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.
Once upon a time, Jamie Keiles wrote for a bunch of places on the internet, like Rookie Mag and The Seventeen Magazine Project. Now, she mostly travels and cooks and writes with an actual, physical pencil. She is 20 years old and is pursuing a BA in English from the University of Chicago. You can still find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Jamie Keiles: I was in 9th grade, so I guess I was 14 or 15? It was root beer and tequila. I’m not sure where I got the idea to start drinking, but I stole a travel shampoo sized bottle of tequila from my parents’ liquor cabinet and drank it with my neighbor.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
My parents are almost exclusively weekend drinkers. They like going out to bars, but never really have more than two or three drinks each. Tequila is their drink of choice because when my dad was in college the main character in some spy series he read always ordered tequila.
I was raised Jewish and my family has weird conceptions about what Jews do or do not drink. An unwritten Talmudic law or something means there is never gin in our house and usually just two or three beers of indeterminate age in the garage. There is an unsubstantiated assumption that these types of booze are for non-Jews. I have no idea where this notion comes from. My family is not religious.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
The short answer: I drink when other people are drinking out of social obligation. I don’t enjoy casual drinking, but I like an occasional night of getting sloppy drunk with friends.
The long answer: I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. I’m uneasy with its role as a widely accepted, even non-negotiable, intermediary in social situations. I’ve got an anti-capitalist bent and find it uncreative that a large portion of social interactions from the time you reach high school will orbit around something that is advertised and sold to you. I think emotional vulnerability is an important but dying value, and drinking culture and internet culture are together, in my opinion, accelerating its decline. I don’t think alcohol should be illegal, or even discouraged, I just think it has the wrong place in our culture. This view might be related to the fact that I’m in college right now, and the kind of drinking I often see is frat party/night club drinking.
I endorse an occasional night of getting shitfaced because I think pushing your own boundaries in a calculated way is healthy. I like rituals and soul searching and thought exercises, and I think appreciating the occasional altered state fits in with that urge. I can dance, argue, and make out just as well sober though. I’m not the kind of person who’s ever going to say, “I need a drink.”
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I really liked drinking in high school because it had the high of doing something bad attached to it. Accordingly, I drank more. Now that I can drink in college, without repercussions, alcohol has lost much of its sex appeal, so I do it a lot less. I don’t think I’ll drink, at least not regularly, in my adult life. I’m 20. Who knows though?
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
Whiskey and ginger ale. The whiskey is hard enough that people are impressed. The ginger ale is tasty enough that the whiskey doesn’t matter. Before I found this drink, I only ever drank ginger ale on airplanes, so in my mind the taste is tethered to a feeling of excitement and adventure. Whenever I drink a whiskey ginger ale I can’t help but feel some kind of personal pomp and circumstance.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
When I was 17 my two best girlfriends and I drove to a house party in Jersey (I grew up in Pennsylvania) to meet up with a group of boys we’d been sort of dating. Everyone got drunk and the night ended in a lot of making out and arguing and drama and breakups, none of which had any real consequence down the line for any of us. I think of this as my gold standard drinking night because something happened. I hate the kind of night where a bunch of drunk people sit around and talk about stuff they’ve already talked about and complain about how they wish their lives were more exciting. If I’m going to bother getting drunk I want to be implicated in a narrative or some melodrama.
What about the worst time?
I hate hearing drunk people talk about other times they were drunk. I hate when large groups of drunk people can’t make a decision about where to go after drinking. I would take a night of cleaning up vomit over a night of drunk, self-interested indecision.
What do you like most about drinking?
Not having to think about things. I’m a chronic overthinker and sometimes it feels nice to shut off the judgment part of your brain.
Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?
In 99% of circumstances, I drink because I’m already a little out there socially, and not drinking would only alienate me more. I drink because I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable. There isn’t an established framework in place for an adult non-drinker who isn’t a recovering alcoholic.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
I’d be spiked hot apple cider or a big snifter of brandy because people only drink these things with good friends in situations where it is okay to wear slipper socks. My ideal drinking situation involves a fireplace and people I already know and like.
Tell us something you know about teenage girls and alcohol/drinking.
I think a lot of teen drinking comes from there being nothing to do or nowhere to go when you are between childhood and college age. In my hometown there was nowhere to go when you were 16. The movies/bowling were expensive and every parking lot and diner we tried to hang in would kick us out for loitering. High school drinking makes hanging out at someone’s house an occasion to get dressed up and excited for. If we had public spaces and events for teens that were actually cool and heavily trafficked, kids would still drink, but I think it would happen less frequently and with less urgency. I’m home at my parents’ in the suburbs right now and I can totally understand why I loved drinking during that phase of my life. There isn’t anything to do here.