In Ireland, they’re calling it the “epidemic of chardonnay housewives,” where women slip into alcohol dependence without realizing it, and without others realizing it until they’ve hit rock bottom. It’s easy to fool yourself and others by telling yourself you’re just having a glass of wine, when really it’s two, then three, then the whole bottle. Rehabs in Ireland are starting waiting lists, with affluent women making up the majority of those who seek help.
You don’t actually have to be a housewife to be a “chardonnay housewife.” (And you don’t have to live in Ireland). You just have to be a woman who uses wine to deal with stress.
The Economic Times recently reported that women in high powered positions drink twice as much as those in manual jobs, reflecting a rising “cocktail and business card culture.” So there’s drinking all around.
Typical of the women Dr. Gareth McGovern, a Dublin doctor who specializes in addiction, sees is the one who had engaged in “social, sitting at home, bottle of wine” kind of drinking, which at first seems harmless. The problem is when the ritual moves into a habit, then a full-blown craving, and finally, a need.
In the U.S., bloggers and advertisers court and cater to the chardonnay crowd, with kicky, tongue-in-cheek sites like “Moms Who Need Wine” (There’s even a t-shirt!). The Facebook page has half a million followers. And note: It’s not “Moms Who WANT Wine,” it’s “Moms Who NEED Wine.”
There’s even a wine on the market called Mad Housewife Chardonnay. The tagline: “What’s domestic bliss without a little wine?”
The advertisers walk a fine line, though, careful to cover themselves. While they suggest that wine is “something you can look forward to at the end of each and every day,” and that it gives you “time to enjoy a moment to yourself” (read: it’s okay to drink alone, if you can’t find a buddy), they also point out that wine should never “create a new line item in your budget.”
Just because the media has moved on from the “cocktail mom” phenomenon doesn’t mean women have stopped drinking.
I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but given the prevalence of alcohol abuse problems and given the Russian Roulette nature of addiction (you don’t know you’re an addict until you’re hooked, and then the denial kicks in), it might be a good idea for women to learn to untangle wine from need, and make it a weekend treat instead of something to look forward to “each and every day.”