Interview with Linda Yellin, author of the memoir, “The Last Blind Date”

Each week, we 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.

Linda Yellin spent most of her responsible adult years writing advertising in Chicago for shampoos and burgers. Then she fell in love, got married, and moved to New York, going through as many changes as a person possibly can without entering the Federal Witness Protection Program. Along the way she published short stories in Redbook and a novel, “Such A Lovely Couple.” Her first reply letter ever came from an editor at Good Housekeeping who said she wrote in “much the same style as Dorothy Parker.” She now writes humor pieces for More magazine. Her memoir, “The Last Blind Date” was released in October and she is being called “The Midwest Nora Ephron.”

Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?

Linda Yellin: Whatever year I was first allowed to drink wine instead of grape juice at the family Passover seder. Probably age 11 or 12. And if you’ve ever tasted kosher wine, you’ll know why I wasn’t impressed with the concept of drinking.

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

I’m a sucker for a good margarita – sans salt. It’s attractive, tastes sweet and citrusy, and often includes a cute paper umbrella. Unfortunately, it also often includes a bad mariachi band.

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?

Well, it started out as the best time, but four piña coladas later, it was arguably the worst time…

Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?

Yes. Back to that Passover seder…kosher wine has the taste and consistency of cough syrup. It was years before I discovered there was such a thing as good-tasting wine. Same thing happened with champagne. I never knew what all the fuss was about until the first time I tried expensive champagne and realized the stuff served at all my relatives’ weddings was closer to gasoline.

Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?

“100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” – it can get you from Chicago to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin all in one car trip.

What do you like most about drinking?

The ritual. The toasts. The way that rabbit opener always works. Listening to my friends use words like “woody” and “oaky” and “California.”

Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?

As much as I enjoy wine with dinner, it wakes me up at night. Two a.m. and I’m wide-eyed. Okay, so lots of nights I’m awake at two a.m.–I’m not a great sleeper. But when I drink in the evening, insomnia’s a sure bet. The wine must metabolize or something because wham! It’s time to turn on the Home Shopping Network.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

Sloe Gin Fizz. I look good in red.


Who loves whiskey more–women or men?

Whiskey has been in the press a lot these days, and all stories seem to focus on its increasingly devoted buyer: women.

The liquor industry is seeing a surge in women buying alcoholic drinks traditionally marketed toward men, reported a recent piece on titled, ‘Mad Men’ effect? More women get a taste for whiskey. The whiskey industry acknowledges that “women make 65 to 70 percent of the alcohol-purchasing decisions for at-home consumption,” according to New England Consulting Group, so its now-finally–concentrating on the female buyer. As a result, a number of companies have added different styles and a wide range of flavors and aromas.

In fact, there’s even a non-alcoholic version of whiskey on the market–ideal for those who like the flavor of whiskey and who are either pregnant or prefer to abstain from alcohol. As promoted on its website, ArKay is “the world’s first alcohol-free ,whiskey-flavored drink…a perfect beverage that anyone can consume.”

Jameson whiskey ad

There is some controversy about Arkay, however–so don’t throw out the O’Doul’s just yet. According to the Scotch Whiskey Association, ArKay is just a “soft drink with artificial flavorings.”

Historically known as a masculine drink, whiskey advertisements have almost exclusively been directed at men (exhibit right). This sparked an interesting debate, addressed in Brooke Carey’s Huffington Post piece, Women and Whiskey Advertising. After researching whiskey’s advertising past, Carey uncovered that the question “isn’t why don’t whiskey makers pay the ladies any attention but, rather, why do women respond to masculine ads while the reverse doesn’t appear to be true?”

It’s an interesting question. So what do you think about the advertising focus? And who buys the booze in your house?

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When It Comes to Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain, Men and Women Aren’t Equal











In another example of sometimes, life just isn’t fair, Swedish researchers have found that alcohol screws up women’s happiness faster than it does men’s. In other words, drinking damages the serotonin system in women’s brains faster than in men’s brains.

Serotonin is key, because it regulates mood, emotion, impulse control, sleep and appetite. Decreased levels of serotonin are associated with depression.

The team of researchers, from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, saw a marked decline in the function of the serotonin system in the brains of women who were drinking alcohol for only four years. The men’s brains took 12 years of alcohol consumption to show the same result. (They were studying the brains of women and men with “alcohol dependence,” but I’d be curious to know exactly how the researchers defined problem drinking—two glasses a day? Five?)

Speaking about the findings on newstonight, one of the researchers, Kristina Berglund said, “It is important to note that the damage is just as serious in men and women, but the time courses are different.”

She also noted that it’s important to determine whether or not the serotonin system can repair itself, or not.

The findings will be published in the January 2012 edition of the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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Thanksgiving Round-Up










To all our fantastic readers and writers—drinkers, non-drinkers, once-drinkers, never-been-drinkers and everyone else on the spectrum–Happy Thanksgiving!

We’re so grateful for all the support we’ve received for what we’re doing here at Drinking Diaries. In honor of the holiday, we’ve rounded up some Thanksgiving-related posts (to read, say, when you’re in the bathroom with your laptop, hiding from the relatives):

Here’s a Great one by Sarah Allen Benton, which is on the Psychology Today blog, on Coping With Family Events Without Alcohol (or when others are banging on the bathroom door and you have to surrender your private time).

And more, from Drinking Diaries:

An essay by Tara Handron on Gratitude Month

An essay by co-editor Caren Osten Gerszberg, “A Mixed Blessing” 

Another post by Caren: “How Puritan Were Those Pilgrims?”

A post by me (Leah) about how Thanksgiving eve night is the biggest night for underage drinking. Surprised?

Enjoy your turkey and seltzer, or tofurkey and wine, or whatever it is you’ll be eating and drinking!

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Interview with Elise Blackwell, author of “An Unfinished Score” and “Grub”





Each week, we 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.

Elise Blackwell is the author of four novels: Hunger, the Unnatural History of Cypress ParishGrub, and An Unfinished Score. Her work has been translated into several languages, and her books have been named to numerous “best of the year” lists, including the Los Angeles Times. Her short stories and cultural criticism have appeared in the AtlanticWitnessSeedGlobal City ReviewQuick Fiction, and elsewhere.

Drinking Diaries: Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?

Elise Blackwell: I grew up in southern Louisiana. Where indulgence in food and drink is part of the culture, you also see the negative effects of overindulgence, particularly among those who aren’t accustomed to it. New Orleans is the only U.S. city I know of where you can get a “go cup” for your drink. I think growing up in that culture led me to view drinking as something enjoyable, social, and fun—something that combines well with food, music, and dance—while also giving me a strong dislike of obnoxious drunks.

How did/does your family treat drinking?

Most of my family members are light or moderate drinkers. My Louisiana grandparents would offer cocktails (“How about a highball?”) to guests. Wine was on the table for holidays. Occasionally my grandfather would have exactly one beer while watching football.

How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?

Very young—maybe eight or nine or ten—I was given a little wine on special occasions, such as Christmas Eve. Just a finger or two in a regular wine glass or enough to fill a tiny crystal glass. Once my cousin and I surreptitiously drank a couple of flutes of champagne at a family wedding and wound up outside rolling down a grassy hill in our dresses. Not exactly drunk but definitely tipsy and silly. We were maybe fourteen or fifteen. But I drank very little before becoming an adult. I worked as a bartender for awhile when I was eighteen (which was still the legal drinking age in Louisiana at the time), but that inclined me to drink less rather than more.

Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?

I rarely drank while trying to conceive a child and none at all while pregnant and in the early nursing days. I also abstain for stretches periodically for various reasons, such as to trim down. The older I get, the more I find that alcohol interferes with sleep quality, which also encourages periods of abstention.

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

Wine, champagne, or mineral water, because I love the way they taste. Bourbon a couple of times a year, such as when the mint returns to the garden in the spring and a julep sounds like a good idea. I have no taste at all for beer, Scotch, or gin. If any of those are all that’s on offer, I drink water.

Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?

In 2003, a teetotaling friend who had inherited a nice wine collection gave me a bottle of 1982 Pauillac and told me to save it for a special occasion but not to wait too long. The day I sold my novel my husband and I uncorked it. After I had taken one sip my agent called to tell me he’d persuaded the publisher to increase the advance. I finished the glass. Then we took the rest of the bottle to a restaurant—I was living in a BYOB town then—and someone pointed to it and said, “I wish I was having that.” It was probably the most delicious wine I’ve ever had and I got to be seen having it, which was hilarious because it’s not a bottle that I could have or would have purchased. It was the day one of my longest-held dreams came true, and I was glad to mark it as special.

Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?

Yes, both.

What do you like most about drinking?

It’s celebratory, and it helps me access that often submerged part of me that is extroverted and not socially awkward. I have no interest in drinking alcoholic beverages I don’t like the taste of, such as Scotch, but I really like the taste of (decent or good) wine.

If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?

Fine champagne. It’s celebratory, and people are almost always happy when they see it. People may cry into their beers, but they laugh and smile and wish each other congratulations and good cheer over champagne.