I kicked off Labor Day weekend with a friend and two of her friends who I didn’t know that well. We all gathered at a swanky rooftop bar in Hollywood called Mama’s Shelter. It’s got everything you’d want in a hip LA spot: foosball tables, a projector screen playing old Prince videos, $15 cocktails (even the mock-tails cost that much) and day beds for lounging. With a view of the sun setting behind the hills in the west, mild temperatures and lots of savory appetizers being brought out for our enjoyment (and me rocking a really cute snake-print romper, I might add), I should have been experiencing total bliss. Instead, I was quietly seething because I couldn’t order a margarita on the rocks, no salt. I really wanted to be able to enjoy a cocktail in this sexy environment. I watched as other tables (and beds) ordered bottles of champagne and I felt so resentful that I couldn’t be one of them.
“I would have loved a place like this when I was still drinking,” I kept thinking.
Then I thought, “Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, beautiful sunset and stunning 360 views of Los Angeles but this day bed with my friend and two virtual strangers would be much more enjoyable if I had a buzz.”
And pretty soon it devolved to, “This really sucks. I should just start drinking again.”
Back in my early LA drinking days, a cocktail at a place like this would have kicked off an eventful night of flirting, dancing, adventures to more locations and lots of stories to recount the next day. This time I went by a friend’s stand-up show after I left Mama’s Shelter then went home in a Lyft, alone and sober. (FYI using a ride share isn’t to mimic being drunk and carted around; parking is just a bitch on Friday nights in this town.)
I keep having that thought: “I miss drinking.” But what I am realizing is that what I actually miss is drinking in my 20s. Going to bars in a big city was like my dream. I mean, I allegedly came to the big city because my “dream” was comedy, but I think the dream of drinking in as many glamorous—or divey, because they’re ironically fun—places as possible took a higher priority. (Sorry, Mom and Dad! As Alabama’s own Taylor Hicks says, “Do I make you proud?”)
Or maybe I just miss being in my 20s—and that would be the case whether I was an alcoholic or not. I never like to bitch about getting “old” because “old” is a relative term. I’m 33. To someone in their 60s, I’m a straight-up child and to someone in high school, I’m a senior citizen. There is no point being resentful about not being a certain age anymore because it’s not like I never got to be 19 and care-free. We’ve all been there. And even though I know people (women) often long to look the way they did at a younger age, I actually look better now. No one stays any age forever so you might as well enjoy where you are while you’re there. (This is so wise! Should I write a self-help book on accepting the aging process?)
What it comes down to is that I’m romanticizing the best part about being a 20-something (and younger) because that is when everything still feels new. The time between graduating from college or high school and turning 30 is really the sweet spot because everything is still being experienced for the first time and you’re free from your parents. By the time you’re 30 and beyond, life just starts to feel a little less shiny, no matter who you are, what you do or where you live.
The bad (okay, good) news is, even if I decided to take up booze again tomorrow, no one in my immediate circle would be willing to drink with me the way I like to drink because they’re grown-ups. Not to mention, all my friends are coupled off, bearing children or doing stand-up comedy every night, so I don’t know who I think I’m going to have these wild and crazy rooftop times with. All those normal people got through that phase of life and matured to the next—the one where you don’t use Friday night as an excuse to get hammered and do shit you’ll inevitably regret. They seem to have collectively established that this kind of behavior is for college and maybe a few years after that. I’d be forced to find new (degenerate) friends and act as if the way I imbibe—which is basically starting then not stopping until I pass out or black out—is me “living my life on my own terms.” I’d have to pretend like I was cool with being hung over and paralyzed by anxiety on a random Wednesday in September because “that’s just how I party.” Yuck—been there, done that.
My evenings are now usually well-remembered with the occasional bout of social anxiety. I eventually got to know my friend’s friends a little better that night and left with my head held high. Drunk me could have potentially made a bad impression or even hit on one of them, which would have been exceptionally embarrassing since they were two gay guys in a serious relationship.
The additional upside is, although I might experience an hour or two of discomfort because I can’t get that Friday-holiday-weekend buzz on a rooftop or feel instantly comfortable with people I’ve never met, I can guarantee my Saturday will be wide open for anything, starting as early as I want! Drunk me would spend the majority of Saturday and Sunday sick, sleeping and nursing a hangover with cheeseburgers. That’s the ugly reality of my 20-something years that is sometimes clouded by nostalgia. That chick wasted so much damn time being unwell as a result of her own actions.
I guess this means I can cherish the good memories from past decades of my life and embrace the ones I’m making in the present, which are in general a lot less cringe-inducing. Wallowing in shame from out of character behavior caused by excessive alcohol consumption is definitely something I’ll never, ever miss.