by Deirdre Sinnott
The champagne fizzed over the rim, so I snatched up the goblet to sip off the excess. I dabbed at a wet spot on the green polyester tablecloth with a paper napkin. A v-shaped metal nutcracker sat next to my newly-purchased digging and extracting tools. They stood ready to take apart the lobster still boiling in the pot. A demitasse cup filled with melted butter waited for bits of meat. Alone in my quiet kitchen, I carried out my first Be Kind to Deirdre Day.
At the time, I bounced from weeks of toil in darkened theaters to advance my “show business” career to a part-time cashier job that paid the rent, a flurry of high stress and low compensation. On free evenings, I prowled bars looking for a partner. I found plenty of short-term company, but no one to satisfy my ravenous appetite for a sinner/savior.
I existed on a series of rewards that I designated as appropriate remuneration for my troubles. If I had to get up early and fight a hangover, I allowed myself something gooey-sweet to eat as well as hot and cold caffeinated beverages. Stay late at work? Visit a bar on the way home. Endure frustrating days of waiting for a call from last weekend’s pickup? Spend time by the phone consuming chips, creamy dip, and multiple beers. Need to cut lose after an intense period of putting a play together? Get drunk, as fast as possible.
Be Kind to Deirdre Day became an über-award designed to buffer the damage and begin anew. I considered it my gift to me. And, in my alcoholic state of mind, it was the best I could do.
The highlight of the Day was dinner. I usually chose the same menu: a live lobster, ruddy and thrashing when going head first into the pot, vivid red when emerging, and champagne, always champagne. I don’t suppose that the French consider the bottle a single-serving size, but I did.
Alone at the kitchen table, I cracked the claws, split the tail, sucked the juices out of the spider-like legs, and feasted. Between bites, I drank the champagne–sipping it, tasting it, gulping it. The sharpness of the bubbles raked my throat and the sticky aftertaste soothed the burn.
My belly swelled and ached. I stood up, pushing aside the plate of broken shells, and dragged the goblet and the bottle over to the sofa where we could be alone. There the two of us, alcohol and me, could hunker down and consume each other.
When I woke the next morning, bloated and headachy, I never grasped that Be Kind to Deirdre Day was its opposite. Not only was the whole concept flawed (what, only one day for kindness?), but I blamed my uncomfortable condition on the last drink or the last bite of the night, not the first. If every time I bought a bottle of champagne I finished it and if every time I finished a bottle I got a hangover, then why ever buy champagne? If my life felt so punishing that I set aside a special day to not hurt myself and ended up doing just that, didn’t it mean, at minimum, my system of rewards had to change?
Other people might have stopped drinking when they felt the twinkle of a buzz. Some might be appalled at the notion of sitting alone with an alcoholic beverage. Champagne is made to be shared, they’d scoff. But that’s not how I did it.
And after two decades of experimentation (tonight just beer, tonight only a few glasses of wine, tonight no mixing, tonight stop before getting sick, et cetera ad nauseum), I figured out that I was not normal.
My last official Be Kind to Deirdre Day was more than 13 years ago. However, the “be kind” concept survives. I nurture it.
When actively boozing, I never knew how much I was hurting myself. I had to stop to feel the absence of pain.
I’m free from the logic of drinking, where, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, alcohol was both the problem and the solution to everything. I’ve moved beyond just lobster and champagne. I get to choose my pleasures–like the sour crunch of home-grown cucumbers in a yogurt-dill sauce or being the focus of my cats’ neurotic neediness or the repeated delight of loving the same person. Those joys rushed in to fill the vacuum left when I put down the bottle(s).
My goal is to be full-time kind to Deirdre.