In the same vein that Catholics have their renowned flavor of guilt, my immediate family has the alcohol taboo.
When I first started drinking at a bizarrely late and legal age in comparison to most members of my generation, I was compelled not by the usual suspects of seeking liquid confidence, struggling to obtain relaxation, or succumbing to peer pressure, but instead by my drive to try everything at least once, an inherent compulsion responsible for those kimchi-marinated snails I ate in Hawaii (the things I do for writing material). The trouble was, after trying a Georgia Peach once, I was perturbed to discover I actually liked it–as long as the bartender got the proportions right and fruit comprised the overarching piquancy. Successively, the increased sense of intrepidity, ensuing tranquility, and social aspect were just added benefits, and as long as my Georgia Peaches were balanced with steady water intake and good food, what was the problem?
The problem was that prior to acting on the experiential curiousness that compels me to seek work on a farm someday and serve as one of the background dancers in a Bollywood film, I had taken a personal oath against drinking and had spent my whole youth effortlessly overcoming the teenage escapades that stereotypically cajole substance abuse. In fact, I was never met with any of the cliché, cautionary pressures teenage television personalities have to deal with on a seasonal basis. I can’t recall a single instance in which I was egged on to drink or ostracized for sipping water through a beer pong tournament or king’s cup. My incentive for attending parties was to socialize and partake in the dancing that had better ensue at some point during the night, and contrary to what the media would have you believe, my peers seemed fine with that.
Yep, my teenage behavior was just as innately innocent, prude, and unadventurous as most kids will insist when being interrogated by their parents, and my parents knew they had nothing to worry about, for they were the inadvertent source of my non-alcoholic vow. I stem from a heritage that promoted beer and wine drinking on both sides of the family; an Irish-Swiss mix stereotypical for their Fumblin’ Dublin alcoholism and pleasant, mountain-dwelling nightcaps amidst the resonating songs of the alphorn. Remarkably, one member of my family abstained from this hereditary propensity, and fortunately for my adolescent brain cells, that family member just happened to be my mother.
Besides a glass of champagne allegedly sipped at a family party years before I was born, a private investigator would be hard pressed to cite multiple offenses when it comes to my mom and alcohol. Along with her teenage gravitation toward a healthy lifestyle of yoga and vegetarianism, my mom (pre-pre-motherhood) observed the effects alcohol had on her superiors and made the same simple decision I made in childhood: to abstain. It was my mom’s stout resolve, however, that proved victorious, as she sticks to virgin margaritas to this day.
Growing up with such an inspirational health nut made rescinding my personal temperance a guilty endeavor indeed. I like to think that if there was any religion in our agnostic household, we prayed to the deity of sobriety, and absolved my dad’s Flat Tires, Sierra Nevada IPAs, and Mirror Ponds on the premise that he’d been drinking before the Moon-Wood Church of Teetotalism was established. When it was revealed that my sister had been drinking at a young age, it was as if World War III had just surged through our doorway and my mom’s encampment had been trounced, leaving her to lament the antebellum peace of mind that had precluded this revelation. Having borne witness to this ordeal, my first few alcoholic beverages in college were enveloped in an ambience of penitent doom. Sure, my whole family save for one innocent soul drank, but everyone was completely convinced my mom had sired an unimpeachable progeny: I was the predictable kid, the one who presumably embodied the D.A.R.E. motto long after graduating from elementary school.
Fortunately for my guilty conscience, the Teetotalism denomination came equipped with three confessionals, and because I’m also renowned as the daughter who blathers on endlessly about everything and can’t keep a secret to save her life, I confessed the whole affair to my family in the throes of the worst, Bartini-induced hangover I ever intend to experience in my life.
To many, the alcohol stigma that existed in my household during my youth is a trivial affair. Alcohol is such a prevalent aspect of our culture that several families I know have taken to allowing their so-inclined teenagers to drink as long as they keep to the house, adopting the creed that thanks to that 21-year-old jerk your kid knows through a friend of a friend or those shady liquor stores that don’t check identification, there’s no absolute way to prohibit alcohol, but at least a viable way to supervise it. Having recently converted to the doctrine of The Occasional Cocktail, I like to think that when I have children of my own I’ll be able to establish this same negotiable policy, but having hitched my tent in a dry camp for so many years, it’s likely the experience will be just as difficult as it was for the Immaculate Maman.