For our buddy series, we have invited some of our contributors to share a drinking-related story–an incident, an experience, a conversation, a relationship–that has been memorable. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.
by Sari Botton
I wasn’t anywhere near sober yet when regret caught up with me on the Trailways bus back upstate. What had I said? And to whom? Seated next to my husband on the 9:30 p.m. out of Port Authority, I replayed some estimation of the regretted conversation in my head, wondering which things I’d actually said, and which I’d ultimately thought better of saying.
And what business had I had drinking mojitos – two of them? I’d never been good at handling hard liquor.
But at the holiday party for the midtown law firm my husband serviced as an I.T. guy, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the tray of tall, sparkly cocktail glasses on the bar, each one garnished with fragrant green mint leaves and a sugar cane stalk for a stirrer. I’d never tried a mojito before. How refreshing and sweet, I thought, and then quickly learned how hard it is to stop drinking something so refreshing and sweet. Even if your lips are going numb. Especially if your lips are going numb.
As the bus snaked through the darkness between the terminal and the Lincoln Tunnel, I worried: Had I in fact blurted to that klatch of lawyers’ wives, whom I didn’t know well, about my impending hysterectomy? All the gory details of why I needed it? Or had I just told that one woman, the pixie-ish lawyer, before we joined the conversation with the wives?
Please let me just have told that one pixie-ish lawyer, I prayed on route 1/9 in New Jersey.
I could live with having told her. She and I had twice before veered onto the subject, if not of reproductive organs then of reproduction in general. At the holiday party two years prior – with maybe only half a glass of wine in me – I’d let her in on my ambivalence about parenthood. I can’t remember what prompted her asking whether my husband and I had plans for a family. Maybe it had to do with our marrying late. Maybe it had to do with the ever-increasing number of offspring who clamored noisily around these company parties.
Or maybe it had to do with the fact that she and her husband didn’t have kids either – and didn’t seem at all unhappy about that. Maybe she was looking to see whether she and I were alike.
“We’re sort of letting the Universe decide whether we’re meant to be parents,” I casually told her at that first party. I was 41 then.
I can’t remember whether at the next party, when I was 42, she’d resumed the conversation or I did. Either way, I reported to her that the Universe seemed to be giving us the big thumbs down, and that my husband and I were both surprised by how disappointed we felt. “We feel as if we’re failing, and yet this is something we aren’t even sure we’re interested in,” I explained.
That’s when the pixie-ish lawyer told me she and her husband had tried and failed, too, and despite their initial sadness, came to be very glad about it.
“You know,” she said with a knowing smile, “the Dalai Lama says those who can’t have children are off the hook for this lifetime.”
Off the hook. What a concept.
I thought a lot about those words the following year, especially when it became clear that I needed to have the operation. I realized that I wanted to be off the hook. Aside from the physical relief the surgery would offer me, it would provide another type of relief as well. In some ways, having kids always seemed like this big, awful test I’d never be fully prepared for – like the SAT. Now I’d be officially off the hook.
This much I know for certain about the night of the mojitos, the party where I was 43: This time I deliberately sought out the pixie-ish lawyer to tell her my latest development and, more importantly, let her know what a help her words from the prior party had been. Whatever small, cordial kinship I’d felt with her before now felt more significant. She’d shown me that you can be okay – shown me how to be okay – with not being a parent like everyone else. I was touched and grateful. Yes, we are alike, I wanted to finally tell her.
What I hadn’t figured on was giving her a graphic, anatomical accounting of everything that had ever been wrong with my plumbing, including a blow-by-blow history of my crippling cramps (and more! I am sparing you, dear reader) beginning at menarche. And I certainly hadn’t planned on sharing all that with the larger group, the wives, whom we’d eventually joined.
Almost two years later, thanks to a couple of potent drinks, it remains unclear to me whether I did or I didn’t.
Sari Botton previously wrote two wonderful essays, “The Sweet Smell of Excess,” and “Ode to the Ludlow Street Cafe” for Drinking Diaries. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, The Village Voice, MORE, Marie Claire, Self, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and many other publications, as well as on WAMC radio and NPR. Her website is saribotton.com and she blogs at www.rosendaleramblings.com