Surprise, surprise. The most recent Gallup poll says that 66% of Americans drink alcohol. Here, in a nutshell, is all you need to know: Men drink more than women (and apparently, according to the latest studies, drive women to drink when they marry them). Women, it seems, still prefer wine to beer. Whites are more likely to drink than nonwhites. And younger adults drink more than older adults (not surprising if college drinking is factored in).
It’s fun to bat around statistics, but it’s even more fun to hear the juicy details of peoples’ drinking lives. No poll can delve so deep, which is one of the reasons why we started the Drinking Diaries blog–to hear the whys, the whens, the whats…
So in that spirit, in the next few weeks, we’ll be presenting some of the results of our own in-depth “polling”….culled from our essays and our interviews.
In the past three years, we’ve been asking women: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Here are some of their answers:
“The first time I got drunk was during a New Year’s Eve party my parents threw when I was a kid. I stole three unattended glasses of red wine and secretly gulped them down while sitting underneath the kitchen table. Less than an hour later, my Dad tells me, I passed out in the middle of the living room, snoring…I was 3 years old.” –Maura Kelly, co-author of Much Ado About Loving:What Our Favorite Novels Can Teach You About Date Expectations, Not-So-Great Gatsbys and Love in the Time of Internet Personals
“It was Mad Dog, at a cast party my junior year in high school. I spent most of the party commiserating about not getting cast as Sally Bowles with the guy who didn’t get cast as the MC. Then my ex-boyfriend’s new love interest threw up on me and a six-foot-two guy passed out on top of me. So. Much. FUN.” –Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia
“I must have been five or six, at Passover. The drink in questions was, of course, that sweet, intoxicating Manischevitz grape wine; I remember it as the most delicious nectar. Drinking it, even my tiny cupful at seder, meant I was a big, accepted, Jewish girl. Great plan for keeping potential strays in the Jewish fold.” –Rebecca Walker, author of Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence
“I was eighteen, a freshman Drama major at Howard University, when I had my first drink. It was a strange mixture of Mogen David grape wine and ginger ale. That was the drink we made ourselves in our dorm room.” –Pearl Cleage, author of Seen It All and Done the Rest
“I was 15, on a beach in northern Mexico. It was my sophomore year of high school, and I was on a Spanish Club camping trip in Puerto Penasco. A group of us kids was on the beach, unsupervised (it was the 1970s), sitting around a bonfire. The tequila bottle passed by me, and with everyone watching, I took a swig.” –Kate Christensen, author of Trouble
“Well, my dad owned a bar and later bartended at his friend’s bar, so I have very early memories of sitting on a barstool when I was two or three, and my dad would give me a shot glass of beer so that I could pretend I was a customer. “ –Gina Frangello, author of Slut Lullabies
“I was 21 and it was beer.” –Julie Klam, author of “Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without”
“I was about 10 years old. I was at my aunt’s wedding and was seated next to a man who was a Mormon. Apparently Mormons don’t drink alcohol, so whenever his champagne glass was filled, I would offer to drink it for him so he wouldn’t feel self-conscious.” –Ann Leary, author of Outtakes from a Marriage
“I had my first taste of alcohol when I was a very young child–maybe five or six. I snuck a sip of my father’s beer. He liked to put salt on the rim of the can. The taste was so sharp and intense I remember it vividly. It felt like an injury. Like it would leave a scar on my insides.” –Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir, Wild
And now we’re asking you, dear readers. When did you have your first drink, and what was it? (And maybe some of you have never had a first drink—it’d be fascinating to know how and why you resisted the pull of culture).