06 December, 2011

I am not hungover anymore.

I am a half Irish, 20 something young woman with many years of imbibing under her belt, who also possesses much more faith in her liver than her liver probably merits. I used to be able to drink. Maybe I couldn't drink as much as a frat boy at Ole Miss, but for a 5'5" 130 pound woman, I could hold my own.

My first real drinking experience came when I was sitting on a wooden log around a bonfire in the woods off the old train tracks in my hometown. We called it Beaver Pond. Every Friday afternoon, a mass text message would come through on the cell phone that I shared with my twin sister, usually when I was in statistics. It was pretty much the only thing that got me through those Friday afternoon statistic classes.

At Beaver Pond, I had my first taste of Goldschlagger, a peculiar cinnamon-flavored schnapps that I haven't seen since I was 17. Maybe it's only sold to underage kids, I don't know. But on nights around the bonfire, where my friend Paul would play Oasis songs on his guitar, we slowly sipped at the cheapest alcohol our part-time jobs could afford. Milwaukee's Best ("the beast"), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Popov in its clear plastic bottle. It was a simpler time, then. But those formative drinking experiences ingrained in me that if I was not a good drinker, at least I kind of decent at it.

In college, I pretty much drank anything that anyone handed to me out of one of those ubiquitous red solo cups. It is the exact opposite of what the lectures proselytized to us during "First Days," my college's equivalent to freshman introductory week. There weren't any classes, there were lots of lectures about life on campus and how to avoid date rape (tip: don't be drunk! ever!), and then at night we'd party. It was camp college, and to us, it made perfect sense. Though alcohol is often framed as a sinful, motivating factor behind everything indecent, the worst things I ever really did during this time was to race around campus with my friends, hopping from gathering to gathering and laughing a bit too loud. I danced on a couple of tables and allegedly stole two boxes of Trix from a dining hall after it had closed. In my defense, if they didn't want people to steal the Trix, they shouldn't make them so delicious.

The night before I graduated from college, my friends held a meet and greet for their family and friends on the porch of my senior housing. It was a barbeque, with tons of good ol' fashioned family fun. There were hot dogs and hamburgers, corn husking, and games of beirut. It was there that I played my first (and last) game of beer pong with my mild-mannered, alcohol-abstaining mother. My mom was the MVP of the game. I would like to throw in the caveat that the night of the barbeque, I had an undiagnosed case of Swine Flu and a raging fever, but the fact of the matter remains that my mother sunk more cups than I. And it was awesome. Clearly I got my liver from one side of the family, and I have my suspicions as to which side it was.

That night is important for a few reasons. One, I was one of only a handful of kids at my school to actually contract Swine Flu, or as we called it, "the swine," because that is a story in and of itself. But that night is also significant because of a conversation I had with my friend's father.

We were talking about everything you'd expect on the night before graduation: graduation itself, life, my plans for next year, and then he got kind of quiet for a moment. And with a kind of passive longing, he looked at me and said, "You know, you won't be able to drink like this forever." Then he gently placed his arm around my shoulder in a fatherly way, as if to impart such great knowledge in a more delicate manner. "You get hangovers like that." He said, he snapping his fingers. And the moment was gone.

Upon reflection, I remember thinking, "Huh. That'd suck." But the rest of the night was a feverish, beirut-y kind of blur. I was told I graduated the next day, but I only recollect some flashes of the hot sun and my fever finally breaking around 10am. Then I went home and slept for 4 days.

When I awoke, I could no longer drink.

It's not that I didn't drink, it's just that I couldn't. Suddenly after only two drinks, I would just get rather sleepy and the next thing I know my body would be steering itself around the party, trying to find the most comfiest place to nap. "That's a nice tuft of grass," my mind would tell my feet, urging me to plop down. "Just for a moment!" I tried to fight against those urges, and sometimes it was successful. It's kind of been like that since graduation. Oh sure, I go out at night. But when you live in a sleepy New England city where the public transportation shuts down a full hour before the bars have last call, it's kind of like everyone just wants you to go home, anyway. So why fight it? When I did drink, I would get hangovers at the drop of a hat. It was like a big switch was flipped (most likely by my mother) after graduation. You like partying? Well, too bad! WHA-BAM. Now go to bed.

This past weekend was one of my best friends in the whole entire universe's 25th birthday. Twenty-five years, a full quarter of a century. Such momentous birthdays can and should be celebrated with all of the joy and wonderment that one can muster. To celebrate, we decided to go out dancing. We settled on one club that had so many wonderfully distinctive characteristics it was the clear winner. It had: soft red lighting, reminiscent of what I envision it must have been like to be in the Moulin Rouge (only Baz Lurhman's cleaner, Ewan McGregor-ier version); a mechanical bull pit; and 4 (4!) stripper poles lining the dance floor.

That night, we drank. And we danced. And it was good. Soon, we had had enough of the drinks and the large-ish women who seemed to be the only ones hopping up to display their talents on the stripper poles and the sweaty men gyrating anonymously behind us for an hour and a half. It was like college, only much more expensive. So we went to a different bar. There, we drank different drinks. Then we went back to her apartment and continued with the drinking in ways in which neither I, nor my liver, were fully prepared for.

Then, suddenly, it was Sunday morning. Between the bouts of nausea and cursing at the sun's rays for so existing so brightly, I remembered the words of my friend's father, all those years back. With every fiber of my saturated psyche, I wanted to rue his name. But I couldn't. The fault lay mine, and mine alone. That was a bitter pill to swallow, much harder than the rum and cokes (which, by the by, were free and delicious).

It is now Monday night. As the last throbbing ebbs of my headache recede, I am sitting quietly on the floor of my bedroom, reflecting on how good it feels not to be hungover. I think you should, too. This is a feeling that I would like to hold on to for longer (but maybe while avoiding the process of the actual hangover). I'd like to wake up every morning, look in my mirror, and think, "Gosh, does it feel good to be not hungover today!" And I want to really mean it. I want to mean it so much that I'll remember it come dance time when I find myself at a red-lit club somewhere downtown with expensive drinks and loud top 40 blasting out from behind the mechanical bull.

But, in all honesty, I'll probably have a glass or two then, too. Because drinking is just one of those that,as long as you don't take random solo cups from strangers and you feel comfortable and you're friends, you should probably do. Shake loose that repressive side before the subway shuts down. Maybe dance on a table every once in a while and rediscover how tasty Trix are. There are always more birthdays to celebrate and mechanical bull riders to make fun of. And, on the bright side, at least this hangover gave me material to get me blogging again. But more importantly, at least I'm not hungover anymore.