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.
Camille Sweeney is the co-author, with Josh Gosfield, of The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do. She is a MacDowell Arts Colony fellow, a somewhat repentant initiate of the Rye Bucks Drinking Society at Kenyon College. and one-time blogger (The C Spot: A Guide to the Life Erotic), contributes frequently to the New York Times and is at work on a novel.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Camille Sweeney: Maybe not so surprisingly, my first drink coincided with my first real makeout session. One night, the summer I turned 13, I drank an entire warm can of beer and found myself making out with a friend’s older brother’s friend in a closet jammed with sports’ equipment. I can still get a rush when I smell a baseball glove.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
In my family, drinking was always made to seem convivial and something that was better to be good at.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
My husband and I are supernaturally social, and drinking usually goes along with that. From time to time, we remind ourselves to be more moderate. I’ve never felt dependent on alcohol – like I do on coffee, for example – it’s just that more often than not, it’s nicer to have around during social occasions.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I get a little Zelig-ish when drinking, probably for maximum social impact – vodka with the Easties, tequila with the bad asses, rounds of Abita in New Orleans, martinis at the Monkey Bar, etc – but wine, red, white or rose, depending on the season, is usually my standard.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
Some of the best times have been with family and good intimate friends, but also with strangers, like an epic night I spent in a seaside town in Brazil with my husband and members of a samba band.
What about the worst time?
Unfortunately, drinking has to do with judgment, one of the first significant things to go when ingesting alcohol. Best example of worst judgment was when I lived in Prague, played in a warbly country band, drank through a rowdy rehearsal, and had to find my way alone in the pitch black from a deserted tiny train station outside the city to my boyfriend’s dacha down a dirt road. At the time I wrote a story about it called, “Lost,” that still makes me cringe.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
For years I carried around “Ulysses” wherever I traveled and would dive into Bloom and Stephen Dedalus’s stream-of-consciousness adventure that included a long drunken night that seemed so apt to me in my 20’s. Maybe my most recent favorite drinking-related art is Eugene Hutz’s (of Gogol Bordello) song, “Alcohol,” that he sings in concert like a slow painful love ballad. Lyrics go something like: ‘And you know that I’ll pick up/Every time you call/Just to thank you one more time/Alcohol.’ He’s got this really thick Ukrainian accent and plaintive Nick Cave tone, so until I understood the words, I was sure it was about his former girlfriend. It’s a perfect distillation of how one can feel repentant and yet so seduced by booze.
What do you like most about drinking?
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. Of course, it can always backfire.