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.
Lizzie Skurnick writes the “That Should Be a Word” column for The New York Times Magazine. She is the author of a memoir of her teen reading, “Shelf Discovery,” as well as a book of poetry, “Check-In.” She writes about books and culture for NPR, the Daily Beast, The Awl, Time, O, the LA Times, and many other places she cannot remember, but not because she is drunk. She lives in Jersey City.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Lizzie Skurnick: I’m sure it was probably beer from my best friend’s father, a once-wealthy Frenchman from Haiti. Then it was really beer again at college. And I don’t even LIKE beer.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
My mother claims she drank a beer a day while pregnant with me. She has now amended this to one beer a day while nursing. (See above: don’t like beer.) Now that we children are all of age, we always split a bottle or two of wine at the dinner table if we’re all together, and my mother and I have been known to fudge 5 o’clock.
For my forthcoming family I plan not to drink, for at least nine months.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
I sneak up on it WITH A VERY LARGE NET.
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
I don’t have kids, but I take credit for my nephew’s somewhat disturbing fondness for a good Cabernet.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
Campari soda, always! It is bitter, jewel-like, unlikely to make you lose control, great in the heat, and good for my digestion. I only wish they would import the actual bottled kind from Italy.
I have also been known to order straight vermouth, both for its digestive properties and because it tastes like a foot, which I like. Men — inexplicably — find this INCREDIBLY SEDUCTIVE until I bring up those parts.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
It involved a case of very good wine and a very late night. That is all I can say!
What about the worst time?
Some very cheap booze and another late night. Have blocked out entirely.
Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?
I had a partner who, for a period, drank a case of Natty Boh a night — A CASE — plus, eventually, a six-pack or two 40s. I asked him to stop for six months. He did, cold, and then, on the day after the ban ended, brought home a six-pack. That was the end of us.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
Only to make sure the wine is not horrible on Passover.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
May favorite movie about drinking is “The Double Life of Veronique,” when she drinks the rainwater at the beginning. I also like the early scene in “All About Eve” in which Bette Davis strides around her cocktail party in a mild rage, hurling back alcohol for emphasis.
What do you like most about drinking?
I also have always loved the atmosphere of where you drink more than the drink. If you will ignore the segue into ad copy, I am thinking of an ocean-front bar in Dubrovnik, where I had been using so much Retin-A that a bunch of Americans came over and asked if I was an actress because of my “glow.” You can’t get that on the couch with HGTV. Or without Retin-A, probably.
Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?
I like to get up early and write in the morning, and I really lose the next day’s morning mania if I drink, even if it’s just a glass or two. My friends and I also are mostly ridden with children and husbands. So I tend to set off drinking for a time I will not be doing anything else, like taxes. That can’t be good.
In my dotage I can’t drink very much — certainly no booze — so I think I enjoy the shapes of bottles, the loveliness of labels, and the very, very occasional spectacular glass of wine, like the Sancerre my friend ordered at Bar Americain two years ago. I might drink more if I had access to THAT.
How has alcoholism affected your life?
See “partner,” above.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
Oh, I would be a Campari soda in those lovely bottles! Chilled and unopened, in many rows, in a case. For forever.