Old and older
It was my birthday last week. I’m 45.
I love my birthday, provided adequate fuss is made; this year, my boyfriend came down and cooked all day (he made boeuf bourguignon, and brought me cups of tea while I read happily on the sofa) so that we could have a small dinner, the first time I’d had people over in any official capacity in my new house. Consoling-windows friend came with her husband; my younger son’s elegant Russian piano teacher (with whom I have pursued an illicit student-teacher friendship) and her violinist husband and their trilingual three-year-old daughter came; my French professor friend and her hot young roofer boyfriend came, bearing cake. A very diverse crowd; everyone laughed and laughed, everyone got along. It snowed. The stew was perfect. We all drank wine, even me, even though I don’t drink any more and one measly glass gave me a headache. The party ended on the early side–no one swung from chandeliers or ended up in the gutter–and while it was nice to go to bed without the spins, I was a mite nostalgic for my wild youth.
I don’t get nostalgic for it often, because my wild youth became rather desperate before I abandoned it completely. I used to love parties, used to aim always to be the life of the party, used to drink everyone under the table and then climb up and dance on top. I am certain this trajectory is hardly unique–from party girl to problem drinker to straight edge–but it still strikes me as odd sometimes. Drinking is what grown ups do. It’s astonishing how often people suggest getting together for a drink. It’s bizarre, when you don’t drink, to realize there’s no alternative. “Let’s hang out on Saturday night and not drink,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Come on over and let’s get blotto and laugh till our faces ache and dance.”
I don’t do drugs any more. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink, either, except small amounts on rare occasions. I became a bad drunk, and it was relatively easy to quit, because drinking made me feel absolutely awful. One’s body chemistry must change over time; I quit smoking cigarettes all of a sudden when one day I woke up (after smoking for decades) and found the idea of a cigarette disgusting. I quit smoking pot without any trouble, because suddenly getting high made me grumpy and paranoid, instead of giggly and goofy. Who wants to be grumpy and paranoid? It’s hardly worth it.
But I miss everything about drinking and getting high and smoking and running wild, every once in a while. On my birthday, I missed it. Nothing works any more–none of the old drugs work their old magic–so I don’t miss them, per se. I just miss the way they used to make me feel.