by Christina Gombar
Can we talk? I’m bugged by recovering alcoholics – many on high doses of psychotropic prescription meds — whose sour looks convey judgment of us one-drink-a-dayers as fellow drunks. I’m gluten-free. I cannot eat wheat, bread, beer, pizza, cake, bagels, or pasta. But I don’t condemn people who can. It’s not their fault they can take pleasure and sustenance from things that make me sick. At restaurants I apologize for my needs, explaining to the wait-person, “I’m gluten-free. It’s a cult.”
I have enough drugs in my bottom drawer to put a large village to sleep and enough in my top drawer to energize a small army. They are worth a small fortune, but their cost is never contested by my health insurance company. I have a chronic health condition from which
no pill cures me, and all are bad news in the long run. Even Advil taken daily for pain is infinitely worse for my liver than a glass of Rose taken with dinner.
But such is today’s faith in pharmaceuticals and demonization of liquor, that to be seen sipping a glass of wine with dinner generally leads people to the conclusion that my health condition is caused by drinking.
When I moved to Rhode Island six years ago, my old college roommate introduced me to her friends: “This is Tina, don’t mind her, she’s Teatotal.” Because I limited myself to one glass of champagne, and only ever drank with food. Pregnant women openly drink. Scotch. In the morning. I know many high functioning, middle-aged, career-successful people who put in a couple of hours at their regular bar nightly, and return for Saturday and Sunday lunch to drink the afternoon away.
Because I’m not a heavy drinker, it’s made it harder than usual to segue from an urban-work culture where people are addicted to jobs, gourmet food and psychotherapy, to the resort area where booze serves all three functions: nutrition, occupation, and all-purpose soul-soother and stress-buster. A steep recession reigns here in the Ocean State and Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. You’d never know this from looking at the three-deep crowd at the bars of the local restaurants. In a way it’s heartening to see middle-aged and elderly people enjoy themselves and socialize like teenagers. But I know I will never be one of them. I am too vain. You are what you eat and this also goes for drink. The women
I see heading for Friday night happy hour (which starts at 2:30 p.m.) at the local bar look like their favorite drink: a can of Bud.
Christina Gombar is an unwilling member of several cults, including gluten-free and non-Moms. Her prize-winning work has appeared in numerous consumer, online and literary journals, including The London Review of Books, Working Woman and Exhale. She wishes she could drink like she used to. www.ChristinaGombar.com