The Escalating Scale of Drunkenness, Explained
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - Filed in: General Interest
The following article appears on the Esquire web site. It is not exactly as I would have written it. However, it makes the point.
One drink, two drink, three drink, four. Don't say we didn't warn you . . . .
The Endorsement: 1 Drink
The thing about one drink — a glass of liquor we're talking about, hopefully a stiff pour — is that it doesn't involve enough alcohol to make anything stop working. Your eyesight, your natural grace, your moral compass — they're all left intact. Because one drink doesn't compromise anything. It enhances. You have one drink and your world becomes slightly better. The bar is a slightly better bar. Your dog is a slightly better dog. Your work is slightly more brilliant. And for that, you pay no price. Your outward appearance is unchanged — to your drinking partner, to your boss, to your kid, to a cop. You haven't wrecked anything. You haven't said anything stupid. You were a gentleman when you started drinking and you are a gentleman — a slightly more interesting one, which is nice — when you finish drinking. For a good thirty minutes (it doesn't work if you don't sip the drink and make it last), everything about the universe is slightly less intolerable. One drink is a free ride.
The Complaint: 2 Drinks
Here's what two drinks is: When you go in for your physical and you make the mistake of asking your doctor about drinking, he'll say, "Two drinks a day is fine." And he'll say it in a curt but friendly way that suggests that for any normal, well-adjusted man without a tendency toward dependency or maybe a serious problem with alcohol, two drinks is plenty, two drinks is more than you actually need but he's being a nice guy. To his mind, two drinks is reasonable.
Here's what else two drinks is. Two drinks is 7:15. Two drinks is four or five hours till bed.
Two drinks is, to put it another way, a glow that needs to be carefully tended to keep it from a) descending into headache, or b) accelerating out of control. Two drinks is an opportunity. It's the chance to manage your elevated state of mind into one of the better nights of your life. Two drinks is a beginning — the start of a progression from just right on through excellent and then on, toward the end of the night to satisfied.
But two drinks is by no means an end point. And your primary caregiver needs to realize that.
The Endorsement: 3 Drinks
Empirically, there is no better number of drinks than three. Three drinks shoves you right up to the blurry border between you and drunkenness, a line in the sand that's been washed over by a wave — you can still see it, but barely. It's a thrilling place to be. You're flying, feeling it, maybe spitting out the wrong word every now and then, maybe calling your sister for no reason, but you could still operate a forklift if you really had to. You can still hit the dartboard. One fewer and you're drinking responsibly; one more and you're walking on your knees and suggesting everybody go for karaoke.
The important thing is, you're having the time of your life, but there's no danger of missing the urinal when you take a leak. You feel fantastic, your cares have dissolved, and everyone is interesting. Every conversation is both funny and important. Good ideas seem brilliant. Semi-interesting theories fascinate. Plans are made, and they sound like fun. And if at the end of the night you get in a taxi and it goes the wrong way and you're not exactly sure where you're headed, everything will end up okay.
The Warning: 4 Drinks
Drinking a fourth drink dictates that a certain kind of evening is about to unfold: namely, one in which you will be drunk. Because nobody stops at four drinks. Four is to inebriation what the St. Louis arch is to the West: It's the gateway drink, the point of no return. A fourth empty glass or bottle or mason jar set on the bar or table or broken in the hobo fire in front of you is your announcement to the rest of the world that, at some point in the next twelve to twenty-four hours, you will be left trying very hard to remember or even harder to forget.
There's no shame in that, of course. But there is shame — a great and insidious shame, a shame that won't be washed off by a thousand iodine showers — in denying what it is you're up to. Sack up. None of this, "One more and I'll call it a night" blah-blah. Nobody's fooling anybody here. Especially after you've settled into old number four. You're a man for whom sobriety is no longer an option.
But a brave new world has opened up for you, a great blinding universe of magic and possibility. You're a man who might start confusing nouns with verbs. You're a man who might fall off of his barstool. You're a man who might sleep on the floor in his clothes.