I have always had a strange relationship with alcohol because I grew up around alcoholics and other addicts. While some with my background become alcoholics themselves due to the addiction gene that Liza talks about, others take the opposite path. I took the opposite path. I am the Lorna in the family – without the voice or the talent.
For years, I feared that I could easily become a drunk if I took that second drink. So, if I ordered a drink, I would nurse it all night. As a result, my Jewish liver never developed fully, and now it only takes two drinks to make me three sheets to the wind.
Nana, my maternal grandmother, whom I look like in drag, would drink a Miller High Life with her dinner because her doctor wanted her to put on weight. I guess he never noticed her big tits and ass, two physical traits I also inherited from her.
Don’t get me wrong. I did get falling over drunk once. In 1982.
My friend, Chris, took a bottle of Scotch from his father’s liquor cabinet, and we mixed that whole bottle with a Big Gulp of Coca Cola. I was a mess. The next morning, I felt as if I had slept in a rat hole, and my brother suggested I drink a big glass of milk. That was one of the rare occasions when I threw up. I had food from my bar mitzvah coming out of me. I also swore that day never to get drunk again.
And then, I became a drink counter. Well, actually, I was always good at counting drinks – a talent I inherited from my diet-pill addicted mother. My brother and I were on a fishing trip with our father in Cape Cod in 1973 (my brother loves stories about Dad), and we watched as he went from sober to drunk via two six packs of Budweiser in two hours. I think that was the first time we saw the progression. By his own admission, my father started drinking at age fifteen, and he didn’t stop until age fifty-six. His drink of choice was Scotch, but he was not adverse to beer, wine, rum, crème de menthe, etc.
That may have been the moment when I became the Rain Man of drink counters. He’s had seven beers; must not take another; he’s had eight beers; I count nine beers; must watch Here’s Lucy.
There is a picture of us on that trip, and the looks on my brother’s and my face were priceless. You would think some wino asked to have his picture taken with two young boys in Virginia Squires t-shirts.
Do you watch Jerseylicious? On there is a character named Tracy, and she does this look that if it had a subtitle would be “what the fuck?” I invented that look when out with friends who were ordering too much booze. Did this stop them from hanging out with me? Hell no. I also became the designated driver, which in my car obsessed world is sooooooooooo much better than being drunk. Their parents have no idea I drove ALL their cars. Lincolns, Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and the occasional Chevrolet.
However, there were the few times when I drove my car, and someone got sick in the backseat. Our friend, Bob, got dirty drunk one night when his girlfriend dumped him and threw up all over the back seat and door of my 1965 Ford Falcon Futura. I had to power wash the inside of my car at 1:30 am at the car wash on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Harpersville Road in Newport News. I wonder if that place is still there.
As a mature adult, if I ever actually became one, I perfected my skills at dinner parties and other social gatherings. I could, and still can, tell you how many drinks anyone in the room has had. I am the Miss Busy Body if imbibing. And on your fourth drink, you get my Jerseylicious look.
Unfortunately, I developed a few hang-ups. As I got older, I quit hanging around people who got drunk regularly; though it didn’t stop me from dating them – which is between me and my therapist.
For years, I wouldn’t even have that one drink. I also developed this issue with people who drink alone. The thought of someone coming home and having a drink alone was a sign to me that he or she was an alcoholic. I dated a guy my friend, Christian, said looked and smelled like death. He would come home every night and drink a pitcher of martinis by himself in the dark. He was also a snide drunk. Not a mean one, just snide. He would say insulting things to you when he had a few and wasn’t happy until he made you cry. More fodder for the therapist.
I ran into him a few months ago. He still looks like death, and he smells like formaldehyde. Maybe he is a zombie now?
My father was a mean and sometimes violent drunk. My long-term ex was a mean violent drunk. Every time he got drunk, he would tell me to leave his house then pass out. I would just sit there and watch television.
My old friend, Mikie, was a happy drunk. But, even happy drunks get annoying after a while. How many times can you listen to, “I love you, man. I really love you, man. You’re beautiful.”
The only thing I knew about my being tipsy is that I start channeling Bette Davis and do quite a good impersonation. Not sure if that is a happy or snide drunk?
With all this concern over drinking to excess or drinking alone, at age forty-four, for reasons I would rather not divulge, I found out I didn’t inherit the alcoholic gene. The OCD gene, yes, but alcoholic gene, no. However, I still had the big tits and ass gene.
I was “free to be me” as Marlo Thomas told me long ago when I was just a little girl and obsessed with Doris Day.
It was at this time that I allowed myself that second drink (as long as I wasn’t driving), and I discovered that drink number two made me silly, drink number three turned me into Bette Davis, and drink number four turned me into Joan Crawford – in a good way. I have only twice gone to drink number four, which is a shame because I worship Joan Crawford and feel she did her children a great service. If she were a Donna Reed-like mother, Christina wouldn’t have made a dime on her book.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I still go months without a taste of the spirits or moonshine, and I never ever drink alone until ….
Something happens when you move into a trailer park. I always liked beer. I am not a liquor drinker, and wine, with the exception of Manischewitz, tastes like vinegar to me. I am trailer trash with class.
I always keep beer in my fridge in case a guest wants one, and I have thrown away a lot of beer because they just sit there for a year and go bad. Yes, beer can go bad. This past summer was very hot, and one day after mowing the grass, I was very thirsty. I opened my fridge, and there was a six pack of Sam Adams. I thought for a long minute before I grabbed one, popped the cap, and poured it into a glass.
You didn’t think I would drink it straight from the bottle did you? What do I look like? A lesbian?
Then, I hesitated, put the glass to my lips and took a sip. It was delicious and refreshing. I was drinking alone. Oh my God! One hang-up overcome.
But, not so quickly. I only had one, and I did keep looking out the window to see if they were sending over the shuttle from Betty Ford.
If you have a Jewish liver or you are a drunk, follow me, join me, tell your friends, and buy my goddam book.