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.
Sheila Weller is a bestselling author and award-winning magazine journalist. Her April 2008 book (her sixth), Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — And The Journey of a Generation was a New York Times Bestseller for eight weeks, and was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2008 by Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, Amazon.com, and TheDailyBeast.com. Girls Like Us is in active development as a motion picture with Sony. Weller is a writer for Vanity Fair, has been Senior Contributing Editor of Glamour since 2002, is a former Contributing Editor to New York, and has written and writes for numerous other magazines. She has won a record six Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Awards; she was one of three awardees, for her body of work, for Magazine Feature Writing on a Variety of Subjects in the 2005 National Headliners Award; and she won a 2006 Exceptional Merit in Media Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus. She lives in New York City and is married to history writer John Kelly.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Sheila Weller: I can’t remember. It was probably beer at an LA Dodgers game. I was in the ’60s generation so we smoked pot and did a bit of psychedelics more than drank.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
Now, here’s the interesting thing and the reason the subject interested me. Family of origin? Nothing relevant there. We owned a nightclub ( a major, glamorous one) but drinking was not an issue. OTHER things were — like infidelity, incest, fratricide, nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts, front page newspaper headline for the above…but I digress. (See my family memoir Dancing at Ciro’s for deets.)
But the interesting thing is: I am a Jewish woman married to an Irish guy, We’ve been together a zillion years. When we met, HE was the drinker. I never in a million years thought of myself as “a drinker.” Then he stopped — cold, cold, cold; never a moment’s regression — when our son was about to be born 30 years ago. Over the last 20 years..slowly….I BECAME the drinker. Ha! Just wine. White wine. But three glasses a day — maybe two, less only if I am trying to lose weight. Drinking white wine, even if only one glass, is something I definitely do every day. Unless I am sick.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
Five o’clock, I can have my glass of wine. My first one, that is. Yes, yes, we all love that saying, “It’s five o’clock SOMEwhere.”
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
My son is an adult. He knows that I have replaced his father as The Drinker in the family. He makes jokes about it and if we all go out to dinner, he KNOWS I am waiting for that first glass of wine. I am a reverse snob about drinking — inexpensive white wine for me. He (my son) tries to do things like send me expensive wine for my birthday. “You don’t GET it, kiddo,” I say to my son. I LIKE the semi-peon wine! It’s part of the macho-ness of it…and part of the budgeting. When I go to his and his wife’s apt. for a dinner, I get with the program and bring a $20 bottle of wine instead of my usual $9.95 one. Just to indulge him.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
Before ten years ago: Less. Work has gotten more intense and with it…more relaxing through wine.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
The above — white wine. Pinot Grigio. I’m a terrible creature of habit. Also, I love the little airplane bottles. I’m like Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise — where they stop at the convenience store in the middle of their crime spree and she buys all those cute girly little bottles of liqour and the liquor store guy says, “Ya want the economy size?” And she says: “NO!” like he’s crazy. I also, after ruining several corkscrews, like wine with twist caps. That, too, is part of the reverse snobbism. Wine that ISN’T properly decanted and is in a twist-top bottle? Yes.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
I’m Jewish. “Jews don’t …really…drink.” So it snuck up on me, my daily wine habit. I can’t be a “drinker.”
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Well, I’ll say this. When my husband and I met, our first date was a Tom Waits cabaret show. He said he related to Waits (I distinctly remember him saying, “Waits has a great song – Warm Wine, Cold Women”) and I of course related to Rickie Lee Jones. He meant it — he had just come out of a divorce and was kind of a bit of a mess….a very cute mess. I was faking it. I LOVED Rickie Lee — I wanted to slur my words like she did, singing “Chuck E’s” in Love. But I didn’t.. Now, however, if you catch me after 9 pm, after a stressful day, sometimes, I do…well, maybe just a little bit. Never anything obvious.