A glass of Argentinian Malbec with dinner in Canada, because it was too cold to do anything but drink
January 1, 2017
I wake up with one of the worst hangovers I can remember having. No, wait a second, I had an equally bad hangover in the Netherlands in November, when I spent an entire evening drinking sugary cocktails and shots of bourbon. And… yeah, scratch that, because I woke up the day after Boxing Day with a splitting headache, too, a result of a night of beer pong and margaritas that were purely tequila and a few squeezes of lime. Shit.
I’m pretty sure the first step of realising you’re addicted to something is denying that you have a problem, but, despite the three stories I just told you, I am not addicted to alcohol. I don’t drink every day. I (again, despite those three stories) rarely drink to excess or to “get drunk”. There is no alcoholism in my family. I’ve never “blacked out” or not been able to remember what I’ve done while drinking. Other than my birthday last year, when I drank sparkling wine with breakfast, the thought of drinking in the morning or on an empty stomach makes me want to hurl. I’d say I drink the average amount for a 30-something in London: a couple of glasses of wine with dinner a few times a week, and maybe a night or two in the pub where I have a few beers or spirits.
But oh, how I love alcohol. I really do. I love the taste of it, and I love the jovial vibe of the bars and the pubs that I visit. I love how much better a meal can taste with the right glass of wine. I love a good pint of Guinness while watching the football. I love a single malt on a cold winter’s night. I love a cold cocktail on a warm beach. I love going to wine-tastings, whiskey-tastings, and craft-beer-tastings around the world, or trying a city’s local drink. I have so, so, so many good memories that are connected to alcohol. Hell, my number one favourite sound is the first few glugs of wine pouring out of a bottle. I would never willingly give up alcohol completely.
But this headache is awful. And I have uncharacteristically drank too much on four different occasions over the holidays, if you count November as well, because, oh yeah, I left out my office Christmas party where I drank seven glasses of cheap white wine (though I’m pretty sure that one gets a pass, because it was an office Christmas party, and that’s what you do). Despite enjoying alcohol, I hate not feeling in control, which is why I usually know when to cut myself off so that it stays fun and I can skip the hangover (and the long-lasting liver failure). And although it was New Year’s Eve last night, I really don’t want to go into my 33rd year feeling like this. So, I decide to cut out alcohol for one month. I think it will be a good exercise in control, not to mention the physical pounds I’ll lose (and the monetary pounds I’ll save). I have A LOT to do this month, and I don’t want to waste another day on a dumb hangover.
Last night, however, was pretty goddamn fun. This might be harder than I thought.
January 2, 2017
Today is much better than yesterday, when I felt like my forehead was going to explode. I am still incredibly jet-lagged after my trip to Canada, so I’m sleeping odd hours and fear I’m becoming a vampire. I already like red meat way too much for my own good, so that’s not a clear indicator. If I suddenly become averse to garlic, I’ll know for sure.
I tell my family that I’m not drinking for January, and they all laugh – they know how much I love a glass of wine – but they tell me they’re rooting for me. Here’s the thing: I like treating myself. I’m also quite impulsive and spontaneous. These qualities fit the traveller persona I’ve developed in the last decade, I’d say; I often book trips on a whim, and I’m also the first one to shrug off a budget in order to try something new. If I’m out with new friends in Italy, and they say we should go to this amazing but expensive restaurant, I won’t even think twice. I’ll just do it. I’m not saying that these are necessarily good qualities, but I also admit that I have very few regrets in life. Sure, I may have come home to some eye-watering credit card bills, but that just means I have to work harder to make more money. I’d rather live a slightly hedonistic life than look back and think, “Why didn’t I just go for it?” I don’t remember any of the supermarket sandwiches I ate over the years. I do, however, remember that fucking awesome meal I had in Italy.
So now I’m thinking of the other bad habits in my life. I don’t do any drugs and never have been a fan. I enjoy sweets, sure, but the food I cook for myself is already pretty healthy. I hate gambling. I have a slight shopping obsession, in that I’m always buying way too many books to read in this lifetime or the next. But then it hits me. Men.
I love men. I really do. I love flirting, and I love going on first dates. I love when I make eye contact with an attractive guy for just a second longer than normal, and how confident that makes me feel. I make absolutely no qualms about this and have always made it pretty clear on this blog – I have had some wonderful encounters with men around the world. But I like my men like I like my alcohol; once in a while, and never to excess (I was going to write something about ‘aged well and tasting good’, but then I felt like a middle-aged woman who wears all leopard print and calls herself “feisty”). Despite enjoying the company of men, I don’t really want a serious boyfriend right now, not in the traditional sense. At the moment, I have no desire to live with a man, nor do I want children. I also don’t know what the future holds for me, as in, I don’t know how much longer I’ll live in London or where I’ll end up next. I certainly don’t want someone that expects to hang out all the time, or text incessantly every day; I’m too independent and I love my solitude. Ideally, I’d have a casual relationship, one where we see each other once or twice a week max, and don’t communicate much in between. I’m thinking a fun day with markets and museums, a walk, maybe a good dinner and a movie. I don’t need much more than that, as I’m too damn busy as it is.
But that’s really, really difficult to find, because I think a lot of people hear “casual relationship” and think “casual sex”, and that’s not what I mean. I very, very rarely share my bed with someone – not that I have any judgement on anyone who does (just as long as you’re safe and you’re both on the same page, I say sleep with whomever you want, whenever you want). Casual sex isn’t for me, though; I found that out after a cringeworthy one-night stand in Thailand years ago that I’ll one day write about. Let’s just say it ended in tears… his tears. Yikes.
That being said, I usually go on a first date every couple of months, and that usually leads to another get-together or two. By the third date, one of two things usually happens: either he reveals himself to be kind of a creep/isn’t cool that I don’t want to sleep with him yet/stops texting, or (and this is more common, i.e. there are more good guys out there than bad), he ends up being so sweet and lovely and starts inviting me to hang out with his friends or see me just a couple of days later or starts texting a lot more or asks me to be his girlfriend and I realise, “Oh no, I’m not ready for this,” and then I politely end it. One day, when I meet the “right guy” (whatever the hell that means), I’m sure I won’t want to end it. But until I do, I’m not going to waste my time or someone else’s time.
But even these little dalliances do indeed take up a lot of my time, and a lot of my thoughts, and as mentioned earlier, I have shit I want to do in January. Energised, I write over 1,000 words on this blog and clean my flat. I might be on to something.
So goodbye booze, goodbye boys. I’m not indulging in either this month.
On holiday in Prague last summer, where beer gardens are the norm so I was simply doing my best to fit in
January 3, 2017
Today is my first day back at the office. It’s fun to see my coworkers and to look out for my office crush, the one I may or may not have made a fool of myself in front of at the Christmas party after those seven glasses of wine. Wait, no! I shouldn’t be looking out for him. I’m abstaining, right?
“Good thing I didn’t see him today!” I try to tell myself on the bus home, silently cursing that I wore my new cashmere jumper and did my hair ALL FOR NAUGHT.
When I get home I book my first international trip of the year, and I’m leaving next week.
January 4, 2017
Another day at the office, a really productive one. I also sneak in a great lunch with my favourite coworker. She asks about my crush – I didn’t even know his name for six months, so talking to him at the Christmas party was kind of a big deal – and claim that the crush is off until February. She laughs.
I see my crush from afar while another coworker is talking to me in the hallway, and it would be really, really weird if I interrupted her and then made some bogus excuse to walk by him, wouldn’t it? Yes, it would. Plus, right, I’m abstaining. Right.
I go home and make a really delicious dinner using courgetti (that’s zucchini/courgettes shaved like spaghetti, which I use instead of pasta and flavour with my tears) and feel proud of myself. I look longingly at a bottle of white wine in my fridge for a couple of seconds before grabbing a bottle of sparkling water. I watch a lot of episodes of The Fall, which is about a woman who definitely likes her whiskey and her men, and start thinking where I can find blouses like Gillian Anderson.
January 5, 2017
I am still a vampire. I don’t know WHAT is up but my sleeping hours are so off. Can jet lag last over a week? On the plus side, it’s been almost a week without even a sip of wine and I admit that I do feel brighter and lighter, although that might just be because I’m really motivated and writing a lot (or courgetti is the secret elixir of life).
I’m working from home today, because I’ve recently gone down to part-time at my office job in order to focus more on this blog. I intend to publish a blog post, but because I’m still so swamped with emails and messages that I completely ignored over the holidays, I spend the afternoon weeding through my inbox instead. I’m down to 29 starred messages, which still feels like Mount Everest, especially since they all require thoughtful, long replies.
Because I’m suddenly this alcohol-free, chaste women who eats vegetables, I decide to go for a run. Correction: I decide to attempt to go for a run. I asked for workout clothes for Christmas and bought some new trainers, so I download the Couch to 5K app on my phone, pull my hair back in a ponytail, and head out to the park. I run (correction again: walk) for half an hour and it actually feels pretty good.
In the evening I take the tube to Soho to meet Julie from A Lady in London. We meet at a fantastic seafood restaurant – Randall & Aubin – and order mussels, crab cakes, and scallops. The food is divine. Again, I think about a glass of white wine, but get a bottle of sparkling water instead. Is it really, really sad that I feel proud of myself for this? Like, have I never exhibited willpower or restraint before?! Wait. Maybe I haven’t.
When I get home I realise I still have Tinder on my phone, so I go to delete it. I haven’t used it since October, when I went out with a really hot but kind of mean Italian who drove a motorcycle, so of course I wanted to see him again (he stopped texting me, naturally). Once I’m on it I see all of these messages that were sent to me over the holidays from people I had matched with, and then I feel bad. One of the guys is pretty cute, so I decide sending him one harmless message back isn’t wrong. I mean, it’s just being polite.
I fail to see the hypocrisy in only replying to the cute one until I’ve already hit send.
January 6, 2017
Today – AGAIN – I sleep in late, because I was tossing and turning until 5am. There’s limited sunlight as it is in London right now, so only getting a few hours of it in the afternoon is probably not good for me. I start taking vitamins after I read about the effect of not getting enough Vitamin D. I also use my French press, the one that has been collecting dust for God knows how many years. Wait a second. I jog, I take vitamins, AND I utilise all of my kitchen appliances?! Dear Lord, who I am becoming? If I start putting things in mason jars and cooking all my lunches for the week on Sunday, send help.
My legs are a little bit stiff from the six minutes of jogging I did yesterday (don’t laugh) so I go for a long walk instead. I get a coffee from my local wine bar/coffee shop and speak to the Italian owner about Italy, which is always fun. It’s a rainy day, but I walk around the park and call my mum to keep me company. She’s in Puerto Rico with her boyfriend right now, and she claims she needs to give up alcohol for a few weeks when she gets back to Canada. I get it – even without the few glasses of wine per week, I can feel a difference. I swear I have already lost a couple of pounds around my stomach. Damn it! This wasn’t supposed to actually work!! I was supposed to be like, “Hey, that did nothing for my overall physical or emotional health, so back to the wine I go!” Fuck.
It’s Friday, a day I’d usually go to my local pub. Over the past three years of living in East London, I’ve really grown to know both the staff and the fellow patrons there, and it’s a place that feels like home. Even in the past, I’d often order ginger beer or soda water instead of alcohol so that I could experience the pub but not drink, but tonight I don’t feel like explaining why I’m not drinking for an entire month. There’s no risk of meeting a man in there, because I have a very strict rule against dating anyone from my local pub (lies, all lies, I would totally date someone if I ever actually met a guy in there who was under 45 years old, of which there are few).
Cute Boy from Tinder hasn’t written back, which obviously means he is also on a “no dating” purge for the month, or he found the girl of his dreams in the last three days. Those are the only rational explanations for why he didn’t write me back, and nobody will make me believe otherwise.
Obviously Helen and I had to drink margaritas in Stockholm, because… um… margaritas are Swedish? *gulp*
January 7, 2017
This time I decide I’ll delete my Tinder for real. I haven’t been enjoying it much in the past year, anyway. I only respond to messages that seem personal, i.e. they’ve used my name and haven’t sent a weird emoji or gif in place of the very complicated “Hi Brenna, how are you?”. I used to really love Tinder and had some fantastic dates (and even a relationship) out of it in the past, but it seems to have gone a bit downhill, and it seems that people are on there just to match but not talk. I try to be open-minded when I’m on it, but, quite frankly, I’m very rarely attracted to anyone I see. This is not at all because of how the men look, it’s because of the photos they choose to represent themselves. The six photographs that seem to be most common are:
- Selfie in bed (EW. YUCK. NO. Judge me all you want for judging others, but I just cannot date a man who takes “sexy selfies” in bed unless I’ve asked for one, which, in my recollection, has only happened once. Even typing “sexy selfies” makes me want to barf. Once a guy sent me a selfie where he was topless and biting his lip BEFORE WE’D EVEN GONE ON A DATE and I honestly threw my phone across the room when I opened it. And what’s with all the guys doing duck-face now?)
- Some sort of photo on a beach or a boat with your “bros”, topless and wearing colourful fake Ray-Bans (OK, you travel, that’s cool. You have friends, good. You’re trying to exhibit a “quirky” personality with your orange sunglasses, which I guess I can get down with. The problem is that I’m really not into people putting topless photos on dating profiles, so I’m still kind of turned off by it. Definitely not as bad as a sexy selfie, though.)
- A mirror selfie (you’re either at the gym, sitting on a weight-lifting bench with headphones on, or you’re in a suit and you’re in a bathroom, or you’re in a suit and you’re in an elevator. Either way, you’re not smiling. Call me crazy, but I don’t find the vision of a man in a speckled mirror and a reflection of the urinals behind him very appealing.)
- A fancy-dress/costume party photo with friends (usually something scary or weird, but you’re definitely wearing black eyeliner. I guess it’s supposed to show that you’re fun? Even if you’re not in fancy dress, you DEFINITELY have a group photo of a bunch of guys, in which I’m like, “Ooh, is that him? He’s cute. Oh wait, that’s his friend.” You’re probably wearing a Christmas jumper in that one.)
- A photo of you holding a baby or a puppy (which you then clarify, quite clearly in your profile, is not yours. OK… so you think that seeing a photo of you with a baby will make my ovaries explode? While scrolling Tinder, I’m more likely holding a glass of whisky and thinking of all the money I’m saving NOT having babies, so this is not going to work on me. If the dog is yours, however, I will 100% reconsider.)
- A photo with your sister (Why? I never get this one. To show that you love women? OK. Bonus points if you’re doing something kind of creepy like kissing her on the cheek. If you don’t have a sister, you probably put up a childhood photo of yourself, which is equally weird in my eyes.)
Possible variants include: a photo next to a car that is most likely not yours, a photo where you’re surrounded by attractive women, a photo of you skiing (does EVERYONE in the world ski but me?!), or a photo of you giving a speech at a wedding (OK, fine, I like those).
I realise that all of that makes me sound like a horrible, judgemental woman, and… OK, you might be right. But I’m now glad for this dearth of men I find attractive on Tinder, because I can easily delete the app without remorse. It’s funny, because when I leave my flat, I see dozens of good-looking men in London. Like, every time I even go to my local supermarket I see at least a handful of attractive guys, and that’s a tiny corner store. But perhaps if you put those same men in orange Ray-Bans and get them to take a mirror selfie in a bathroom, I’d be singing a different tune.
And yes, I can only imagine what everyone is saying about my photographs. Shhhh. This is my Bridget Jones’ Diary sad confession blog, any actual self-reflection or humility would make it far too boring and morose.
Anyway, today I manage to wake up at a reasonable hour for a creature of the night, and take a meandering walk to Broadway Market. Everyone is wearing all black and is smoking roll-up cigarettes while walking a small dog. As per usual, I want to spend all my money on very delicate but very overpriced jewellery, magazines that I imagine would make me look cool if I walked down the street with one under my arm, and wheels of cheese that cost more than my weekly groceries. Instead I buy some tomatoes and listen to a busker sing old jazz songs in the street.
I’ve purposefully not made any social plans for this weekend, as I’m on a streak of writing 2,000 words a day and I want to keep it up. After two weeks surrounded by friends and family in Canada, I’m also grateful for a bit of down-time; as much as I love them, I’m used to spending a lot of time on my own. I give myself a pedicure and a facial and then I cook another delicious dinner, so I imagine my life set to a punchy but slightly overused song that they’re playing in the movie montage that’s supposed to say, “Look at her! She’s alone on a Saturday night but she’s all right!” And you know what? I am. I’m actually feeling fucking fantastic.
Despite this, or because of this, around 10pm I succumb to weakness and check Tinder once last time before deleting it to see if Cute Boy has written me back. He has. UH OH.
Will I give in to one of my vices? Will I allow myself to drink if I’m in another country? Will I actually delete Tinder? Will I ever become less shallow? All coming up on January 15th – the second instalment of My Month Without Alcohol… or Men.
*Update*: Read the second instalment here!