Wednesday, February 23, 2005

WHY DON'T WE GET DRUNK AND... about our feelings. (If you thought this was another post about the outlawing of kiddush clubs at synagogues, you're on the wrong blog...go here instead.) It all started rather mildly on Jewlicious: Laya reported that she attended a wedding, and diagnosed herself with nuptial-related social anxiety disorder. She described herself as fearing commitment (which I think she'll grow into) and finding that "the open bar was particularly helpful." Comments on the post, whose primary purpose was to illustrate that at weddings she sometimes says things that end up "raising a few religious eyebrows," included Dr. Janice (soon to be the subject of a First Person Singular column--you heard it here first!) suggesting that she find "other ways to handle these feelings, other than anesthesizing them at the open bar." She adds, "Alcohol makes a great bandaid, but it isn’t the solution to the fear of commitment." This being Jewlicious, there was also a thread of discussion on whether fear of commitment is actually a blessing or a problem to be solved. (Feel free to weigh in on this as well.) And here's my two shekels. Attending weddings is no easy task for singles, even when they are commitment-minded. Alcohol can be the necessary mood enhancer* to make weddings easier for the uncoupled; plus, it has the bonus effect of chipping away at the social anxiety disorders that we all, in various sub-diagnosable measures, possess. (The sheer number of suspected, undiagnosed cases of Asperger's Syndrome in the Upper West Side singles scene would shock you, especially if there were actual statistics available instead of just a nagging feeling in the hearts of single women.) I complain a lot about the lack of social skills among Jewish men in NYC in general. But take the social lubricant away (even at events at Aish, etc), and we've got boys who won't talk to girls, who fear rejection so much that they'd rather stand alone in a corner than try to meet someone, even when they're at a singles event. It's high school dances all over again (not that YeshivaGirl ever experienced the high school dance outside of a John Hughes movie). Sure, there's binge drinking in college, and for some people, a path that leads to alcoholism. I'm not talking about that road. (And I don't mean to belittle alcoholism, which is serious stuff.) I'm talking about open bar at weddings, singles events that provide "adult beverages," karaoke bars where people say things like "I'd have to get really drunk before I get up there." Situations where you want to do something, say something, express something raw and emotional about yourself, which years of living in this culture have suppressed. A few martinis later, your inhibitions are lowered, and you're more in touch with your desires. Because you're drunk when it happens, you have plausible deniability in the morning. Often, regret follows. But at least you've got the excuse when you feel your nakedness after drinking from the tap of Knowledge and Truth: "Ohmigod, I was so drunk, I don't even remember." In college, people used intoxication to explain away behaviors, claiming that the alcohol "altered them" in some intrinsic way. But I never bought it. When I drank, I did things that were very much in my character (karaoke is just one example), but that I feared would make me the subject of ridicule or ostracization in my "waking life." I knew what I was doing in my "yeshiva girl gone wild" persona (and believe me, it wasn't even THAT wild). These were things I wanted to have done, but had missed because I hadn't had the public school experience. Sometimes (and obviously there are exceptions to this rule) I think that alcohol is like those water wings kids wear in the swimming pool, or training wheels on a bike. Most of us don't want to have to rely on alcohol forever, but while we're single, it's nice to drop some of the veils of pretense and self-defense, and be in touch with what our hearts want. We can be funny, spontaneous, reactive to the moment and situation, uninhibited by social conventions or religious restrictions. In that moment, sometimes when it's most needed, we are bungee jumping off the cliff of repression, our selves falling free, clear and pure. *Yes, I know alcohol's a depressant. But before the low, comes the high. And dancing "on Cosmos" is definitely in fulfillment of "enhancing the happiness of the groom and bride." Work with me, people.


Caryn said...

I'm a single, and I love weddings. It doesn't usually occur to me to mope about my singleness (which I rarely do, weddings or no) because I am too busy being happy for my friends getting married.
I don't have much to say about drinking, except that it does help me flirt sometimes when I'm feeling too inhibited to do so. But it's so easy to go from feeling loosened up to making a fool of yourself. For me, that line is just one drink. Tricky.

Lyss said...

Alcohol=water wings. Makes sense to me. Good comparison.

Andrea said...

Last month I was at a dinner party that my sister threw. Not being very comfortable in social situations but wanting to put in effort for her, I got tipsy.

It helped.

Holding a glass of wine is sometimes like holding onto a security blanket.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is the best, funniest, most insightful post I've ever read. But then again, I've had three martinis. I'm not kidding.
Now, c'mon. Give us a kiss.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

C-You're still young. Plus, you've got that whole "ray of sunshine" thing happening. Plus, you don't live mainly in a Jewish environment where all of your friends are getting married off and procreating. Not everyone's got your cheery disposition and invigorating optimism. Though I wish I did.

Lyss-thanks! I thought so.

Andrea--I fully agree. Obviously.

And sorry, Anon--
despite what you may have heard about my days cavorting at Bungalow 8 with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, I don't kiss Anonymous strangers over the internet. Anymore.