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.
Stacy Morrison is an editor, writer, consultant, blogger, mother, and author. She was recently named the first dedicated editor in chief of BlogHer.com. She was a magazine editor for 20 years—most recently editor-in-chief of Redbook magazine, from 2004-2010. Morrison is the author of Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce.
She recently became a founding board member of the non-profit Violence UnSilenced, a safe online community where abuse survivors can share their stories, either anonymously or publicly. She also has a blog, Fillingintheblanks.com, about resilience and coming to terms with life’s fragility. She lives in Brooklyn with her 8-year-old son.
Drinking Diaries: How did/does your family treat drinking?
Stacy Morrison: In my house growing up, drinking alcohol was just an ordinary piece of a life well-lived. My parents were enthusiastic cooks and entertainers, so even weeknight family meals were prepared with an air of festivity about them (except for meatloaf nights; not much you can do with meatloaf). My mother and father tended to drink wine with dinner most nights (jug wine, Gallo), and often had an after-dinner drink. My mom liked Amaretto over ice; my father, Cutty Sark scotch. The very dailiness of alcohol meant it didn’t feel particularly verboten or special.
I would smell my mom’s wine from time to time to kind of try to “get” it, and I’m pretty sure I had my first sip when I was 11 or so. Maybe younger. I wasn’t that interested. But the Amaretto was delicious! Like candy and fire mixed together. I was always angling for a sip of that as a kid. That and the Vandermint, a chocolate-mint liqueur that came in a beautiful Dutch delft bottle.
My parents had a pretty awesome liquor cabinet. It was one of three yellow-bamboo cabinets that lined one wall in the dining room (where we ate only on holidays). I was often asked to go get liquor from the cabinet, whether for cooking or for a cocktail, and it was like a jewel chest to me: sparkling bottles of different colored liquids. I wanted to know which ones were sweet, which ones weren’t, and I regularly took a sip of the maraschino cherry juice my dad kept in the cabinet to flavor Manhattans. My parents were big on information and the history of how things are made, so I got lessons in which grain made what color alcohol, what the history of Benedictine liqueur was, the difference between red and white vermouth. I did finally get around to tasting everything in that cabinet, without permission, with the predictable bad results, but that wasn’t for years and years.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
Alcohol is a big part of my every day life—but even so, it feels funny to type that, as if maybe it shouldn’t be. I drink wine with dinner almost every night (not jug wine, not Gallo, usually a nice Riesling). And I have my own liquor cabinet, but it has a lot less variety in it. I’m pretty much a bourbon girl, and I like to sip a good tequila, too. And there’s a delft blue-and-white bottle of Vandermint chocolate mint liqueur in the back of the cabinet my father bought for me as a sentimental present maybe more than ten years ago. I don’t drink it much, but I love the memories it hands me every time I open the cabinet.
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
My son is just 9 years old, so our years of perhaps sharing a drink together are very far away. We talk a bit about wine, about alcohol, about the limits one needs to have. He does say I drink “a lot,” because I do have a drink almost every day, but then we talk about the different kinds of “a lot”: 4 or 5 drinks or more in one sitting, and what it does to your judgment, your vision, your logic, versus 1 or 2 drinks a day. He’s a big fan of the TinTin comic books (originally written in the ’30s), and so the hopelessly alcoholic Captain Haddock (who can drink an entire bottle of whisky or rum before he gets sauced) represents the negative sides of drinking to him: the lost ships, the botched missions, his hopeless nature and general idiocy. Lucky me to have a solid life lesson programmed into my son’s favorite books. Bonus!!
I have abused alcohol more than once in my life, both as a college student (basic stupid binge drinking) and as an adult (overreliance on wine to carry me away from the heartbreak of divorce or the hideous, simultaneous sudden illnesses of both my parents, who died four weeks apart). And so there are the recovery phases afterward. In college after one particularly regrettable drunken episode–during which I made out with a boy I actually hated and got into a vicious fight for no reason with a friend I loved–I gave up alcohol for an entire year, both to remind myself that staying in my right mind was the point and that I could have fun with my friends without it. I drank quite a lot when my parents were dying; it was a very extreme situation, and I managed their care, their house, and their finances (as well as my young son’s terror about it all) and got through it the best I could. But I finally reached a point where waking up slow and sluggish was taking away from me more than the hour of disconnect was giving me, and I pulled back.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
I have so many drinks of choice, it would be impossible to pick just one. One of the traits of alcohol I really love is its amazing variety and nuance. I love High West small-batch bourbon neat or with one ice cube. I am currently obsessed with German Rieslings, because there’s such variety expressed (from flinty and slightly effervescent to sweet and fruity with a rich sugary pop). At a restaurant, I’ll order Patron Silver, chilled, with lots of fresh lime (a low-calorie margarita), or a Perfect Manhattan made with rye. I would say I don’t discriminate when it comes to alcohol, but the truth is what I love about it is the discrimination, the layers of difference.
What do you like most about drinking?
Aside from the incredible variety, what I also love about drinking is the ritual. I have tried to find a way to create another evening habit that has no calories (or alcohol) that can make me feel as at home, relaxed and rewarded as drinking does, but truth is, nothing is quite the same. The idea of an evening walk with my family comes close, but weather, circumstance and layers of responsibility keep interrupting that well-intended notion, while the chilled bottle of wine is right there in the fridge, and I can enjoy it while doing the necessary nightly duties.
My meditation practice may come and go, my healthiest days of fitness wax and wane, but I can always squeeze in a small daily dose of liquid gratitude. And I don’t mean to come off as glib when I say that. I genuinely experience just before that first sip a moment of deep, quiet “thank you,” to myself and to the universe, that the world is not filled merely with obligations and must-dos and ascetic do-goods (I’m always trying to eat less, want less, have less), but has moments of respite and grace where we can slow down for a moment and say “I am happy to be here, living this life, right now.”
Could I do that with a glass of, say, bubbly water? Perhaps. I do get pretty excited about bubbly water for a lot of the same reasons (the layers of difference, the size of the bubbles, the delicious crispness, the marvel that it comes from the earth), but truth is, in the same way that simple gifts of nature are turned into something more complex and magical by the strange blessing of fermentation, a glass of wine or a well-made cocktail transforms my daily let-another-day-pass into a lucid moment of attention and joy. And to that, I’ll raise my glass.