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.
Alix Ohlin is the author of Inside, a novel, and the story collection Signs and Wonders. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s “Selected Shorts.”
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Alix Ohlin: Other than sips here and there, I don’t think I had a drink until I went to college. I’m pretty sure it was something terrible, like Everclear punch.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
When I graduated from college, I moved to New York and got a job in book publishing. There was definitely a culture of drinking in publishing, and I wanted to be a part of that. I thought there was a glamour to it, a sophistication that harkened back to the Algonquin Round Table, that kind of thing. I had some terrible hangovers during those years, and pretty soon I realized that heavy drinking was not for me.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to drink less, because I just can’t tolerate it. Too much alcohol keeps me up at night and I prize a good night’s sleep like nobody’s business. So an occasional glass of wine with dinner works best for me.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
My best memories of drinking are definitely site- and time-specific. I think of cans of Tecate I drank with friends in grad school in Texas. Gin and tonics on the porch at the Bread Loaf writers’ conference. Tiny glasses of Swedish aquavit with my family at Christmas. The memories are clearly less about the drink than cherishing the people I was drinking with.
What about the worst time?
This is sort of predictable–one night in college, a good friend and I drank rum and Cokes while having one of those brilliant deep philosophical conversations about the world. Three hours later I was heaving in the bushes. (It’s possible the conversation wasn’t as brilliant as I thought.) To this day I can’t stand the taste of rum. I can barely even drink Coke.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
The party scene in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”—which starts out in sparkling hilarity, and ends with everybody totally disheveled, a woman blubbering at herself in the mirror—is pretty great.
What do you like most about drinking?
I think in moderation drinking can be both convivial and relaxing. I like the ceremony of it, having a friend over, opening a bottle of wine to drink together. There can be a real symbolic weight to that, like breaking bread together has weight.
Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?
I wouldn’t ever want drinking to be a crutch or a daily habit. So I drink occasionally, with other people, and that is a pleasure for me.