Interview with Janice Eidus, author of “The Last Jewish Virgin” and “The War of the Rosens”

Janice EudisEach 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.

Janice Eidus has twice won the O.Henry Prize. Her books include the novels, The War of the Rosens and The Last Jewish Virgin, and the story collection, The Celibacy Club. With her husband and daughter, she divides her time between NYC and Mexico.

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

Janice Eidus: I was in college, and was hanging around with friends who drank socially or, should I say, drank too much socially. My first drink was a Tequila Sunrise. I drank them whenever I went out with friends. I loved how sweet and almost child-like a drink it was. Nowadays, I could never drink something so sweet.

How did/does your family treat drinking?

My parents were teetotalers, so when I drank – even a half glass of wine – I felt both guilty and rebellious. I loved the rebellious part.

How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?

I drink less and less since becoming a parent, and I desire drinking less. Prior to motherhood, I drank happily about twice a week. Back then, my husband and I looked forward to having two very dry martinis on the weekend, either at home or in a restaurant/bar. But since becoming a mom, I find myself too vigilant to want that buzz I used to feel from drinking. I want to be alert and not “hazy” for my daughter. Maybe motherhood is its own high.The Last Jewish Virgin cover

If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?

My daughter is nine, and she’s seen me drink now and then. Much more than the drinks themselves, she’s fascinated by the glasses from which I drink – narrow champagne flutes, hefty wine glasses, martini glasses decorated with polka dots, brandy snifters, stocky little tequila glasses.

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

Right after college, and then again in graduate school, I drank more than I ever have before or since. The freedom from work and family that being a full time student afforded me made me into more of a drinker than is typical for me.

What’s your drink of choice? Why?

One favorite is Luxardo Amaretto. I drink it on the rocks, with one ice cube, once or twice a month. One of my dearest Mom friends turned me on to it. Sometimes, when her twins and my daughter are having a playdate, she and I sit and have our own private amaretto playdate. However, when I’m in San Miguel de Allende, a wonderful town in the mountains of Mexico, where I spend at least a few weeks every year, I drink more than I do the rest of the year. My family enjoys the luxury there of having a full-time housekeeper who had been a bartender in Mexico City. She serves powerful margaritas to our friends who visit, while my husband and I indulge ourselves almost every mid-afternoon with her tequila con sangrita, served with her spicy guacamole and chips. In Mexico, I let my hair down in a way I no longer do in New York.

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

When my husband and I were still “just friends,” we went to a now defunct bar on West 4th Street in the West Village, and we drank enough that we both got tipsy and were able to move beyond being “just friends.”

The War of the Rosens cover

What about the worst time?

A year or so after college, I spent New Year’s Eve with my then-boyfriend at a party where I drank and drank, mixing drinks without a thought or care in the world. On my subway ride home the next morning, I experienced my first hangover. Everything was spinning, and my head and stomach hurt. The train was crowded, and I was standing up, clinging to the pole, wedged between several other passengers, when I felt an acute need to throw up. I managed to hold it together until the next subway stop, where I ran off the train and threw up on the platform.

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

A very close family member is both a drug addict and an alcoholic. We’ve been estranged from each other for years. This person has never sought help, and is tragically lost to me.

Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?

My parents were very politically left wing. For them, drinking was both bourgeois and pretentious, and they had absolutely no interest in liquor of any sort. They didn’t even sip Manischewitz on Jewish holidays. I’ve inherited their politics, so I’ve had to rebel in other ways. And one of those ways is the fact that I do drink.

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

A cool, dry martini, shaken not stirred. If it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for me, although I consider myself a feminist, and haven’t seen a James Bond movie in years.