by Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Okay, so I’m basing my lofty scientific title treatise purely on myself, but I truly believe this. Some are angry drunks, and for some, liquor brings on a crushing state of grief. You may hate yourself drunk, but personally I think I’m great fun, especially since I let loose so rarely. In fact, I know I’m that troubling kind of great fun. Proof: my three major relationships (including my current marriage) were each launched by my being a non-drinker having too much red wine around a formerly platonic pal.
My husband, an Aussie who (yes I will stereotype him here), because of his nationality can hold his liquor, loves to remind me of the salacious night we crossed the friend line. I had two glasses of red, nestled my head on his best-pal shoulders, kept telling him how fantastic his omelet-making ability was and lip-locked him before he could think straight.
My college ex-boyfriend, who I’m miraculously friends with again due to the magic of Facebook, remembers a pleasant shock that the career-focused School Union President he worked on campus lectures with was secretly such a floozy. Nothing like an empty hotel room and a complimentary bottle of wine meant for a celebrity speaker snowed out of Syracuse University for a whale of a time.
Now, I repeat–I am the textbook opposite of a lush. And when it comes to my marriage, I’ve been a pretty good girl. If I drank too much of anything over the years it’s been Diet Coke and coffee. Overall, I’m proud to say I’m a boring, doting mom of a seven-year-old. A bender for me is more likely to involve a hunk of cake, or too many slices of rye bread.
Naturally though, especially during the holiday party season when even doting moms imbibe, my husband likes to be around me when there’s wine involved. He’ll sexually benefit then, not some fella who didn’t see it coming. This has worked for us quite well: We’ve been married for 12 years, and together since we were in our early 20’s.
But sometimes, especially when my British friends come to town, I worry all will go bust. Most overseas people visiting me in New York are from the poverty-jetset documentary world–people I met at some film festival. My husband, a musician with an insurance company day job, is bored by poverty-jetset schmoozing, an essential part of the documentary filmmaker job. If English documentarians are coming, he always implores me to leave him out of the plans, despite the risks. And the risks: Brits drink. Hard.
Even though I know damn well I should steer away from the alcohol that sporadically has done me in, like Madonna, I am that pathetic American who desperately wants to impress our friends across the pond. Who wants to be labeled a wuss by a hard-drinking Brit who can tease with such an adorable accent? They’re so fabulous! They gave us Shakespeare! And McVities Hobnobs!
The last time I was out with the Brits, I tried to keep to the addictive nibbles, but the bartender sized up big money from foreigners bent on a good time. He shook each of us up his “signature” drink with a big splash of Chartreuse liqueur, and then he was doing buybacks because they were asking for more please, and suddenly I felt like someone had cast me loose from a drowning ship on a life raft that only maybe was going to make it. This was followed by me falling into a giant East Village puddle, arriving home to my husband and daughter sludgy as the Loch Ness monster. And that was followed by a completely motionless morning in bed with my smeary eyes scrunched shut. And then a teasing email from a fellow producer about how flirtatious I was with someone I had no memory of.
Getting this now? When I pretend I drink I always get drunk because I don’t drink.
So when I told my husband there was yet another British invasion of documentary friends this weekend, he looked worried, too.
I scanned the bar where we were to meet, anxious to see what poor soul could possibly get a little extra attention from me if I wasn’t careful. There was an attractive man of my pre-marriage “type” stationed on the end. God help him, I whispered to myself.
I did in fact have divine intervention, or at least a stroke of good old-fashioned luck. Ken, an old writer-friend of mine was, by sheer coincidence, on bartending duty. I was there early and could confess to my fellow American that I was a wuss of all drinking wusses, and he said he’d look out for me. He was soon pouring a glass of Merlot for my sexy sassy friend from London, a whip smart partying film producer Austin Powers would have killed to shag. Ah, the deep aroma of red. Such memories! He poured me a small bit to taste and I took a pretentious mouthful, then a swish.
“Brilliant,” I said and Ken smiled, in on the drinking-sophisticate ruse.
My friends looked pleased. Ken slipped me some water to be on the safe side.
A few hours later, although I excused myself to the Ladies with a slightly naughty step to my walk, I swear I made it home with dignity.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a the author of four humorous novels including The Unexpected Salami and The Matzo Ball Heiress and is an award-winning filmmaker. She co-directed the IFC Films documentary Keep the River on Your Right: Modern Cannibal Tale, for which she shared an Independent Spirit Award. She was co-producer and shares a “Film By” credit on the rip-roaring documentary Finishing Heaven which aired this year on HBO. She is currently at work on a new novel and film. For more info., please visit her website.