I have a manuscript that’s due tomorrow and two kids graduating this weekend (one from elementary school, the other from high school) and several relatives descending and a party to plan . . . so here I am posting. It’ll be short, but I needed a break from everything else.
This weekend we visited with friends who are about to move to the east coast, maybe for a year, maybe longer. I’m jealous of them because they’re making a change and sometimes I just want a CHANGE, especially if I think I might end up somewhere I’d like better. Anyway, we were talking, and the husband was telling me how his wife has recently given up all caffeine and alcohol and, as a result, feels like she has much more energy. It was a tough adjustment, he said, but once she got over the hump, she’s never felt better.
First I said, “Wow, I should do that.” And then I thought about it and said, “But I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning.” He said, “Oh, it takes a couple of weeks, but you get used to not having caffeine.” “It’s not that,” I said. “I just wouldn’t see any reason to get up in the morning.”
I’m not that bad an addict, I swear. Well, maybe I am. I don’t know. I love coffee. I gave it up when I was pregnant and will skip it when I have a stomach bug, but other than that, I’ve been a non-stop coffee-swiller ever since my high school days when I used to dilute it with tons of milk and sugar. (Now I like my coffee the way I like my brownies: black and hot.) If a doctor said to me, “You have to give up coffee,” I think I could gradually substitute decaf for the real stuff and make the adjustment–a lot of what I love is the warmth and the taste, and decaf still has those. But I do have this superstitious faith in coffee, a belief that a small cup before I sit down to write will make me work faster and better (and there’s a lot of scientific research that suggests it’s not entirely superstition, that nothing works better than caffeine at raising alertness).
Giving up alcohol would be more complicated because alcohol is more complicated. I can easily go a day or several without having a drink–from that standpoint, it would be easier to give up than caffeine, which gives you instant withdrawal symptoms. But it would be very hard for me to walk into a big cocktail party knowing I couldn’t have even a single glass of wine. Again, I think my belief that it helps is more superstitious than well-founded–in fact, I know it is, because I can look back and think of more stupid things I’ve said after having a glass of wine than before. And yet . . . and yet . . .
There’s a reason they call it “Dutch courage,” I guess. No, actually, I have no idea why they call it Dutch courage, but I do get that alcohol gives you a kind of social courage. It makes all that hard social stuff–and for me, socializing is hard, hard work–seem a little easier. Other people’s living rooms seem so much more welcoming after a glass of wine.
Which for some inexplicable reason reminds me of that wonderful and very famous Dorothy Parker poem:
I like to have a martini,
two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.