From time to time, we will post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Dani Shapiro is the author of a new memoir, Devotion. Her other books include the bestselling memoir, Slow Motion, and the novels Family History and Black & White.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Dani Shapiro: If you don’t count Passover wine (and who could count Passover wine? Back then it was Manischewitz), my first drink was probably a beer when I was fifteen or so, in the basement of a friend’s house.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
Neither of my parents were really drinkers. Every once in a while, if we were out to dinner, my mother would order a Chivas sour on the rocks, which seemed very sophisticated to me. We had a liquor cabinet at home, which was always locked. Aside from a sip of (again, Manischewitz) wine on the Sabbath or holidays, I never saw my father touch the stuff.
How do you approach alcohol in your everyday life?
I enjoy a good glass of red wine. Occasionally I’ll have a cocktail, but find that hard liquor disrupts my sleep, so I tend to stay away from it. The same is true of after-dinner drinks, which will really do a number on me. I’ve learned that a couple of glasses of wine is my limit.
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
My son is still quite young, and he sees us drinking wine, but he doesn’t like the taste of it at all. I’d like for him to see it as no big deal — we don’t put a lot of emphasis on drinking or not drinking.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
When I was in my twenties, I definitely drank too much. (I’m a small person, so my personal “too much” might be someone else’s normal.) I was unhappy, lost — and drinking made me more unhappy, more lost. So I stopped for years, and only started drinking again in my mid-thirties. I only want it to be a happy, celebratory thing.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
A big Italian red wine, in a beautiful crystal wine glass.
Once, a bartender in Boston made me a drink called a “Red Lion” which was my favorite mixed drink ever, but I’ve never again found a bartender who has heard of it.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
Any anniversary dinner with my husband. We’ve been together for almost fourteen years, and we always go out for a nice dinner, and he orders a special bottle of wine. I love lingering over dinner, ordering the cheese plate, really indulging, which we almost never do.
What about the worst time?
A night in my twenties that ended on the floor of my then-boyfriend’s bathroom…the room spinning. What a terrible feeling.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
I don’t think so. Except that historically it seems that Jews didn’t drink much. We were too busy fleeing pogroms.
What do you like most about drinking?
The sense, after a long, hard, satisfying day’s work, that the day has come to a close. That the evening has begun.