“I love white wine but it doesn’t love me” says w&h columnist allison Pearson
OUR BRILLIANT COLUMNIST ON WHY SHE’s GETTING ON THE WAGON
Dinner is cooking. The kitchen worktop is a mess because you still haven’t emptied this morning’s dishwasher load. your phone is buzzing, it makes you think of the work emails you need to answer before you go to bed. that bag of drycleaning you meant to drop off is on the table. Enter your daughter in full teenage strop demanding to know where her red jumpsuit is. “Mu-um, I need it like NoW.”
you open the fridge, grab a bottle of white wine and glug out a large glass. Gosh, that first delicious cold sip is such a relief. you really needed that. you take another and another and soon there’s a delightful fuzzy edge to all the hard things you’re struggling to deal with.
Ring any bells? “Drinking makes many women feel like we can do the heavy lifting in an ever-evolving, complex world,” writes ann Dowsett Johnston in Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. “there’s this feeling of ‘I’m doing it all – why shouldn’t I have something for myself?’”
I’ve had that feeling often. too often. Enough was enough. as painful as the thought was, I had to stop drinking. look, I am not an alcoholic, although alcoholism runs in my veins. My father drank steadily, and sometimes unsteadily – it was a bad sign if he opened a whisky bottle before noon – and I feel the pull of alcohol like the tide feels the moon.
over the recent, glorious summer, chatting with a friend in the garden, we would easily polish off a bottle of rosé, and even think about having a G&t when the wine ran out. It was so hot and we were thirsty. Where’s the harm, eh?
Well, we may not care to admit it, but there’s an awful lot of harm that alcohol can do to a female body. My attitude has always been that the pleasure outweighed any potential physical risks. as a younger woman, I could spend a whole evening in a wine bar with little personal cost. but as I entered middle age, any wine consumed the night before would cast a sluggish, tetchy shadow over the next day.
“unfortunately, alcohol is a depressant,” my doctor friend said gently. she was right. I started to really notice how, after the exhilarating high, came the crashing low. but I carried on drinking anyway.
sadly, I’m far from alone. british women are now among the world’s biggest drinkers, matching men glass for glass, according to a study by The Lancet. I’ve always considered myself a lightweight so I was shocked when a full-body scan at a bavarian health clinic last year found evidence of fatty deposits on my liver. It wasn’t too bad yet, the clinic said, but I needed to take a look at my alcohol consumption.
I was mortified. What were they implying? I was a respectable fifty-something mother holding down a good job, not some alkie in the gutter. yet just one of those large glasses of sauvignon blanc I would pour myself probably contained at least three of my permitted weekly 14 units.
one evening, Himself and I went to a friend’s party where I swiftly had two divine strawberry margaritas, followed by two, maybe three, glasses of wine. the next morning, I was mighty irritated when Himself joked about me giving rather loud instructions on the route home. “Why shouldn’t I help the cabbie find where we live?” “Er, we didn’t take a cab, darling,” Himself smirked, “I was driving our car and you sat in the back.”
so sloshed you think your husband is a minicab driver? oops. since then, barely a drop of booze has passed my lips and I’m enjoying experimenting with the many non-alcoholic substitutes. No longer do you have to nurse a bitter lemon (a state of mind as much as a drink). seedlip served with slimline tonic and lots of ice and limes could almost be a G&t. Dry doesn’t mean dull any more. Women of my generation got to do our fathers’ jobs, but we retained our mothers’ responsibilities. the result is sometimes a punishing double-shift that’s enough to drive anyone to drink. I don’t judge any wife or mother who uses alcohol to deal with stress. I did it for years. We do, however, need more honesty about why wine o’clock has become such a crucial part of the female day and why so many amazing women are drinking themselves into an early grave. How sad is that?
I love white wine, but it doesn’t love me. like a man who gives you a brilliant night, then runs out in the morning, it leaves me gloomy and tearful. since I gave up, I feel 10 times better and, ironically, much better able to cope with all those anxieties I was drinking to forget. to any of you who care to join me on the wagon, I raise a glass of delicious (non-alcoholic) Pomegranate Negroni. Cheers, ladies, and your very good health! w&h
I don’t judge any wife or mother who uses alcohol to deal with stress – I did it for years