From time to time, we will 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.
After a misspent youth involving loads of dead-end jobs and several questionable decisions, Julie Powell, author of Cleaving and Julie & Julia–made into a major motion picture by Nora Ephron starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams–has found her calling as a writer-cum-butcher. She lives in Long Island City, Queens, when she isn’t in Kingston, NY, cutting up animals.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Julie Powell: 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.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
I come from a long line of highly-functioning alcoholics. Growing up, my Dad thought nothing of bringing a plastic “to-go” cup with him when we drove to a restaurant for dinner, and booze was and continues to be an ever-present, benign presence. I actually didn’t drink at all until college, but in adulthood, our family tends to revolve, in our interactions, around booze. Food, too.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
The only thing that has ever persuaded me to drink less has been the prospect of great sex. I find that my enjoyment of sex dips after more than say a glass of wine. So when I think at the end of the day I’m going to be getting very well laid, that’s an excellent incentive to not crack open the bottle.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
Nowadays, I’m mostly drinking this cheap Portuguese boxed white wine. It’s cheap, it’s plentiful, and you can fold up the boxes so it’s less apparent just how much you’ve gone through during the week when you put out your recycling.
Has drinking ever affected—either negatively or positively—a relationship of yours?
Most of my relationships are influenced by alcohol, for better or worse. My relationship with drinking is very WASPy – I tend to use it to smooth out the edges, to make confrontation unnecessary. This makes for very few arguments, but also very few in-depth discussions. Oddly, in my current unusually contentious relationship with one particular ex, exactly the opposite is true – I can ONLY express myself after three or four glasses of wine. Whether I should be or not, expressing myself, I mean, is an open question.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Stephen Merritt!!!! He writes great songs about drinking! Magnetic Fields has a ton – Reno Dakota, Papa Was a Rodeo, so many… I love a line from the first song on their latest album: “you can’t go ’round just saying stuff/because it’s pretty/and I no longer drink enough/to think you’re witty…”
What do you like most about drinking?
I use drinking as anesthetic and balm. Nothing seems unbearable after the first few glasses of wine. Except not having another.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
I’d like to be a really top-notch single-malt, strong and complex and warming. But I fear I’m more of a vodka gimlet – bright, a little tasteless, and totally transparent.
Note: This interview originally ran in 2010