Monday, October 17, 2011

The Lush, The Prude and The Kids

When I first heard the song 'Last Friday Night' by Katie Perry I was a little confused, overwhelmed, disgusted and angry. Perry's homage to binge drinking is troubling because her demographic is heavy with those who cannot legally drink (or legally drive, or legally be unattended in public places). Perhaps the song is more unnerving because it is so damned catchy. I found myself shocked that such a song would be on the radio for impressionable ears all while I was turning up the volume. The song is infuriatingly singable.

I have fond New York City memories of staying out all night and going to work with a manageable hangover. My first year out of college was a progression to adulthood. My first stop was the Tom Collins. Next was the Vodka Tonic until I was grown up enough to handle a proper Martini. I took my Martinis dirty until I now I look forward to little more than a glass of straight vodka. Winston Churchill once said that the proper way to craft a martini was to fill a glass with vodka and set the open bottle of vermouth next to it. Then recap the vermouth and enjoy your drink. Hawkeye Pierce from M.A.S.H. famously ordered his martinis so dry that he could 'shake the dust off of them'.

There is something heady about the twilight descending while standing on a tile floor in heels. The chatter of an excited crowd swirling around you all while you smell and taste your first sip of wine of the evening. That first sip is always the best one. But I rather think I have earned my memories. I learned to drink responsibly over the course of many years. My parents drank at home. They enjoyed themselves without going overboard. My college years were not filled with keg parties and trays of shots. I had a handful of overly anxious rebellious drinking bouts at 18 or 19, but they were few and far between.

Today I drink alot less than I used to, and martinis are mostly just a fond memory. But I still worry that my kids will grow up to develop troubling drinking behaviors. In fact I worry that drinking has replaced smoking as the 'cool habit' in ad campaigns and movies. Drinking can develop into an unhealthful and life strangling habit. And songs like Perry's 'Last Friday Night' or that Pink song with the ever-classy name 'You and Your Hand' only romance binge drinking and partying to a very young and impressionable fan base.

Jeez, really? When did I get so uncool? When I was 17 I was able to read Tom Robbins and Charles Buckowski without becoming a sexed up heroin addict. Why do I assume that today's kids don't share my same surprised reaction to the Perry song? I guess I don't find the song so offensive, twenty-somethings will have to learn to navigate this drinking culture. And a little wildness can be good to an otherwise serious youth (like I was). It is that I worry for the 16, 14, 12 and 8 year olds whose exposure to pop music is informing them on what the adult experience really is.

With that being said I can't say that I have been a great musical role model. Last week as I pushed both my kids down the street in their stroller, Thing 1 belts out "I am going, I am gooooooo-ing, Where streams of whiskey are flowing!" I remind you, he is 4. The Pogues may be revered as a traditional Irish band, but they are most certainly of the modern day and their songs of debauchery include the story of a young man who drinks until he chokes only to die the following morning and a man who tosses his cookies in the church collection plate. Do their bagpipes and international status allow them carte blanche to sing blithely about binge drinking? And since we are a family of some Irish decent should I find it less troubling to share this music with my children than that of some make-up faced pop tart? Sure the Pogues' music does not contain that seductive ingredient of sex, but their raw lyrics still make light of alcoholism.

So, if I write a food blog, why on earth bring this topic up? At the risk of painting myself as Tipper Gore, My children are getting bigger and they are more impressionable. I am conscious of what kind of world view I am presenting them. I don't want to be hypocritical, but I fear that this is impossible. There are so many slip ups a parent can make.

Also, I am examining my own complicated relationship with the bottle. I love drinking. Like really love drinking. It is not something I want to give up. But as I am getting older I am finding that my body is not tolerating alcohol like it once did. Drinking less produces a more negative side effect than it once did. I bring the topic up because while I have examined most of what I eat, I have not made similar decisions about what I drink. Perhaps it is time for me to become educated about what happens to one's body after a drink or two. Perhaps then I can educate my kids so that their choices are influenced by fact and not by the lyrics of a Katie Perry song.

This post is shared with Real Food Wednesdays and Healthy 2day Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursdays and Fresh Bites Friday


  1. If you were to take the same microscope to alcohol that you take to your food, you wouldn't come near alcohol with a 10 foot pole. Alcohol not only does damage to our physical bodies, but it can also cause psychological damage as well. Plus, it causes us to lose control, which often leads to eating crap we really shouldn't be.

  2. I think there is always a song (or an artist, album, etc) that gets adults of each generation ruffled up. Remember when people in the 50's thought that Elivs was going to incite a sexual revolution with his pelvic thrusting? Well, there was a revolution but not until a few years later. My point is, the best indicator of your children's interest/access/desire to drink alcohol (or have premarital sex, do drugs, etc) is the example you set with it. Truly- no song or artist is going to have the same impact on your kid as you will (THANK GOD) so stop stressing so much. Let them see you safely and responsibly imbibe (if that's what you want to do) and talk about how "silly" and "goofy" it is when people drink too much. How that drinking in excess can lead you to do things you don't really mean to do (like make a big mess that you have to clean up, or something similar that a child would dread). Sort of like eating five pieces of chocolate cake in one sitting will lead to one heck of a bellyache- both sugar and booze are only fun if YOUR the one in control, not the substance.
    Just my opinion on the subject ; )

  3. It is a fine line to walk and I applaud you for thinking about it now when your kids are young. It is much easier than when they are older.

  4. I really appreciate your honesty in this post! I found I could relate to much of what you say- while there aren't any out-until-2am nights in my life anymore, there are still those days where I think, "I need a glass of wine!" I find myself wondering if I'm in danger of going down the same path my parents have, living (seemingly) happy, functional lives where you work, travel, socialize, etc.- but come home most nights and drink 3-4 glasses of wine and fall asleep (pass out?) on the couch. This is not what I want my life to be, and I'm hyper aware of the times that I like my drinking too much. It's also difficult in a culture where asking these questions of oneself can be pooh-poohed!