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.
Joyce Maynard’s latest novel is The Good Daughters, just published by William Morrow. Her best-selling novel, Labor Day–just out in paperback–is currently in development as a film to be directed by Jason Reitman. Her memoir, At Home in the World, has been translated into eleven languages. Go to www.joycemaynard.com to learn more.
Drinking Diaries: How did/does your family treat drinking?
Joyce Maynard: I think that my family is aware that pouring a glass of wine is a more significant act than pouring a glass of milk, and it is for me, too. As someone who grew up in an alcoholic family, I will always be a person for whom wine carries a big emotional weight and I think that my children have picked that up, too.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
I love wine and want a glass of wine every night, but sometimes I don’t have it specifically because I feel that way.
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
I will share a glass of wine with my three older children. I would never be secretive about drinking. If I saw myself pouring wine into a tumbler, that would be a sign that I shouldn’t be drinking. My policy is that if I feel shame about my drinking then I shouldn’t be drinking.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I drank more when my marriage was ending and my mother was dying at the same time. That was the only time I drank hard liquor. I remember pouring a glass of Scotch in the middle of the night. I left the bottle out, using it as a signal to my then husband of how unhappy I was.
I don’t drink very much when I’m at my house in Guatemala, which is made easier by the fact that it’s not easy to get good wine. But it also has to do with the lifestyle I have there—gardening, swimming, walking, going to bed early. But I must admit, a cold beer feels very good in Guatemala.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
Red wine. It fits with my personality that I’d like a rich, full-bodied, intense red wine. On hot summer days I’ll drink a glass of chardonnay, but red wine seems like the drink of a hot-blooded person.
Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?
Yes. The same quality I love of taking the edge off has also on occasion allowed me to say things to one of my kids that I wish I hadn’t said. It made me also recognize that I don’t want to be drinking every night.
In the past, back when my three older kids were home, I used to note that more often than not, if I’d had a bad argument with my daughter, it would have taken place on a night when I’d had a few glasses of wine.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
Because my mother was half Jewish, I qualify as Jewish myself, but we didn’t celebrate Passover or have a bottle of Manischevitz on the shelf. But I actually now look for those rituals and a glass of wine in that situation feels appropriate and good. I don’t want to drink wine casually, but wine drunk in a religious context has meaning.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
“Bottle of Wine,” by Tom Paxton. The lyrics go something like this:
Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine,
When you gonna let me get sober?
Leave me alone, let me go home.
Let me go back and start over.
What do you like most about drinking?
The same things I’m leery of. Drinking allows me to let my hair down. I’m not a person who chills out easily and drinking lets me be that kind of person.
How has alcoholism affected your life?
When I give a talk, the first sentence I invariably say is that I grew up in an alcoholic family. It is the starting point for a huge part of who I am. There are two aspects that shaped me: my father’s drinking and the keeping of the secret of my father’s drinking. The discomfort of that shapes the kind of writer I am and why I’m someone who likes to talk about things.