For years, I loved drinking my way through the holidays. I loved the way I looked in a slinky, silky party dress with a martini in my hand. I loved how liquor with a big bow on it could change the trajectory of any awkward gathering, how that bottle could make all of us—friends, bosses, colleagues I only halfway liked—light up inside like a Christmas tree.
But as I grew older, I began noticing that it was harder to shake off a hangover, that two glasses of red wine turned into five, which turned into an email the next day that began “I’m so sorry about….” What had once been a fun excuse to cut loose began to feel more like a need. I loved losing myself in alcohol, but I was starting to lose myself, period.
(Why Your Favorite Drink May Make You Tipsier Than You Expect)
And so I quit drinking. It isn’t easy to avoid alcohol during the holidays. Sometimes I feel like Santa Claus himself wants nothing but to sit me on his lap and pour tequila down my throat. Not drinking, however, awakened me to so much that I’d never seen before; I notice things that flew right past me when I was sloppy with bourbon cocktails. Among my observations:
1. People aren’t attractive when they drink a lot. This is particularly bittersweet, of course, since most of us drink to feel prettier. The smeared eyeliner, the teeth stained red-wine purple, the staggering to the bathroom: Even the most devastating woman at the party looks bad falling off a bar stool.
2. Not drinking is the best diet in the world. And when you stop drinking, people will not shut up about how good your skin looks.
3. It’s very easy to tuck your skirt into your underpants accidentally when you are drunk, and I notice that I never, ever do this sober.
4. The peer pressure you think will exist if you stop drinking? It really doesn’t. What you realize is that most people don’t care. They can’t tell whether that glass of sparkling water with lime is actually a vodka tonic or whether your Diet Coke has rum in it.
5. People who do pay attention to what’s in your glass are generally people with alcohol issues.
6. I don’t think I’ll ever find a faster, better way to relax than having a glass of red wine. Then again, I don’t think I’ll ever again have the effortless blond curls I did as a toddler. Oh, well. Being a grown-up is hard.
7. It’s surprisingly easy to talk to people when not drinking. I used to fret that without liquid courage, I wouldn’t be clever and charming at holiday parties. What would I say? How would I make people laugh? Sober, I managed well, actually. What you notice is that most people at the holiday party are also trying to be charming and clever, and they enjoy it when you laugh at their jokes and ask about their lives