Dinner last night: high-end restaurant on Lake Erie, nine dressed-up academics, five glasses of red wine, three of white, and me.
I feel lucky that I don’t have a lot of drinking buddies, and therefore my not-drinking doesn’t look weird hardly anywhere. (A “benefit” of drinking alone…) I have a couple of friends with whom I regularly go out for a beer, and both of them care not a whiff that I’m drinking fake beer now. (One I thought might, but she doesn’t seem to.)
So it came as a surprise to find myself sitting around this table last night with the eight of them sharing the bottles of wine. I asked for some sparkling water. I doubt anyone cared (I think it’s been well established that anyone who cares (too much) likely has a drinking problem of their own). But I hated the way my glass looked. I almost feel like it would have been better had not the huge green Perrier bottle been sitting there. God it towered there.
Mid-meal a waiter announced that it was the restaurant’s 50th anniversary! and they were giving all guests a glass of champagne. He went around the table filling our champagne glasses and THANK GOD he filled my glass without comment. Though then there I am with a glass of champagne. I stared at the thing. I have no interest in champagne, but something in me just, oh, marvelled at it — look, I have a glass of alcohol in front of me for the first time in many dozens of days. This was not the addict speaking. It was some more harmless marveller.
Everyone raised their glasses to toast, and took a sip. I raised mine, put it to my lips, and then set the glass down. I went through the motion. (I would never have done that with beer or wine!) An hour later all of their glasses were of course empty, and mine sat there full.
I’m aware of the situation enough to want to write about it, but the cool thing was that there was no big emotion or desire or craving involved. I have three more of these meetings between now and July, and I guess I just know now to know it may be uncomfortable. Receptions turned out to be so unexpectedly easy for me — I immediately get a glass of something safe in my hand and off I go to mingle. Now I know that the sit-down situations are a little harder.
And on we go…