Let’s face it. Those of us who enjoy drinking adult beverages do so for the great flavor, complexity, culture, science, and art that surround drinking. But we also do it for the intoxicating effects of alcohol. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that. The process of intoxication brings great pleasure to our lives. It relaxes us, helps us to make friends and socialize, gives us a warm, thoughtful feeling, excites us, gives us confidence, and as studies show, helps us to live longer. In some cultures, such as much of the US, regular drinking of adult beverages is frowned upon as being immoral. But to those of us who (responsibly) enjoy beer, wine, and spirits on a regular basis, we know that drink is one of the aspects of the life of man that brings us joy and warmth. In fact, almost all civilizations of the world have honored drinking, and even in those countries today where culture and religion forbid alcohol, their ancient counterparts loved wine and beer.
In my beloved native Louisiana, our culture is influenced by those of France, Spain, Africa, and the Caribbean — all countries whose people know how to enjoy life, and celebrate it on a regular basis. So we start drinking young. Depending on the household, children in my part of the world can start having a sip of beer here and there when they are relatively young. When I was growing up, my father insisted that I have a sip of beer or wine with dinner here and there, to acclimate me to the pleasure of drinking, without the forbidden allure of binging or alcoholism. What about in your culture? Did you grow up with parents who allowed you a sip or two, or who taught you that alcohol was wrong and evil?
Can you remember the first time you got drunk? I certainly can. My experience was a very good one. Maybe yours was unpleasant, in which case I can sympathize. Over the years, I have had my fair share of bad alcohol experiences. But I can honestly say that my first time was a great experience.
Paris. 1986. I was but a young lad. My parents and I were on a vacation to the City of Light. At that age, I was just beginning to show interest in girls. Alright, I was crazy about them. So imagine a blossoming adolescent in Paris, constrained to being with his parents. In fairness, the trip was exciting enough so that I did not mind hanging around mom and dad. My father decided to take us to dinner one night at a lovely little restaurant that had an outdoor garden. This was no tourist restaurant — it was hidden and very local. Fortunately, I could speak French, so my father’s well-intentioned, but pitiful, attempts at ordering were saved by my piping in.
At that meal, my father decided that it was time that I could drink with the adults. The restaurant was offering champagne and orange juice (a mimosa) as an apéritif, so we ordered three. With dinner, my father ordered a bottle of Bordeaux — a very nice bottle of Bordeaux. As we dined on fabulous, classic French cuisine, we drank that bottle of wine between the three of us, and my father ordered another. After dinner, with dessert, my father ordered three glasses of Sauterne. I had been drinking with the meal, and I felt just fine. But when I had to go to the bathroom, I stood up.
The world began to spin, not in that sick, alcoholic way, but in that delightful, happy way. I felt simply exuberant and joyful, as if the world was open to me. I felt bold, confident, intellectual, and mighty. It was the best feeling in the universe. Later that night I would go to a disco with my cousin, who happened to be in Paris at the time. I would drink entirely too much trying to woo a lovely young girl from Warsaw, and I would stumble back to the hotel, sick, only to be scolded by my father. But it was worth it. That first experience of the joy of wine will always remain in my mind as a beautiful, enlightening experience, a rite of youth, so to speak. How was your first time to get drunk? Leave a comment and let us know.