drink – alcoholic or not – that can reach me. I enjoy tea, and drink a lot of it, but I don’t need it in my life like others seem to need coffee. It’s a British treat – a mild subtle pleasure but not something to excite. Beyond that, I’d almost me tempted to say water or sometimes a smoothie or milkshake can give me a degree of refreshing pleasure. But liquids just don’t do it for me. This is rather odd, because when it comes to food there’s no shortage of pleasure to be had. So now, when going out, I regularly order water – something that would be unthinkable five years ago. I think part of this, is that natural process in your mid-30s, when you come to accept who you are, give up trying to be something else, and for you drinking just doesn’t do anything magical.
So perhaps while others drink, I should just order a Tiramisu.