Thursday, March 27, 2008

alcohol - part 2

Ok, this is what I was actually going to write, before I went off on an aggrieved rant.

I'm reading Smashed - Growing Up a Drunk Girl by Koren Zailckas. It's her account and effort to make sense of her teen drinking years. I'm only just into it but I really like the writing. And while the cultural experience is American, it's pretty easy to relate to all the same.

I liked this extract for what it says about why we drink, and drink so young: she's been talking about her social studies teacher says about coming of age rituals - they include a withdrawal (for her taking to her room and listening to 'Creep' etc, her clothes are confused, both childish, masculine, and girly/sexy: My closet looks like the place where girlhood comes to battle boyhood,youth comes to battle womanhood, virginity comes to battle sexuality, youth comes to battle womanhood.) After the seclusion period, the girl returns to friends and family a woman. She locates the sacred in the passing of the bottle from girlish hand to hand - much more so than in beginning her period, which is associated with shame, or losing her virginity, which is a triumph for boys but a fall for girls.

She says: I'm alone outside. The sky is dark... through it I can see gnats rising and falling in the porch lights. Crickets sing. Far off, a few girls are chasing each other through the spiny stretch of orchard that spreads off the backyard.
For once, I don't mind being all alone in public. Usually I'd be frightened about what solitude might say about me. I'd worry that someone would see me sitting in the crabgrass and assume no one likes me enough to want to sit with me. Tonight, though, I don't care what anyone thinks... I lie back and stare at the slab of gray sky.
I don't know what being drunk feels like but I don't think I am. I can walk straight. I can see straight. And for the first time in a long time I can think straight. I am not exerting mental energy, trying to decide whether my mother is lying when she tells me I'm pretty. I am not thinking about a conversation I had two days ago, and rolling my eyes because I said something stupid.
I am not thinking about anything. My knees are bent in such a way that I can make out patterns of freckles on my thighs. My hair is fanned out under me. The air has the smell that fabric softener companies are always trying to capture - the breeze smells like fruit trees.

The word finally comes to me: I am comfortable.

That sentence resonated with me (apologies, I know that sounds terrible, but it's a good phrase nonetheless). I think that's really important. We talk a lot to young teenagers about saying no, about the dangers of drink, about rejecting peer pressure. Perhaps we'd be better off addressing what it feels like to be fourteen, or thirteen, or twelve. And finding a way to manage that feeling without needing drugs, or alcohol, to be comfortable with ourselves?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read that book Jo, it was in my local library and I'm a sucker for a true life story.

I probably take alcohol as a drug a little lightly. Now and again like maybe once a year I have a night where I really do drink too much and end up home early with the toliet for a friend and a sore head but mostly I know when to stop and just have a great night - as do my friends.

I would class myself as a 'sensible' drinker, I don't mix drinks, I don't drink any of those manky vodka mixers and I usually drinks tonnes of water especially in nightclubs.

I come from a different angle I suppose in that growing up my exposure to alcohol and its effects was limited, my parents drink but very much in moderation and I never saw either of them drunk until after they had seen me!