Thursday, October 11, 2007

Alcohol Consumption

Recently I was at a gathering where by the time I arrived, one person was already feeling the alcohol they had consumed and was no longer very articulate, and another one had a head start down that path.

I'm not sure why adults don't understand that they're not at their best when they're a little tipsy. I see why 20 year olds don't get it - they don't have the life experience - but for those of us over, say, 25, it seems we should understand it.

One tipsy person in a group starts to overwhelm the whole dynamic, much less two - it's just not worth the effort to me. People were not drunk - just tipsy - but getting less able to communicate well with each passing moment.

Generally people just get more boisterous and less intelligent with each ounce that's consumed. It becomes more and more of a struggle to have interesting conversation, and it's just not worth the effort to me. I have a large group of friends who never drink, but in this sort of a group, I'm usually one of only one or two not drinking. As a result, I'm one of the few who grasps how much the general level of conversation has deteriorated - and it's significant - quickly.

Trish and I have talked about this before when we're around a group that's having some "drinks," that the level goes down quickly. It's quite obvious in most people after the first glass and a half of wine that they're no longer at their best. They think they are, but they're not. I know because I see them at their best and I see them after a couple of drinks and the difference is far more startling than they realize.

This is not to say that people can't "handle" it - they can in the sense that they're still functional. But, their level of interesting conversation diminishes pretty quickly. You can quickly get a whole group that is suddenly fascinated with rather meaningless prattle and it's just not interesting for those of us who are not impaired. For those who are drinking, it works fine, it even seems fun. For the rest of us, the level of interesting conversation and people has just gone downhill. Back in my partying days a friend used to say alcohol was a way to make boring people fun. I think the truth is more that it made him less able to distinguish boring and fun.

Of course, there are exceptions. There are some people I'm around who drink regularly that I have never seen the least bit impaired. But, they're rare.

There's a group I gather with regularly where the wine flows freely and sometimes I just cannot wait to extricate myself because the level of conversation has really gone downhill and no one but me realizes it. They're all laughing at nothing and I'm bored silly. So, I find a way to leave so I can go do something interesting. It's a shame because they're cool people, but they don't even realize how uncool they get with just a couple of glasses. They're not obnoxious - well, a couple of them can border on it - but they're just not as interesting. They can't think about complex things. They can't engage in meaningful conversation.

I went through my partying days in college. I was done with it long before I was 25. I found alcohol quite dull - never liked my brain not firing on all cylinders and can't understand why anyone would want that. People always say it relaxes them - well, so does meditation or deep breathing or a dozen other things. People say it releases their inhibitions - well, maybe you should actually address those instead of just masking them. We have inhibitions for a reason - they keep us from doing things like jump off cliffs. If your inhibitions don't make sense deal with that.

I like to have a drink now and then of something that tastes good - Andrea served something fabulous at a dinner she had recently. I drank a little bit - maybe an ounce total - it tasted great, but I didn't want to feel the effects of the alcohol. I want to have all my wits about me. And that was a prime example of how it can be fine. Everyone was having drinks - everyone else a "normal" amount - but no one was impaired at all. It's possible, but it's rare.

The lure of getting tipsy is a mystery to me, like so many things... But it's one of the reasons I don't serve alcohol at events at my house. I want everyone to fully participate and in a group of 10 people, there will be at least one who gets a little too loud and a little too dense in no time at all. And then everyone has to lower their expectations. So, I just avoid the whole thing.