John Ore: Hey Jolie, welcome to our second installment of Ask A Temporarily Sober Person! Wasn’t the moon beautiful this weekend?
Jolie Kerr: You know? Usually I don’t support the anti-moon agenda put forth by this’n here website, but I do think it was awfully cruel of the universe to deliver unto us a full moon in convergence with our first full weekend of Drynuary, so I’ll bellow a hearty I DESPISE YOU, MOON in solidarity with our Alcoholic Overlords.
Right then, with that out of the way, we’ve just made it through our first, and arguably most challenging, sober weekend. Last week you said something I loved about how Drynuary is both a challenge and a gift—a truth which hits you square in the gut the first weekend out of the gate, does it not? I mean, how many times can you ask yourself, “Okay but now what?"
John: Right? The first few days have the benefit of novelty to propel you forward. Yo! Check me out! Not drinking! Weekdays are filled with commuting and work and parenting and all of the things that make you drink in the first place, but at least you’ve got a routine to attend to and distract you. Then the weekend checks in with its stupid face promising fun and free time and sports, most of which is best accompanied by a beer. This is when you start recognizing where you are in the Kübler-Ross model. Which stage was horniness?
Jolie: Stages 1-5, based on a scientific study of one. But I’m sure I’m not the only one substituting sex for drinking. Also sugar, but we can get to that later because it’s time to talk about the “gift" part of things, which for me has really been found in the substitute activities.
Last Saturday, as you know because you live here, was ridiculously beautiful in New York. The perfect day for outdoor drinking, except that it’s Drynuary, so nope, no dice. I had a couple of dumb little errands to run; normally I would have jumped on the subway and hustled through the shopping so I could meet up with friends for several hundred glasses of wine, but instead I decided to take advantage of the weather. I treated myself to an iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts (you can take the girl out of Boston, but you can’t take the Masshole out of the girl), put a whole bunch of Phish on Spotify (you can take the girl out of boarding school, but you can’t take the trustafarian out of the girl), and twirled through the city having one of those great New York days where you wander from neighborhood to neighborhood people-watching and just checking some things out. Of course, it’s me, so the things I was “checking out" included a vintage clothing shop for ideas on boot storage and a leather daddy emporium where I inquired about the proper care and cleaning of strap-on harnesses. A Clean Person’s work is never done, John.
After a few hours, my feetsies were starting to hurt and I was a little peckish, so I came home, made a cup of tea, fixed a cheese plate and relaxed with an episode of "Sons of Anarchy." It was perfectly lovely, truly. (Lest you think I’m avoiding human contact in the name of not drinking, I can assure you that I’m out and about! Or in and about, as the case may be. On Friday, I entertained in the home, cooked a big dinner—the chicken piccata called for wine, and I didn’t even flinch! Though if I’m being honest, I had a couple of half cup servings in the freezer, so it’s not like I cracked a bottle and then resisted its siren call or anything—and after the meal, we made crack brownies together when normally I’d be pouring another glass of wine or a bourbon. See what I mean about the sugar?)
John: It’s ALL about the coping mechanisms. I went to Queens, for Pete’s sake. Queens! For ethnic food, of course. Barbecue is ethnic food, right? They don’t have a liquor license yet, so: soft landing! How did they know I was coming?
You’ve got the right approach: cowering in your apartment all of Drynuary will drive you mad. Or worse, to drink. It’s like Steve McQueen being in the cooler without the baseball. The smugness factor alone of drinking cranberry juice on a Saturday night out ensures that we can survive behind enemy lines.
Here’s where I’ll share my Drynuary’s Little Helper. I enjoy bubble water on a regular basis, and I’m one of those jerks who orders “sparkling" while the rest of the table wants “New York tap." I like burping! So much so that we now make our own seltzer at home. I’m always ready for a slapstick Three Stooges scene, so it has made Drynuary just a bit more tolerable. There’s enough citrus in my fridge to keep the British Navy scurvy-free, so I’ve always got a glass of custom club soda with a wedge of lemon/lime/orange within reach. My trusty sidekick. I call him Bubbles.
Oh, and it’s very environmentally friendly since we don’t buy plastic bottles of the stuff, ensuring that we don’t get kicked out of Brooklyn for exceeding the strict Neighborhood Carbon Footprint and Condescension Act of 2008. Drynuary: For A Greener Tomorrow(™).
Jolie: I love soda water in a wholly unnatural way. Like, to the point where about five years ago I had to cold turkey it on the seltzer front for about 6 months to kick the habit before I burped myself into a bone density problem. But yes, mocktails are crucial to surviving Drynuary. Jill mentioned that she’s been experimenting to great effect with pineapple, grapefruit, cranberry, etc. juices mixed with seltzer; I shared with her my “mix OJ and soda water, serve in a flute, close your eyes and pretend it’s a mimosa" trick, which also works well with peach juice for a mock Bellini. And now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go apologize to the Italian side of my family for using the words “mock Bellini" because dear God who am I???
And! While we’re on the topic of mocktails, I had a personal victory this Drynuary that I would like to share with the class: last year I said that I couldn’t imagine going to a bar and not drinking, but this go-round I made it happen. Cranberry and seltzer, bellied right up to the bar with my laptop while I worked on the cleaning column. It wasn’t even a thing really.
But I fear we’re making this sound too easy, so let me ask you this: have you come close to breaking? If so, what was the trigger?
John: I think the trigger was waking up on January 2nd. Or Alex Balk constantly posting studies on how booze is good for you.
Honestly, the biggest temptation has been my traditional post-hockey beers. A bottle of Canada Dry doesn’t seem to do the trick after a game, even if it’s geographically relevant. It’s called beer league hockey for a reason. (Mostly because we suck.)
Other than that, I miss having a nice glass of wine with a good meal. And a martini before a steak. And a Rusty Nail afterwards. I solve that by eating more cereal for dinner.
I was really diligent—and by diligent, I mean in the context of my final evening under the demon spell of likker—about stowing the Bloody Mary Bar after New Year’s Day so that I wouldn’t have to face it in the cold, cruel light of day right out of the gate. There are a couple of beers and bottles of wine in the fridge that mock me, but it’s a balancing act between being cavalier in the face of a PBR tallboy behind the yogurt and licking your lips lasciviously eying the open bottle of rye inexplicably sitting on the coffee table. Temptation is temptation, but there’s no point in drawing blood.
Shall we go to the leaderboard?
Alcohol Consumed (units)
Days Without Booze
John:11 (start January 2nd every year)
John: Determined, steely-eyed
Irritability (scale of 0-10)
Jolie: Waiting for the mood to set in.
John: Suspicious. Something funny is happening with time.
Jolie: Do you think we should swap this out for something else since we’re past the detox stage? Are we past the detox stage? Where am I? Who are you? Why am I so thirsty?
John: Yeah, let’s swap this one out. Something relating to how healthy we feel? Is grinding your teeth healthy?
Smugness (scale of 0-10)
Jolie: 3, inching up
John: 4, “Oh, I don’t own a television."
Jolie: Not as much as Week 1; I had an anxiety dream that involved drinking a glass of red wine at brunch with Paula Deen, which I had about ⅔ of before realizing that it was Drynuary and I was in big trouble. Which is crazy because God red wine at brunch?? Perish the thought.
John: Definitely going to bed earlier. Dreams are more vivid, weirder.
Jolie: Cooking. Writing. Twirling. Sexing.
John: Teaching my daughter how to say “Cheers!" with her sippy cup. And MY sippy cup.
John: The Smugmeter is inching up!
Jolie: A little bit, yes! But sobriety is apparently making me as soft as a grape (sniffle, miss u every day grape juice, old friend) because I didn’t take on so much as a disapproving tone when Jack told me that he’s interpreted Drynuary to mean “Sober Weekdays (But With Lots Of Pot) And Moderate Drinking On The Weekends January." I’m slipping.
John: That’s a Drynuary Fail! He’s out, confiscate his name tag, let the shunning begin. By the way, let’s check in with the ultimate arbiter of taste and trends—Twitter—to see how our movement is doing “out there":
The thing about trying to make "Bon L'(h)iver" a thing for "Drynuary" is that you don't say "Bon L'hiver" in French this is just making me m
— Sugartits (@distract_a_bee) January 8, 2012
John: [sound of gears grinding] Well, duh! You say “Bon Iver." (Hums “still alive for you, love" to self.) #PeopleUnclearOnTheConcept
Jolie: She should shut up and have a drink.
So! How are we doing, gang? “Tell us in the etc.!"