Can there be anything less endearing than the memoirs of a drinker confessing her first vomiting experience?
Give the Times's new "Proof" blog time; it's only been nauseating readers for a few weeks with its first-person perspectives on "alcohol and American life" -- a topic it addresses as though literature hasn't had its way with it, and brilliantly, for centuries. But last night's post by essayist/publicist Sloane Crosley sets the cause of personal narrative back by several decades with her reflections on too many tequila shots in high school, and her incipient alcoholism.
Crosley -- whose recent collection of memoirish riffs, "I Was Told There'd Be Cake," ended up on the best-seller list earlier this year -- recalls being at a high school party where a tequila shot competition was underway. Thus begins an essay that any decent high school English teacher would send back for a rewrite:
I sat down across from a guy who was sincerely Mexican and who strongly encouraged me not to do this to myself, but I wouldn’t listen. This marked the first and last time I would slap my palm onto a table and say the words “hit me.” Six shots and two beer chasers later, I grabbed the nearest receptacle — a half-empty extra-large bag of Lay’s potato chips — and released the contents of my stomach into it.
Anybody know what Crosely means by the phrase, "sincerely Mexican," and why it was worth mentioning? Do Times website editors peruse blog copy for irrelevant ethnic references?
Crosley proceeds from there into an account of her drinking history that's so contradictory and incoherent that it defies a reader's ability to follow. Here's a few sentences, in order, from the middle of the piece that suggest the way alcohol may have left Crosley slightly confused:
At least tequila, like rum, is a somewhat expendable booze, shining in the summer and pretty much hibernating for the rest of the year. One’s maiden voyage on the overdose train is always scarring (I can’t eat gummy bears either, due to a lost game of “truth or dare” as a child). A bad drug or alcohol experience can be a taste-altering thing, like a tattoo if tattoos were assigned at random. Or an afterlife in which you are doomed to wear the outfit in which you expired for all eternity. We become engrained with our first grain. It makes me grateful that I wasn’t mainlining vodka that night.
So that means she's hooked on tequila, right? Wrong:
Now I drink. I am a drinker. At the age of 30, I have grown to love a myriad of beers. One of my closest friends is such an oenophile that she has worn off on me and I comfortably pretend I know things about white Rioja even when I’m not with her.
Okay, so beer, wine and tequila. Those are Crosley's crosses to bear. But wait, there's more!
Wine and beer aside, I’m a Maker’s Mark girl in the winter, a martini girl in the summer and a vodka-soda girl when I walk up to the bar and my mind blanks. I make the best French 75 you’ll ever have. The other day, I bought a bottle of elderflower (though, admittedly, it feels like it’ll be some time before I open it).
The confusion contines. Crosley then tells us she doesn't really like drinking that much -- or does she? Here's where the narrative goes completely off the rails:
Suddenly, I was in college and still couldn’t stand drinking. Actually, I could stand it, but I just couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t peer pressure that drove me to keep trying so much as it was the variety. There must be something to this drinking business when there are 80 types of cider alone.
Okay, so she can't stand drinking, but she is drinking, but only because there's so many varieties to choose from. What next? Now she's not drinking again!
But every time friends procured bottles of liquor from beneath their futons, I found myself declining. Perhaps my high school tequila trauma had been so bad, it had spilled over and contaminated other beverages. Why could I not appreciate the subtle fruit notes of Peach Schnapps? Or the simple pleasures of shotgunning a Budweiser can?
Maybe it's because Crosley was so busy working her way through the cider bottles.
After that comes a brief narrative detour in which Crosley compares her drinking habits to her use of public bathrooms. "Men tend to think my restroom speed should be a source of pride," Crosley writes. "Instead, it just makes me question my own hygiene habits." Ewwww.
So next Crosley moves to Scotland, where the population drinks without giving it much thought:
Did the students drink terrible beer? Yes. Were they completely irresponsible with their whiskey consumption? Yes. Did they get black out drunk and pass out in gutters? Yes. But it took them hours instead of minutes to do this, which I somehow found more worthwhile.
Lost? Crosley's litany of experiences with booze have obviously left her so guilt-ridden and confused that she can't come up with a coherent explanation for her habit, which she has no desire to break:
It’s been months since I’ve been drunk drunk. Years since I’ve been drunk drunk and not remembered whole swaths of conversation. But with our holiday calendars expanding and our wallets thinning, you would think now is the time to go out and buy the cheapest booze possible and lots of it. And you’d probably be right.
As for me, I will be standing in the corner, sipping whiskey and ginger ale at my own pace. Because the thing I can’t afford is to throw up on candy canes and gingerbread people. I like them too much.
Nope, she'll just throw up on the Times blog, and get paid for it.