My mom doesn’t drink. Rumor is she once had a white-wine spritzer and passed out, feet-up, as an ambitious undergrad at a law school party in Des Moines. And my dad mostly kept the same 5-to-6 bottles of Rolling Rock in our fridge for most of my high school career. I’m not sure if this was because he lamented a poor decision at the municipal off-sale one night. Or because he was creating an elaborate set-piece for his teenage sons (“You can drink, boys, just be really, really careful about ever actually doing it”). Regardless, drinking with them now—whether at our cabin or at the Chili’s happy hour—is a psychological shell game. Here is how I massage their expectations:
1) Don’t make it look like you’re a pro. Put question marks behind names and brands you fully-well know don’t belong there. “Yeah, sure, I think I’ll have one of these, um, New Belgian Ales?” “Oh that sounds good, I’ll take a Summer Shandy?” “A carafe of Malbec? Well, what the CRIPES is that?!”
2) Avoid hard liquor like the plague. What are you trying to do? Reaffirm your mother’s nascent and quickly-budding suspicions that you’ve become the pastiche, lonely-bastard stereotype of a failed writer in his twenties? Please. Stick to domestic beer advertised on football commercials. Or maybe a virgin margarita if you can wing a comically-oversized sombrero for photographic memories.
3) Downplay your stamina, so you can keep up with your mom when she checks out after two sips of her Long Island. “Uff da! No, I better take a single. No telling which county back road I’ll end up on if you give me two shots of Jameson!”
4) Make overt references to your lack of acumen with drinker’s terminology. “Geez Dad, have you ever heard of this thing called Twofers? And mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but this guy, he calls himself a mix-o-logist. Ha! Who would pathetically get to know him from going in on a nightly basis and asking for something with bitters and eggwhites?!”
5) Like in Shirley Jackson’s “Charles,” project all your bar-stand heroics onto a fictional alter-ago or officemate. Why tell mom you can’t go into 2 or 3 bars in your asinine neighborhood because you’ve drunkenly harassed the bartender at closing time? Seriously, why go there?! So, let’s use “Tommy” from work. “Yah, Tommy ended up on a green cot in the drunk tank last homecoming! Can you believe they even recognized him from the year before! And then, you just wouldn’t believe it, Tommy came in, TO SCHOOL, completely shit-faced from the night before, and held student conferences with his fly-open the whole time!! Ha, just can’t get enough of that guy. But I really, really feel sorry for him. Just mixed up.” Gulp, sip, stir etc…
6) Let them pay for your drinks. Parents like playing Mommy and Daddy with the pocketbook. But more importantly, you don’t want your debit card bouncing in public again. At least not at this bar where your name may/may not be taped to register.
Photo courtesy Daniel Morris