Threw a party last Friday night for a couple who are leaving, and tried something a little different for me. I didn't drink. For the entire party that I hosted, cooked for, performed at, I had not one sip of alcohol.
That may not be a big deal for you, but I like to drink at parties, especially ones that I am hosting where I know I'm not going anywhere. But, more than that, by the time the party rolls around, I am usually so exhausted that I need a few beers as a pick-me-up to get me through.
But you can't just not drink, and neither could I. That's the first thing I learned.. I went into my cupboard and found one of the ceramic mugs my parents received as a wedding present and put nothing but water in it. I was able to walk around for a good amount of time, when, finally, a friend cornered me and said, "What are you drinking?"
"Water," I said. And he gave me a confused look.
"I'm taking a break," I said. And my wife came to my rescue and said, "He has so much to do with the food and the band and everything that he didn't feel like it."
This was a friend who decides what he is drinking at a party based on what everyone else is drinking. Once he saw I wasn't, he didn't.
The other time I got busted was when I was holding my chihuahua and sitting in a chair talking to one of my colleague's wife, and my dog leaned in and started drinking from my mug. "And he didn't even ask permission," I said.
"What's in there?" She asked.
"Water," I said. She, too seemed shocked.
My wife, who really doesn't drink but for the occasional beer or a Mint Julep during the Derby, says that when you don't drink at a party you are hosting, you find yourself serving and waiting on other people the whole night. And, yes, that is kind of it, but not in a bad way, not like when we volunteered to serve at a school fundraiser and were treated like "the help," strangely invisible.
But my epiphany was a little different. Or epiphanies, or, better put, the smallest of insights. First, I had no moment during the evening when I wanted a beer, even when our band started to play, which has often been a source of some anxiety and requiring of some "liquid courage." I also didn't play very well. Related? Who knows?
By that point, I wasn't even pretending to drink out of a mug. I just filled up a glass with water whenever I felt like it. Was that because once you get behind there is no point in trying to catch up? I don't know. But it was an easy goal to accomplish, that of not drinking. But I also couldn't gauge the flow of the party at all. I couldn't tell who had been drinking what. It was like I was onside looking in. When what you are doing is collecting bottles and cleaning up, the party looks different. Some conversations are impenetrable and you don't try.
In many ways, the party was much the same not drinking as it was drinking. Fun and tiring. I told this to a friend. "Not for me," he said. "Just the opposite."
I do know that, for the first time, I was ready for the party to end before my guests were. Usually, I like to sit in the dark and revisit the evening. On Friday night, I just wanted to go to bed. Which I did as soon as the stragglers were gone.
Why did I really do it? Well, I guess I'm not saying. As Iris Dement once sang, I'll just "let the mystery be." Or, as Emerson once wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I guess I can keep the, guessing for a night. Maybe it was just for the writing of this post.