Part I: Six Reasons Why Women Like to Drink (Coming Soon: Part II: And Five Compelling Reasons Why They Don’t)

by Leah on August 10, 2012

Each week, since we started the Drinking Diaries blog in 2009, my co-editor Caren and I have been asking women the same question: Why do, or don’t you, like to drink?

These women–writers and other creative types–beautifully articulate their thoughts about drinking—the pleasures and perils.

Looking back on all the interviews we’ve done, I wondered: is there a common thread? While there isn’t any one big reason women drink, or don’t, I did find some themes.

Stay tuned for Part II of this post: Five Compelling Reasons Why Women Don’t Like to Drink. But for now:

Six Reasons Women Like to Drink:

1. Because it’s relaxing:

“It’s a grown-up excuse for those of us who are not smokers to give ourselves a time out.” –Karen Karbo, author of How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living  

“It’s cheaper than a massage and less time-consuming than a vacation.”—Sarah Pekkanen, author of These Girls

“There’s a tiny relaxation switch that gets flipped when I have a glass of wine — maybe it’s mostly psychological, really, but I feel like I’m loosening my collar and rolling up my sleeves. That’s the way I drink now, compared to the way I drank as a college kid, where drinking was the beginning of a wild party. Now, it’s the beginning of a wind-down, the quieter part of the day.” –Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

“I drink in large part because it makes me feel good, and not just the tipsy, heady, forget-about-your-problems good. I believe that regular, moderate wine drinking makes my body work better. It encourages me to relax and reflect; it stops that whirling brain thing that’s afflicted me all my life.” –Ann Bauer, author of The Forever Marriage

2. Because it’s social:  

“Probably what I like most is the camaraderie, the myopic effects of alcohol that draw individuals and groups of people together deeper into conversation and other forms of interaction—like weddings, mosh pits and nights in the country listening to frogs.”–Camille Sweeney, co-author, with Josh Gosfield, of The Art of Doing: Top Ten Strategies of Extraordinary People

“A drink with a friend is a shared experience.”  –Lisa Birnbach, author of True Prep

“Drinking to me is a little like a costume that I –and everyone else—puts on, that says, ‘Let’s participate in human theater now.’ Social gatherings would be far drabber and flatter without it.” –Liesl Schillinger, journalist, literary critic, translator and the creator of the blog, Wordbirds

”I love the social aspect of drinking.  I love sharing a bottle of wine with my girlfriends.  I love being able to serve my friends a drink when I’m working.  In my life it brings people together for good times and good reasons.” –Misty Kalkofen, bartender and Harvard Divinity School graduate

“Drinking is a social lubricant. At parties and dinners, I use a cocktail to relax and open up. Two is my limit. If I have a third drink, I get loud and stupid, and that’s not going to win me prizes in a social setting.” –Valerie Frankel, author of Four of a Kind

3. Because it’s a great equalizer; a ritual that cuts across time, cultures, religions and traditions:

“I like how democratic it is.” -Elissa Schappell, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls  

“In these days of texting and Facebook and other forms of faux communication, I think it’s crucial to the preservation of society that we continue the time-honored tradition of hanging out and hoisting a few. It’s civilized. It’s fun. And above all, it’s real.” –Angela Elson, author of I Want You to Like Me: A Foreigner’s Memoir of Bravery, Beer and Japan.

“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.” –Alex Ohlin, author of Inside

“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.” –Stacy Morrison, author of Falling Apart in One Piece: One Woman’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce

4. Because it tastes good.

5.  Because drinking helps us see the world differently:

“[I like] the way it removes me from reality just slightly. I don’t like getting drunk, but I love the slight lift of gentle tipsiness, the swooshing elevation of perception.” –Kate Christensen, author of The Astral

“I love the slight loss of bearings, the blurring of context.  I like that only when I’m with people, though. I never drink alone; I’d rather read, and drinking makes me sleepy.  But when I’m with a group at night, I always enjoy myself more if I have a drink.  Otherwise there’s a part of me that wants to go home and read instead.” –Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

“I more fully experience what’s happening around me. It allows me to focus and filter out the meaningless or self-critical mind chatter.” –Jane Friedman, the web editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review

“I love that hinge moment of going from perfectly relaxed to this other, more loose, sort of endless space.” –Kate Bolick, writer and editor

6. Because drinking helps lessen our psychic pain, (even if it’s only temporarily):  

“I use drinking as anesthetic and balm. Nothing seems unbearable after the first few glasses of wine. Except not having another.” –Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia

“I think any time we use a substance, be it coffee, alcohol, or drugs, it’s to escape ourselves a little bit.” –Chloe Caldwell, author of Legs Get Led Astray

“I most liked the way a drink could help relieve anxiety and stress—how it seemed to throw a warm blanket over whatever might have been worrying me at the time. That expression “it takes the edge off” is true!” –Laura Barcella, author of Madonna and Me

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