I won’t be getting sober anytime soon but I am “drinking smarter”

Photo from Damir Spanic on Unsplash

I was a grown-up last weekend. The old man and I went on a date night to a swanky restaurant and I chose to drive.

In my last post I talked about the necessity of making choices in middle age, and prior to last night, I would have looked forward to washing down the posh grub with a bottle of expensive wine, and wasted the afternoon working out a feasible way to get to the restaurant on public transport. What can I say? I like drinking. Alcohol tastes nice. Drinking turns me into the interesting, cool girl I should have been…at least, until the next morning. It helps me cope, and gets me out of the house.

For me, drinking is also a form of self-care. Hear me out, peeps. You see, my list above doesn’t account for alcohol’s other, hidden benefits for me personally: its medicinal ones for colds, backache, and muscle pain; its effectiveness as a coping strategy for my social anxiety; its ability to foster connection; and the strength it provides me to contend with a society that writes women my age off, (or only draws attention to us for all the wrong reasons – Alexandra Grant).

Therefore, it was with some surprise that grown-up-me decided that night that (for the sake of a couple more drinks) I couldn’t be assed to sit on a bus full of obnoxious teenagers or work through a heinous hangover the next morning.

Anyway, everyone knows the first sip is the best.

A few years ago, I wrote in my first paid article for Mamamia on the subject of my concerns about my drinking and the increase in women’s drinking in middle age. I remember that what I was really aiming to do in that article was to empathize rather than shame women who drink. I can’t remember the exact headline I pitched to the editor for the story, but it was changed to ‘I am a functioning alcoholic and I’m not alone’ – and I was mortified. At the time I think I was looking for a new job.

BUT… if the decrease in the number of units our government deems healthy for us to drink is anything to go by, she had a point. AND…Maybe I’m paranoid, but drink shaming seems to be levelled more directly at women – and in particular middle-aged women. Granted, there are medical reasons for this – in that women’s bodies can’t process as much alcohol as men. But there is also this social construct that a woman who is drunk is far more shameful than a man, even though many men who have drunk too much go on to do terrible things, while a woman is more likely to fall asleep on the sofa. Just check out the photos of the after-race parties if you don’t believe me.

Why are men given license to have fun, while women are expected to stay at home and live like nuns? You can see that question in people’s heads when they see a group of drunk women – who’s looking after the kids while they’re out drinking? Well, Carol, who’s looking after the kids while their dad’s out drinking?

However, since I wrote that article, I have become more aware of the effect that alcohol has on my body – I’m getting old, Goddammit! – which is why, (and trust me when I promise that I am not getting sober and deserting my people entirely) – I’ve decided to “drink smarter” (in the words of Kate Spicer from The Sunday Times).

Menopause has played a huge role in that decision. I’m certain that many of you fifty-somethings will identify with the impossibility of being a functioning alcoholic when your hormones contrive to make your life – and in particular, your hangovers – as unpleasant as possible. Suffice it to say, I have to be fully committed to knock back a bottle of wine.

So, yes…the hangovers from hell, my aspirations to run 5kms (more than once), and that other cruel twist of menopause – weight gain – have guilted me into reducing the Rose and discarding the Chardy. I wish I could say that concerns about my longevity or longterm health were truly behind my decision, but after twenty years of smoking, a lifetime of anxiety, and a pretty shoddy family history when it comes to health, I know I’m fucked I’ve been playing Russian Roulette for a while now.

And I won’t deny it is a struggle. Alcohol is a wonderful crutch, it has been a loyal and reliable friend, and maintaining my commitment to Kombucha for just a couple of nights a week has stretched my self-discipline to the max. I am want to crumble at the first sign or conflict or stress.

But that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say in this very convoluted post is that when the fun police make you feel bad about your drinking, don’t beat yourself up about it. You are not alone. Many of us have vices we’re not proud of – for some of us that is a glass or two of wine, for others it is several Magnums – as in the ice cream; for others still, it is leading corrupt governments and ignoring the voice of democracy.

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with drinking with non-drinkers or fellow alcoholics and I don’t need anyone to drink with me to have a good time (See symptoms of an alcoholic). I do see the benefits of sobriety, but I am also aware that swift judgments are easy to make; it takes much more time to look beneath the surface.

My intention is not to glorify alcohol, but there are still occasions in my life when I am dealing with stuff when I want/need to drink. There are also occasions when I want to celebrate that I’m still here and in a good place. And in the words of the author, Mike Gayle “We all do what we need to do to get by.”

Recipe For The Best Christmas Punch, (Or How To Get Your Friends Slaughtered At Your Christmas Party)

So, this year’s Christmas party is done and dusted. More than thirty of us sweltered under the deck on what felt like the hottest day of the past month – as ordained by climate change or whichever God seems to take such personal pleasure out of fucking up my life as often as possible.

And yet, other than NC’s comments about how my plastic glasses were killing turtles, the permanent gush of sweat dribbling down my back, the red punch stains down my new silk lounge pants, the soggy lettuce in the mini prawn cocktails, the coriander I bought instead of mint, or (as per usual), my inability to remember to cook up the bulk of the frozen savory appetizers after a few glasses of aforementioned punch, all went surprisingly well.

Photo from original Taste recipe

I’ve decided that along with Michael Buble’s Christmas songs on repeat, watching the expressions on the faces of kids eating olives for the first time and Amaretto mince pies, a good Christmas punch is an absolute necessity for a Christmas party. And once our core group of 50-somethings had nervously sniffed our version, got to grips with their (justified) fears about what was in it, (because of work the next day etc), it didn’t take long until we found ourselves on a community mission to finish all eighteen litres of the devilish stuff.

The old man – who knocks up a mean Sangria for each birthday party – tried out a new punch recipe this year – The Berry Christmas Punch from Taste. And because it’s Christmas and the season for giving, and it received such a wealth of slurred compliments (I think), I thought I’d gift it to you.

BERRY CHRISTMAS PUNCH (6 Servings)

Ingredients:

1.5 litres of raspberry/cranberry juice, well-chilled

2 x 187ml Sparkling wine, well-chilled

1/2 cup of Cointreau

2 limes

250g strawberries

150g blueberries

120g raspberries

1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves

Method:

Pour the cranberry juice, sparkling wine and Cointreau into punch bowl. Use your hands to squeeze some of the juice from the limes into the punch. Stir to combine. Add the squeezed limes to the punch.

Add the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mint leaves.

FYI, a few changes we made from the original recipe: we used cranberry juice and a bottle of processed lime juice for $2 in place of the 12 limes at $1.50 each – WTF? Also, there was no mint in our version, for obvious reasons.

You’re welcome!

Beware! Irresponsible Middle-Aged Drinkers On The Loose

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Found on Pinterest. Four women dancing at the water’s edge. circa 1940 Picture #: 543H Copyright 2003 – Photographs Of Old America. Photosofoldamerica.com

A couple of girlfriends and I have had a lunch planned in the diary for a while. It is a lunch without husbands, none of us are driving, and we are going to a hang-out typically patronized by millennials ie. the age of our children.

I can only compare the anticipation of the event to Christmas Eve as a child or the end of Trump’s presidency, even though the three of us are aware of the likelihood of glugging jugs of water rather than Sangria by the main course, and crashing and burning by dessert.

I like to envisage ending the day in some club for the over-aged, dancing the night away to Abba, in full view of a group of hot surfer types that are into vintage. We’ve been sending gifs to each other of women drinking and getting all lairy, which I know is childish and irresponsible, but which I see as an obvious sign that we need to let our grey hair down. It is obvious that we miss the good old days when we believed that we were immortal and our main purpose in life was to get shit-faced as often as possible. I should point out that all of us are from the UK, so I blame the culture.

Hmmm…

But in truth, we’re all terrified. These days, our hangovers compete with the transition stage in childbirth, and then there’s the shame of being seen as prime examples of middle-aged women with a drinking problem and the prohibitive cost of drinking out – explain to me how cocktails can cost $16? There’s also the worry about getting public transport home and needing to wee, or that we might not make it home in time for Masterchef.

I know that some of you will not agree with this admission, and let me assure you that I would like to be the type of responsible middle-aged woman that has slowed down her drinking in consideration of her health, or because I am a role model to my children. However, occasionally, I think FUCK IT! the world might end tomorrow. And when it doesn’t, I hide in shame for weeks. 

If you find yourself in Manly tomorrow, please don’t judge us.

Why Do Hangovers Have To Be So Much Worse In Middle Age?

I farewelled my drinking legs in style this weekend.

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But there are worst places than the Hunter Valley to find out that you’re a pussy.

 

Not even the enticement of membership to my favourite winery, Scarborough Wines, a life-long ambition of mine, along with the purchase of twelve bottles of my favourite Chardonnay (now safely stashed away from Kurt in the boot of my car), can change the fact that my body refuses to play ball when it comes to alcohol. 

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There are worst places than the Hunter Valley to admit defeat.

 

I know we’ve had a good run, and unlike all my previous, very silly, failed promises when I said that I would give up drinking because I was worried I might have a problem (!), I won’t be giving up anytime soon, however I might concede that I need to push down a tad more gently on the throttle.

 

It just proves that life’s a bitch, because first it takes our looks, then our bodies, our tolerance to wine and finally our brains. Phone number for the Euthanasia society handy, anyone?

 

Like those first grey hairs in your pubes, it’s got to be one of the most debilitating side effects of middle age when you notice those first signs of your alcoholic tolerance slippage, forcing you to approach old age with dementia as the only viable means of forgetting. It’s your body’s way of reminding you that you have lots of confused, bad-assed hormones and a predisposition to premature death unless you listen to it and cut the fuck down.

 

And for those who care…

 

According to Science Of Us and Cari Romm, ‘one of the major reasons for a hangover is that you simply become less efficient at processing your drinks. Each drink you force on your poor body takes about an hour to break down. Doing so is a multi-step process: First, a liver enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase transforms the alcohol you’ve ingested into a compound called acetaldehyde. Next, another enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase breaks that down into acetate, which then becomes carbon dioxide and water. When you’re 21, this process acts as a fairly well-oiled machine. But over time, our levels of the necessary enzymes decrease, meaning acetaldehyde — which is a highly toxic, nasty chemical — spends more time hanging out in your system, causing headaches, mouth dryness, nausea, and a host of other symptoms. ‘

What this means in practise is that we’re too fucking old to be having fun.

Also, ‘As they grow older, people may also build up more body fat, which leaves them more susceptible to alcohol’s effects. Fat doesn’t absorb alcohol, meaning someone who has more of it will have less space for booze to dilute — it’s the reason women, who generally have more body fat than men, also tend to have lower tolerance. The body also loses water with age — you have more water in you at 20 than you do at 40 — which, again, means the booze stays more concentrated in your system. ‘

 

IMG_2509As you’ll be aware from my past moans of frustration here on this blog, this pussy-liver condition of mine has been looming for a while, but being the stalwart that I am, I’ve chosen to ignore it thus far, in much the same way I’ve ignored advice about being too old to wear leggings and keeping my hair long.

 

For those of you still in denial, the symptoms start with noticeably worse headaches and flu-like symptoms the morning after, even after you’ve resorted to finer wines in desperation or an attempt at other drinks in search of that perfect elixir to provide a comparable buzz without the dire consequences.

 

The delightful young cellar hottie at Keith Tulloch Wines told me that hangovers are due to the amount of sulphur in cheaper wines, but I’ve tried expensive and organic wines and they’re just as unforgiving and generally the latter taste as gross AF.

 

Which is why I suspected that last weekend’s trip to the Hunter Wine Valley would be a test. Sobriety is not exactly a viable option on a two-day wine tour, accompanied by a man about to turn fifty and still searching for the secret to his life, and three young adults, excited as puppies about getting shit-faced with their parents, at their parents expense.

 

Remember those halcyon days when you too possessed the superpower to drink all night, get up in the morning and start all over again?

 

I was uncharacteristically careful. I volunteered as the responsible driver to some of the cellars (the ones I knew made shit Chardonnay), sipped at tastings and tried to pretend that I didn’t hate everyone. Although it nearly killed me to spit away the majority of each glass in the spittoons.

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Seriously grainy photo because it was dusk and I was as pissed AF, but they were bonafide kangaroos which meant they were off the menu that night.

 

And then we reached the afternoon, parked the car at our beautiful house and walked through the lush vineyards to our local cellars – (a tad of misrepresentation there as there are no leaves on the vines in the winter, but fortunately the cellars have plenty stashed away).

 

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Our quaint little cottage with the three Musketeers poised to show up the “olds”.

And no judgment, but by the time we walked back home that evening I was actually seeing kangaroos, NC was cuddling Kurt and the Astronaut had sneakily set up Twenty Questions on the dining table – he was that confident about winning. Which was very fortuitous as it turned out because it distracted the old man’s middle-aged whinging about the Liberals not winning.

 

Anyone else feeling a little vulnerable that we still don’t have a prime minister?

 

And as I tucked into a vat of cheese, bread and cold meat, I was having such a good time that I thought I’d got away with it.

 

Until the next morning when I woke up at dawn to balloons in the garden, and a humdinger of a hangover that not even our cholesterol-infused breakfast, several sneaky black coffees and gallons of water could alleviate.

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Seriously though, there were fucking balloons in the garden the next morning!

 

Was it worth it? Of course.

The 5 Golden Rules Of Hosting A Teenage Party

We are those foolish parents who agreed to host a ‘gathering’ last weekend, for Kurt’s nineteenth birthday. He requested a party, but I naively thought that if I defined it as a ‘gathering’, his guests would not interpret the event as the opportunity to get shit-faced at someone else’s expense, throw food and chuck up in someone else’s clean bathroom – that they would play Battleships, knit and face paint together. girl-438133_1280

 

Tensions were further increased because NC had to study for an exam the next day and so needed her sleep. Anyone who reads this blog and knows anything about our daughter, knows that you don’t mess with NC’s sleep even six months before an exam.

 

Kurt learned this again on Saturday.

 

There are basic rules about older teenagers, that I imagine will never change over the course of history, the main ones being that in the presence of their peers they become more selfish, territorial, much louder than they think they are and when alcohol hits their system they fit into four categories of party animal – the ‘all-nighter’, the ‘sleeper’, the ‘aggressor’ and the ‘puker’.

 

Which is why the best piece of advice I can give you about parties for 18-21 year-olds at home, is don’t be a fucking moron.

 

But, if like me, after each annual ‘why did I agree to it’ party disappointment, your child zaps you with some taser that erases all long-term memory, (rather like midwives do), and you forget about the police, the carpet stains and that couple you found shagging in your bedroom …, or you assume stupidly that every extra year is an added year of maturity, remember the 5 golden rules every parent needs to adhere to, so that there are no casualties – and by that I obviously mean ‘parent’ casualties.

 

The guest list – Agree on the numbers and stick to them even when your teenager continues to barter over them in the hours leading up to the party, then make sure you check those numbers in and out.

 

Timing – It doesn’t matter what time the invite says the ‘gathering’ will start, those selfish motherfuckers will turn up at least two hours later, so bear this in mind for your timings. Kurt’s event was supposed to be ‘pres’ – turns out they all went out for pres before his ‘pres’, leaving me with Mr Anxious who was convinced no-one would come, and cold food. Kick them out at the agreed party’s over time, whatever time they choose to arrive.

 

(Forget all your best mummy intentions about supplying food so they don’t drink on an empty stomach. Stop kidding yourself – the sole intention of their evening is to get shit-faced, so they’ll either not eat it, use it as weaponry or discover the hilarity in feeding the dog until she pukes).

 

Be The Boss. Don’t Be Their Friend – Like dogs, teenagers sense weakness. They are also fundamentally ‘stupid’ creatures, especially under the influence of …anything. I try not to believe they are inherently malicious or set out with the intention of disappointing, but under the influence of alcohol and the pressure of peers, the synapses in their developing brains break down completely and any respect or intention to impress their mates parents goes straight out of the window. Do not give off a ‘whiff’ of friendship towards your guests. They need to know where they stand during this minor skirmish, and it’s not on your side. This is your house and you are to be respected.

 

This advice will come in particularly handy when you barge into your child’s room at 3.30am, with the level of authority anyone in a stained towelling dressing gown and no make-up can muster, to find at least ten illegal teenagers have been secreted in there and you have to kick them out.

 

Enforce boundaries, such as no smoking in the house, you clear up your own puke etc, but avoid ‘rules’ with serious consequences – enforcing them on a hungover birthday boy means you’ll only end up disappointed and feeling mean.

 

Invest in carpet cleaner, plastic glasses, Valium, extra rugs and remember to hide the dog. Make sure that the First Aid kit has something in it.

 

 

 

Older, But Still No Wiser When It Comes To Drinking

What I’d seriously like to know is when exactly the middle-aged wisdom/acceptance thingy that my body can no longer drink alcohol is going to finally kick in. drunken-40363_1280

I’d also like to know if I can justifiably lay the full weight of blame for our behaviour firmly on the shoulders of our hosts yesterday, for contributing to the vilest hangover I’ve experienced since …er… last month?

 

Such a shame, because I really wanted them to like us.

 

I realize that they probably thought that they were doing the honorable thing by constantly refilling those massive wine goblets – that must have each held at least four standard drinks when full – but they obviously had no idea who they were dealing with.

 

  • A couple of high-functioning, still in-denial alcoholics.

 

  • A couple that possess the self-control of a pair of Labradors in the vicinity of food.

 

  • A couple that sadly love the sound of their own voices when inebriated a little too much; who have a tendency to become unintentionally (yet rudely) impervious to the contribution of others when under the influence of their favourite wines.

 

  • A couple who misguidedly (and too often) assume the role as the entertainment for the evening; who mistakenly believe that they are hysterical company when drunk, tell the best stories and are completely oblivious to the telltale boredom signs (yawns and watch-checking) of their poor hosts.

 

  • A couple that, (being naturally introverted), foolishly resort to alcohol to help make them appear more interesting.

 

  • A couple that sometimes feel so hemmed in by the responsibilities of the life sentence that is parenthood, they can go a bit crazy when let out from the cage. A couple who with that first whiff of freedom lose all impulse control and throw responsibility to the wind quickly before being forced back to the position of sensible role model.

 

  • A couple who are old enough to know better, but who sadly still don’t.

 

  • A couple that gets so over-excited at any opportunity to make ‘new friends’, they sometimes forget that middle-aged piss artists are very unattractive.

 

  • A couple that should have understood when they received the LUNCH invitation that 9.30pm is probably a little later than their hosts expected them to leave. And that ‘to outstay your welcome’ is unfortunately not an expression that strikes a chord in the midst of their wine-induced mayhem.

 

  • A couple who were having such a good time that at the height of their drunkenness selfishly forgot that their hosts were working the next day,and that they themselves would have to get up early to pick up the car in the morning – possibly still intoxicated.

 

  • A couple that also forgot at the height of their exuberance all those mature conversations they continually share about a glorious future of sobriety.

 

  • A couple that once again chose to abandon all knowledge acquired of the limited tolerance of their changing middle-aged bodies to more than a few glasses of wine.

 

  • A couple who are older, and should be so much fucking wiser.

 

How I Survived My First Drinks Party Without Drinking

You know that I like a drink…

 

But I’m a complex personality, hence I’m also a huge fan of Mindbodygreen, a website that publishes lots of great posts that highlight readers genuine experiences of how they improved their health or lifestyle, without that underlying virtuous and condescending ‘I’m better than you’ you approach.

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Found on dryjanuary.org.uk

 

I’m particularly drawn to the posts written by those people who suddenly decide to become sober, (because that is also an ambition of mine) deep down I suspect that I may have a problem.

 

Not that I think I’m an alcoholic – I meanwho does? – it’s not like I’m surreptitiously slipping Gin into my water bottle on the way to the gym or anything. I don’t go to the gym. I don’t even really exceed the recommended weekly units most of the time, but I do use alcohol as a crutch to appear more interesting than I am, and rarely a day goes by when I don’t drink at least one glass of wine.

 

At this time of the year, no-one can be immune to the smugs who march through the alcoholic debauchery of Christmas week, straight into a dry January. This year, the idea did cross my mind several times through December to try it, and promptly terrified me –  so was quickly dismissed on the grounds of a drinks party we had lined up last night and the birthday of one of my bestie’s on the 15th.

 

Aside from which, abject misery didn’t seem the best start to the new year.

 

But as my liver and kidneys struggled to cope through the Christmas period and began to ache worryingly at night, the thought of not waking up with a rancid wine taste in my mouth became bizarrely appealing.

 

And I had also found a secret weapon to make the idea of sobriety a little more appealing. Because in the way that vapourisers work for the ex-smoker, I decided that if I was going to go cold turkey, I needed something to replace my wine with.

 

So while recently on holiday, and after one too many dire hangovers embarrassingly caused by a measly couple of wines which completely fucked me over, I decided to research other drink options.

 

And to my delight, I rediscovered the Bloody Mary – a drink, which I believe must have been demonised by Australians because you can’t find tomato juice in the pubs anywhere. Anyway… the Bloody Mary is the perfect alternative, because not only is tomato juice relatively low in calories, it is also filling, and if you really extend your imagination and think about Chris Hemsworth’s dick lines and add tons of Tabasco, a Virgin Mary tastes almost as good as the alcoholic version.

 

But I digress.

 

So yesterday’s New Year’s drinks party loomed ever closer and after three days of sobriety, luckily for me, drinking still held about as much appeal as going back to work this morning. So I offered to drive, mainly to ensure that I couldn’t get off my face, but also because in the back of my mind were all those wise words from Mindbodygreen, challenging me to change my ways.

 

I prepared well. I made up my own batch of Virgin Mary for the first part of the evening and took some Coconut Water along for something lighter to get me through the pain of the rest of the evening.

 

I also worked out what was the earliest time we could leave without appearing rude and drilled that information into the short-term memory of the old man, who joshed meanly that my soft drinks probably cost more than a bottle of wine… because he’s super supportive like that…

 

And unbelievably I got through the evening.

 

I can’t deny that the first hour was hard. Meeting new people is a personal torture for me; meeting new people without lubrication for my anxiety is terrifying. Even more terrifying was my biggest fear that I would be as dull as dishwater and I certainly felt that curse at the beginning of the evening as everyone else knocked back their Champagnes around me. It’s hard to get enthusiastic when you feel like you’re missing out; especially when you don’t have to.

 

Food helped. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t one of my drinks parties where the most elaborate canapé is cheese and pineapple on a stick and this year the hostess surpassed herself with one of Jamie’s homemade pates to die for, so each time I needed a boost of energy, there it was.

 

This short-term sobriety will certainly not contribute to weight-loss.

 

And as the evening progressed it got easier as the people got sillier and strangely more approachable to a cold fish who was feeling superior, and I found myself forgetting about my dependence and… well…almost enjoying myself.

 

The wonderful feeling of virtuousness that I felt as I drove home with the old man snoring in the car next to me, sweating wine, almost made my sacrifice worth it.

 

But I still felt shit this morning, which leads me to suspect that I’m just not a morning person and it has nothing to do with the wine.

 

Dreaming Of A Wine Christmas

This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy)...
This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy) with white wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To Whom It May Concern, Scarborough Wine Co, Hunter Valley

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: Brand Ambassador Role

Please accept my application for the role of Brand Ambassador for your wine company. Although this role has yet to be advertised, after extensive market research, I believe that like Angelina Jolie before me in her role as Ambassador for UNICEF, I could be the new face of Scarborough Wine, bring a heightened awareness to the fabulousness of your wines and hence invigorate the profitability of your products.

In terms of my credentials, I drink loads of your wine. HEAPS. This means that I know the product inside out.

Your Yellow Label Chardonnay is my preferred tipple but I will take the Blue if I have too, and my fellow wine connoisseurs have informed me that your White is the crème de la crème, so it goes without saying that I would be only too happy to sample and review it for you.

In terms of the right niche marketing and brand placement, if all of the the readers of My Midlife Drinking had to pick two words to associate with me, they would undoubtedly be ‘Scarborough’ and ‘Wine’…or maybe ‘lush’ or ‘whiner’, depending on the day. I envisage a short campaign, simple in its approach, yet highly effective in terms of output; one that involves me and my friends drinking lots of wine and then telling you how much we all enjoyed it.

In terms of my relationship history with your company thus far, I have visited your cellar door in the Hunter Valley numerous times, sampled the wonderful freebie cheese spread you provide to help flog your wine and have always set back home with the comforting sound of clanging bottles of Yellow Label in the boot of my car – even though your cellar prices are more expensive than the deals I get at my local bottle shop – something we need to discuss, if you don’t mind me saying.

Furthermore, I see this as a medical intervention. Due to the heinous symptoms of menopause, I am exactly the right guinea pig to trial your wine because my tolerance for alcohol has taken an unacceptable dip of late, and I need to get back on the horse with a wine I know to be not only sublime on the tastebuds, but also easy on the head.

Yes, I will go that far. In spite of the worrying trend towards alcoholism, which is particularly noticeable in the 50+ female age group, and the inconclusive science that insists on lying that wine is bad for us, I have decided to put my health on the line for your company, the future of the grape and progress. I have always believed that the health benefits of being a lush far outweigh the negatives; that such a lifestyle choice facilitates the improvement of major mental health issues such as avoidance, anxiety and poor social skills as well as staving hunger pangs when there is clearly an obesity problem in society that needs to be addressed.

In terms of salary expectation, I would never be greedy and a few hundred cases a month should suffice for any new product trial.

In conclusion, I am highly efficient at drinking wine, have a high tolerance for wine and a mature outlook. I also produce some of my best work in a drinking team environment.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Louisa Simmonds

The Story Of Amy Winehouse: Mental Health, Misjudgment And An Immortal Talent

Amy Winehouse performing in Berlin in 2007
Amy Winehouse performing in Berlin in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A movie must be truly outstanding for me to engage in it these days. Like everyone else, I am time poor, tired and intolerant most of the time, and there are just too many other distractions.

But occasionally you watch a movie that leaves you staggering in the gulf of an emotional meltdown. Think Sophie’s Choice, Terms of Endearment, Saving Private Ryan – just a few movies that have wreaked havoc on my self-composure, caused me to snivel embarrassingly loudly in a public place and yanked at my heart-strings over the years.

This week I will add the movie ‘Amy’ to that list.

This is not a review of the movie, but for those who haven’t heard of it, or who don’t know who Amy Winehouse was, the movie is a biography of British singer Amy Winehouse. The movie is in her own words a chronological recording of her brief ascendency to stardom, before being tragically and prematurely taken away from us at the age of 25, due to the long-term abuse of drugs and alcohol.

The movie’s rawness, the singer’s incomparable talent, made all the more poignant by her mental instability, the sad yet blatant message conveyed about drugs and the vulnerability caused by inherent mental health issues struck a painful chord with me. I would recommend that all parents of older teens force their kids to watch this movie with them as a duty, even if their kids have never heard of the singer.

Amy Winehouse will be remembered not only for her voice, but sadly for her place in the 27 club; a group of famous young musicians who all died at the age of 27 and who shared the incredible talent that sadly too often goes hand in hand with self-abuse and mental illness.

With her death in 2011, she joined the ranks of Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

Yes, Amy Winehouse was a drug addict, who towards the end of her life was publicly derided for her dependency and the behaviours it provoked, by many who should have known better. But it wasn’t just the excesses of fame that damaged Amy, for she had been a victim of the tricks of the mind from an early age. She admits in the movie that she was taking antidepressants from the age of fourteen, and I imagine that drugs became an extension of the help she needed to ‘live’ a normal life – a form of self-medication to soften the edges of those feelings of isolation that we now know all addicts share, as they become sucked into the vortex of drug abuse.

Like many successful people in the public eye, Amy loved to use and explore her creativity, yet feared and deplored the ‘celebrity’ that her success exacerbated, and became anxious and petrified of the 24-hour attention from an unrelenting British press.

That side to her vulnerability is difficult to watch in the film.

Even when she tried to get well and disappear from the media circus, she was to became the innocent victim of a father so hell-bent on maximizing what he saw as their joint celebrity, he became blinded to her needs and forgot his prime responsibilities as a parent – to create a safe zone for his daughter.

I have witnessed that dependency as a form of release, sought by people who feel they don’t fit into society’s limited scope of acceptance. ‘Amy’ made me feel a mix of emotions: sadness for the loss of such an innocent, talented spirit; anger at the misjudgment and mistreatment she received, (not only at the hands of the public but at the hands of the allies she should have been able to depend on); and a sense of loss for the woman-child who sought a simple life, a great love and acceptance in her life, yet whose talent projected her into a world of corruption and unfair criticism.

I also understand how impossible it is to help people in the grip of addiction who are not ready to be helped; and the waiting game for them to crash and burn so they are ready to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

The hope is that the crash is not the final one.

As a society, we are quick to judge those who make what we determine as ‘bad life decisions’, and it is only with the wisdom of age that we understand that people are not all created equal, given the same opportunities or the same shot at happiness.

In spite of what may appear to be a tough exterior, many people are more fragile spirits than we realise because they haven’t been given those same opportunities or a measure of the love needed to develop properly; to grow the armour they need to protect them through adulthood.

That is why they need our support, not our condemnation.

Middle Aged Grumpiness: When did bars become so noisy?

You know you’re getting old when you won’t go to a bar because it’s either too noisy or you know you won’t get a seat. 

Some wooden bar stools
Some wooden bar stools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nowhere does the extent of middle-aged intolerance come more to the fore than in the choice of venue for one’s evening entertainment.

Where once smoke-filled, noisy pubs with their patterned carpets, nicotine-stained yellow walls and sputum pots were the ultimate in cool – the competition of the evening being who could ingest the most pints, slur the loudest, knock the most drinks over and still make it to the toilet in time to puke – these days it’s hard to find somewhere to enjoy a drink.

Because when we reach middle age, what we REALLY, REALLY want is a quiet drink.

And somewhere that serves decent wine; not the quality of wine usually reserved for the generic boxes in Aldi. Preferably, it should be organic (or free of tannins at the very least), and certainly NOT the cat piss they charge $8 a glass which is sold for $8 a bottle down the road and messes with our already befuddled middle-aged heads.

The perfect middle-aged drinking establishment needs to be quiet enough for us to talk and listen, yet loud enough to provide more atmosphere than we have at home – not difficult when the only things keeping us awake beyond 9pm these days are the tapping of computers from the teens rooms, flicking through the Netflix menu and the gentle snores of the old man in front of the golf.

If the establishment is always full and there is little chance of a seat or table, then forget it. If it only offers bar stools for seating, that’s almost as bad. We expect comfort and back support these days if we’re going to part with our hard-earned cash. Even those vintage Chesterfield sofas found in trendy small bars that allow your whole body to sink into them can prove problematic – ever tried getting out of one of those elegantly and without flashing your granny knickers to the barman?

Other horrors include:

Live music – no explanation required.

Dirty tables, where you can almost see the bacteria run for cover amid the collection of crumbs and spillage.

A solitary ladies toilet with no toilet roll.

Being sat at a table next to that noisy after-work, twenty-something drinks party, whose employees are all so keen to impress one another, yet seemingly unaware of the Monday morning walk of shame.

When did bars become so noisy? When did I become so old and grumpy? Thank God for hotel bars with pianists, waiter service and over-priced cocktails.

Self-Care, Whisky-Drinking and Late Development In Middle Age

It seems to me that there’s a fine line in middle age between living each day as if it is your last and making your life a complete fucking misery by acting on every piece of smug advice about the best ways to prolong your life by living healthily.

A glass of whisky.
A glass of whisky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And sometimes I feel confused about which side of the fence I actually want to sit on.

I DO try and look after my mental and physical health better than I used to, and I absorb most of the myriad of suggestions about how to improve my health, but sometimes that adolescent ‘fuck it’ attitude rears its ugly head and refuses to play ball.

One example – and this is something the old man and I have our son Kurt to thank for – is the discovery of Honey Whisky; a bottle of which he requested to help celebrate his eighteenth birthday recently.

Of course, I am aware that alcohol (and especially spirits) are one of the biggest hand slaps for the health of the middle-aged woman, but hear me out, because there might be some method to my madness.

Because I figure that my new tipple is probably medically healthier than my usual glass (or eight) of Chardonnay due to the inherent medicinal qualities of its core ingredients. Honey is a natural sweetener that helps the body fight infection and allergies, helps heal wounds and burns and has soothing qualities for sore throats and coughs.

‘And whisky is virtually a super-food with health benefits that include its ability to aid in weight loss, (thank you, God!), slow down the onset of dementia, increase heart health, prevent and manage diabetes, boost good cholesterol, fight against cancer, eliminate blood clots and strengthen the immune system.’ (Taken from Organic Facts)

Whisky is made out of fermented grains – therefore a natural product – and is also a well-recognised remedy for shock and pain relief.

So what I have actually discovered is nigh on a miracle; comparable to turning water into wine. In fact the ONLY detrimental fact about honey whisky, as far as I can see, is that one glass is never enough.

GetAttachment

Of course, your average he-man, whisky-drinking, wannabe-Laird like my father, a man arrogant enough about the beverage to only drink one Scottish brand, would thump his chest in outrage and cut me off from his inheritance if he knew that my introduction to what flows through his arteries in place of blood – something he tried and failed to convert me to for years – has to be tainted with sugar, (and a natural one at that), or effectively ‘girled-down’ by honey for me to drink it.

What can I say, Dad? I always was a late developer.

The Hangover That Stopped Me Competing In The City To Surf

English: Runners in the 2007 City2Surf running...
English: Runners in the 2007 City2Surf running up William Street, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While many smug virtuous people in Sydney were pounding the pavements in the City to Surf running competition early this morning, this sporting failure was lying in bed, head pounding, due to the worst hangover imaginable this side of winter.

 

I’m not proud of my behaviour or the fact that I’ve wasted a whole, precious day of my highly anticipated weekend in recovery.

 

Why do I continue to do this to my body when I should be old enough to know better? If it hadn’t been for the intolerance of my body to alcohol, I could have walked that City to Surf.

 

Will I ever grow up?

 

I’m disappointed in myself because I’ve been trying to cut back on my wine consumption for some time (48hrs), but as many of you (I hope) know, sometimes self-medication has its place in helping us cope with the day-to-day stresses of life; for the short term at least. I learned (again) today, when I vainly tried to quell the bile from rising up from my stomach by distracting myself with a marathon of the BBC ‘s Women In Love, that it’s probably not worth it. Although on the upside, it was healing to be treated to a veritable willy fest on tv, that only the BBC do so well.

 

This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy)...
This image shows a white wine glass (WMF Easy) with white wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m still not sure why my judgment slipped last night nor why my wine radar didn’t alert me to the early warning signs of becoming the embarrassing lush of the restaurant.

 

Everyone knows that Margharitas and wine are a bad match as was being in a foul mood with the old man with free access to cocktails and the sympathetic ear of a girlfriend. And then there was the anxiety over Kurt, who was at his first rave and who had kindly informed me that he had consumed six Vs before 6pm.

 

But in reality, I know I only have myself to blame.

 

What seemed like a great night around drink four and five had quickly soured by the end of the evening. I remember closing my eyes in the cab back home before reality bit me squarely in the ass. I had Kurt safely next to me in my drunken fog of relief, and at one point I remember thanking God for such a wonderful life. In fact so relieved was I that I then decided to carry on the party at home, although much of what happened after the taxi journey remains a mystery today. I have been trying to piece together the rest if the night via a translation of the old man’s frown code that he has lobbed in my direction all day.

 

I found both my dangly earrings in one ear this morning.

 

I’ve consumed a dam worth of fizzy water and I’m still thirsty.

 

It has been a day of fear and self-loathing, never to be repeated until the next time. I have taken a solemn vow NEVER to make direct eye contact with another glass of wine until my birthday on Tuesday.

 

Is it really time to grow up?

Middle-Aged Drinking And Your Relationship With Alcohol

Tetra Pak® - Couple on beach with Tetra Classi...
Tetra Pak® – Couple on beach with Tetra Classic® packages, 1960s (Photo credit: Tetra Pak)

I think I AM probably one of those happy people in denial about their drinking.

The last time I went for a medical and was asked about how many units I consumed on average in a week and answered ‘thirteen’, the doctor replied ‘that’s honest of you’.

It wasn’t. I might have taken the lower end of my ‘average’.

But what was he implying by that comment?

I took it to mean that maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic after all and then persecuted myself for turning into such a lightweight.

You probably know that I’ve been trying out this new-wave dieting healthy eating and exercise fad recently. I’ve found that I have absolutely no problem with eating less but my biggest challenge is not being able to pour myself a liberal glass of wine to make everything seem better at the end of the day.

And when you torture your body with exercise for the first time since high school, it tells you in no uncertain terms that you deserve a drink a treat afterwards. And that treat isn’t a salad.

Apparently, it’s the sugar addiction talking.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to eradicate the mirage of wine completely. So instead of going Cold Turkey and being completely fucking suicidal, I have been trying to cut back to just one sad, lonely glass per night to make way for the calorific extravagance of my mega binging session at the weekend.

Because I’m responsible like that.

But my body still doth protest. It likes its 1-2 glasses a night, it’s what it’s used to, and as I can’t compensate with any culinary naughtiness either, it feels un-sated and dejected in the evening. I felt particularly defeated last night when I watched the Oscars without my customary glass of fizz strapped to my hand, because I’d foolishly used up my allowance in a ‘discussion’ with Kurt about homework.

I’m sorry, but real women just don’t drink herbal tea after 6pm.

And science is on my side. A recent study proved that continuing to drink like a fish in middle age is good for relationships and that the relationships of couples who get shitfaced drink together have a better chance of survival.

This scientific evidence appears to have some credibility in my experience.

Drinking Your Way Through Menopause
Drinking Your Way Through Menopause (Photo credit: RickC)

The old man and I have always been pissheads had a Friday night routine of drinking copiously together and putting the world (and obviously our relationship) to rights – a habit passed down from generation to generation by our own parents.

In fact, I could blame some recent turbulent patches in our relationship on the fact that in middle age, since I have acquired the alcoholic tolerance of a fly, those fabulous evenings are a rarity now. We have to synch our drinking carefully these days, stagger our start and then meet majestically like synchronised swimmers somewhere in the middle.

Another more serious consideration, which could alter the stats of other successful relationships based on alcohol, too, is that we are role models to two impressionable teenagers.

With this in mind, we always take the precaution of thanking them profusely these days when they get our wine and beer from the fridge. As responsible parents, we take the over-consumption of alcohol very seriously and know that drinking has taken a bad rap of late due to the issues with the younger generations not knowing how to handle it.

Personally, I believe that if abused correctly and with experience, alcohol can in fact benefit a relationship by distorting reality for those few precious hours in a long week.

A few glasses into the evening and once the drinking goggles are firmly back in place, the old man begins to look almost attractive again, his dad jokes sound funny and he can even look happy to be in my company.

What is your relationship with alcohol?

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3 Reasons Why I Am Angry About Mia’s Rape Debate

Drunk Girls
Drunk Girls (Photo credit: This Is A Wake Up Call)

There’s been so much vitriol on Twitter this week relating to that article (here) by Mia Freedman on the subject of rape.

So I thought I may as well hop on the bandwagon too.

To be honest, I was disappointed at the universal condemnation Mia seemed to receive for her piece.

For these three reasons:

1. Because us women should be sticking together and closing ranks, not pulling each other apart in areas where we are working towards a common goal, such as equal rights or preventing rape.

Because it was only a short time ago that I came to the conclusion that I had always been a feminist (here) and now I’m confused again. You see, it took me a while to get there because I had always associated feminism with extremism and it scared me, even though I believed in equal rights.

Some of the negative comments and misinterpretation of Mia’s piece this week reminded me of exactly why I felt that way for so long. Much of the venom launched at her had much of those same bra-burning undertones that had kept me away, and they were directed at a subject that is not just about feminism.

Rape is bigger than feminism.

They were right about some things, though – rape doesn’t just happen to young women, it happens to women of all ages and boys and men too.

But in her defence, Mia made it quite clear that her article was addressed to people related to young girls, who have not yet been exposed to some of the more frightening realities of growing up in our society.

2. Because I felt threatened on Mia’s behalf as a writer, because I had seen writing as a form of freedom of expression and one that we should celebrate – because we live in a society where we are free to voice our opinions; unlike in many countries where women are still not at liberty to do so.

We live in a society where our opinion counts and can be the catalyst for change.

So while my opinions may differ to those of other writers, it nevertheless takes more balls for me to put my viewpoint out there, (especially about a sensitive subject), than to heckle anonymously on social media.

So although Mia’s critics may have felt the need to challenge her opinion and may have got their knickers in a twist about her stats and her quotes, is it really too much to ask for some professionalism in their responses? Was it necessary to shoot her down in such a disrespectful way?

We are adults, after all.

Recently I wrote a post for my magazine, Cowface, on the subject of marijuana (here). It is a subject close to my heart with an ADHD son who is drawn to self-medication. I researched the topic and wrote what I considered to be a fair opinion piece, not about the dangers or medical benefits of marijuana but why kids now seem to think that marijuana is safer than tobacco.

I received an aggressive comment back from a reader who thought I was against the use of marijuana, under any conditions. It was my first aggressive comment and it shook my confidence. I asked myself if maybe he was right and questioned if I was in a position to express my opinion and make it so public?

Social media has wielded a lot of power to people who abuse it.

I may not be a qualified journalist, but that does not mean that I can’t share my opinions. I don’t force people to read them, and if they do and make a comment, I enjoy that feedback and I will often look at the argument and think, yeah, they’ve got a good point. We are learning all the time – it’s part of our development.

But surely, sharing my opinions shouldn’t give my readers the power to attack me like some bully in the playground.

3. And finally, because the misinterpretation of Mia’s piece and the reaction it created camouflaged what is a good, well-intentioned message that needs to be heard. In my opinion, there was no ‘victim-blaming’ and Mia was not saying that anyone other than the rapist is guilty of rape.

Call me a fence sitter if you will, but while I agree that short skirts, alcohol and sexual provocation do not cause rape, I also agree that alcohol can make people vulnerable.

And we need to focus on the changes that will prevent rape.

Like Mia, I too have a daughter and have experienced that fear as I’ve watched her leave the house, knowing that I won’t sleep until I hear her key turn in the door.

I am also guilty of being that mother who pleaded with her daughter not to drink too much at parties; not because I believe that her being drunk would give some guy a license to rape her, but because it might lead to situations where she or her partner ended up making the wrong choices and getting hurt.

I warn my son that alcohol can lead to poor judgment calls too.

Alcohol doesn’t turn someone into a victim or a rapist, but it can blur the lines when it comes to the issue of consent.

Many of us will have experienced a one-night stand that we’ve regretted the next morning, not because we were raped but because without the influence of alcohol, we may not have made the same choices. One of our responsibilities as parents is to pass on our acquired wisdom in the hope that our kids won’t make the same mistakes as us.

They will, of course, because kids tend to ignore what their parents say, but we still have a responsibility to try and warn them about things that can hurt them.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where no-one makes mistakes. There are many issues that are frustratingly slow to change, because it is attitudes that need to evolve in terms of education and at the grass roots level.

Are rapists born to be rapists or, (in some cases), is their lack of the right nurture responsible?

Victim blaming’ and ‘slut shaming’ are heinously wrong attitudes but our main goal must be to prevent rape from happening. If warning young women and men that alcohol can inhibit their judgment, and that knowledge changes a small percentage of the rape statistics, then I don’t care if that is seen as anti-feminist.

No-one should suffer at the hands of idealism.