Hmm.. This one is tricky. Sensitive. Fraught with the opportunity for me to say the wrong thing.
Perfect for a Monday.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with alcohol. Anyone who’s met me will vouch that I haven’t always made the best decisions around my ability to tolerate a second martini. While I make less mistakes these days and my drinking is now at what I’d consider ‘infrequent’, I’m no stranger to a bar. Or a hangover. Or a blackout.. (ok, I said I’ve not always exercised good judgement around booze.)
But as anyone whose ever dated will know, alcohol is the socially acceptable drink of choice for a first or second date (unless its 8am, in which case I’m sort of questioning your dating methods more than your drinking habits). Booze helps loosen up those first date nerves and creates a social contract between you and your date as you sit across a table from each other. Unlike dinner, it can last 20 minutes or 6 hours and without any of the potential pitfalls of spinach in your teeth, you can just focus on relaxing, being yourself and hopefully meeting someone nice.
Of course it can go horribly wrong if your judgement is off, or your tolerance level is that of a newborn baby (*cough*).
NOTE: If you find yourself lurching from the bathroom with your skirt tucked into your underwear or you are starting to see a matching set of dates, you’ve probably gone too far so call yourself a cab.
By 40ish.. most of us (*ahem*) have learned our limits. And for many of us in the dating pool, the norm is to ask, ‘want to grab a drink?’. We arrive at our first date, locate the target dude and spend the first few awkward minutes checking the menu and ordering a drink.
Which, last week, is when I realized that this date wasn’t going to be about siblings, music and day hikes…
‘Ummm.. I’d like a martini, straight up, three olives?’
‘And you Sir?
‘I’ll have a lemonade’
Suddenly there’s a dead cat on the table.
You can’t ignore it (well you can if you have better manners than me), but hell, I don’t know many people who choose to go to a bar to drink lemonade, by choice. And you can’t help yourself, you need to confirm what you already know..
‘Oh.. so you don’t drink?’
‘Is it a ‘I don’t like the taste’ thing or are you more of a deliberate abstainer?’
(which to me is the lighthearted way of offering an easy out.. we don’t have to say the words ALCOHOLIC.. we can just….).
‘No. I’m in the program. 8 years sober’
Great. An alcoholic.
I don’t know about you, but its kind of hard to know where to go from there. Do I dig into ‘the story’ or do I breeze over the top? If I dig, well that’s opening Pandoras box to a whole lot of stuff which I really don’t want to hear just yet. If I breeze over it, I’m showing myself to be the coward that I am. Plus, I’m selfish – I want to talk about silly, fun, light things on a first date, I don’t want to talk about alcoholism.
Sure on a first date we might mention a divorce, a bad date we’ve had or even a sad story about losing a family member.. but there’s an implicit agreement that you don’t share medical files, rape fantasies or the balance on your credit card. You just don’t. You keep it fairly light.
But, as a member of AA, apparently you can and you do share your ‘disease’ history.
You’re authentic. Open. Honest. Frank. Which really is all anyone ever could ask of a date.
Except you don’t need too much of that on a first date.
You need some mystery. To leave rocks unturned. To not unpack the worst pieces of your life. That’s for after the first date. Like 6 months in. I don’t want or need to know when you bottomed out, what program you’re actually in (alcohol? drugs? sex? shopping? all of them?) and your struggles in life.
So I sipped my martini (feeling like the lush I used to be) as he watched me and pondered ‘how do people date in AA?’ (and ‘does he want my martini?’)
Its got to be hard to lay that out and be judged every time. To basically say ‘I can’t be a part of a lot of activities that most people enjoy’. And to basically share that you had/have poor judgement in the space of a single sentence. That takes balls. Its commendable. And its not my issue. So whats the problem?
Except that now its out there, I have to think about it. What it means about him. And any potential ‘us’. What would that look like?
While I don’t drink that much these days, I do like to drink wine when I’m out for dinner, or grab a cold beer while mowing the lawn. Sip a Bloody Mary with Sunday brunch or have the option of a fancy cocktail at 5pm on a Friday. Wine tasting in Sonoma in the fall. Shared intimacies over a bottle of wine and an open fire in the winter. A whiskey after a cold November ride.
Suddenly I realize that a) alcohol is inextricably linked to a lot of social occasions I enjoy and b), these are things I’d never do with this man.
Which made me really sad.
Because while he might be the nicest guy in the world, I wouldn’t enjoy doing those things on my own. And while its not really my problem if he has to stand around at a wine tasting with a glass of water or nothing.. I’d spend the entire time feeling terrible. And I wouldn’t want to not do those things. Plus its got to be hard to have a romantic moment over a glass of water.
But that’s beside the point. Ignoring all the social occasions where this guy would be my permanent designated driver (awesome!), I was really stalled at what this early declaration actually meant.
He thinks/ has a disease (I’m not getting into that debate). He’s exercised significantly poor judgement over an extended period of time. He can’t be around alcohol and chooses to stay away from areas where that is a focus (no bars, no patios, no wine events, no parties). But mostly importantly he’s very alert and aware of others who might have similar proclivities….
Well I assume that’s what he was thinking when he asked me what medications I took on a regular basis and asked me how often I drank.
No. Just no. We’re not going there.
My girlfriend Hope dated a ‘program’ guy. Well we say ‘program’. He was more of a ‘program(s)’ guy. Date after date another addiction reared its head until even her ‘hope’ was running out of steam. I think she counted 6 before she tapped out. And while my date only alluded to two addictions, that’s starting to look and sound like a duck to me.
So no matter how awesome he might be, I’m not comfortable or mature enough to take the dead cat off the table. The dead cat somewhat precludes me eating at the table, and to be honest, the chairs’ not nailed to the floor at the first date. Maybe its my loss. Maybe I’m weak and cowardly. Maybe I’m elevating the role of alcohol to something that it shouldn’t be. Maybe I need a drink to figure it out.