I wrote this piece during a deeply reflective hangover. It was deeply reflective because I couldn’t move, eat, read, sleep or talk—and sure what else is there to do so but self-flagellate with thoughts of regret and confusion. Why, I asked myself, why have you done this to yourself? We spend our lives trying not to get sick, but everytime we go out and drink that’s exactly what we are doing. Making ourselves sick. Striking a deal with ourselves that tomorrow might be written off, but it won’t matter because tonight will be worth it. But will it? I posited. WILL IT?
Hangovers are hand-servants of Lucifer. They reduce us to gibbering wrecks with doses of the shakes Ozzy Osbourne would be proud of. Long gone is the gloss of the night before: we’ve sick in our hair, the runs, eyes glued shut by mascara and we can’t find our knickers (I’m joking about the last bit).
This isn’t intended to be preachy, but as I get older I’m wondering why we do it—why do we drink so much? Why do we feel the need swallow pre-drinks, free drinks, six drinks, ten drinks? Are we even enjoying ourselves? Is it worth the pain of the next day?
I have put together a case study. I will look at this from a female perspective because let’s face it—women have further to fall, which works better for dramatic effect. All men really do is brush their gnashers and fling on some Dax wax and hope for the best. Metrosexuals and guyliner aficionado’s are still a minority and no amount of Gerard Butler saying: “Enough said” all masterfully in the L’Oreal ad is going to change that.
Case Study: The Night Out
Sheila’s off on a night out tonight and she can’t bloody wait. It’s finally Friday and she’s sick to her back molars of her poxy office job. There’s nothing glamorous about her Penneys suit, her low wage and her skanky black orthopaedic-esque work shoes. Why would she bother dressing up for work anyway? It’s a shithole like. Well anyway, screw her 9-5 misery, Sheila’s ‘living for the weekend’. She reads all the magazines from Look to Now to Cosmo. Every shiny, bright page tells her she is a fabulous woman who can emulate celebrities and look sensational for her big night out. They convince her with such ease that she needs the latest makeup/dress/heels/heated styling appliance to complete her look when she hits le tiles. This is the real me, she thinks, flicking through Vogue, as she eats her Weight Watchers sambo on her lunch break and plans the night ahead. She drops a bit of chicken from it and covertly looks around to see if anyone saw. She thinks of the ‘scientific’ five second rule and quickly pops it in her gob. Then bitterly she ponders: this eejit who trundles through the week stealing staplers and paper clips is an imposter who enables me to make the money I need to be who I’m supposed to be—an amazing, cocktail-slurping dancing queen.
It’s 7pm and time for the grand preparations. Sheila pours herself a glass of wine to get her in the mood (it’s a bit stink but for four quid a bottle who cares?).
First up is the fake tan, naturally. Or not. It’s streaky and smells a bit… bacony?… no wait… oaty? But what harm? It’ll make her look better in her Facebook photos. She locates her magic knickers which may do a great job flattening her tummy but have the unfortunate side effect of cutting into her behind, giving the appearance of four arse cheeks. Oh well, you pick your battles. Next she shimmies into her new dress. Well it’s not a shimmy really, more of a face-reddening ‘suck in and pull’ effort. Delighted with the front and side views but a little disappointed with her sectioned-off bum she downs more wine. Beer goggles can work on yourself too you know.
Make-up is next. Sheila puts on two coats of foundation, then another four coats for good luck. Shite, she forgot the primer. Her pores are so deep birds could nest in them so it all comes off and she starts again. She leathers on stuff for the brow-bone, the eyebrow, the eyelid, the cupid’s bow, the cheekbones, the temples. The mascara goes on and she can’t help making a funny face as she applies it. She feathers and dusts and blots until she’s unrecognisable. It crosses her mind that she’s either false advertising or making the best of herself. Drink does that to a person; sure doesn’t it turn us all into great philosophers?
Now it’s time for the nail varnish. She heard that the ‘brurple’ is the latest cool shade – a sort of browny purple. She’s thrilled with it, so what if it cost 20 quid, it’s brurple after all and isn’t everyone going to notice how cutting edge she is? Ahead of the posse, that’s me, she thinks. Sure go on, I’m feeling mad, I’ll put a bit on my toes aswell, I’m not wearing sandals or peep-toes but I’ll know it’s there. On go the clodhoppers. Super-high to make her look taller and skinnier. Fake Louboutins.
The hair is last to be fiddled with. She got in late from work and didn’t have time to shower so she goes a bit mad with the dry shampoo and does a quick job with the straighteners. The irons hit her scalp and she shouts: “Fuck!” while ignoring the burning smell rising from her head. Ah, I’ll be grand, I’ll throw on a conditioning masque tomorrow, sort that out, she tells herself.
An hour later she’s ready to roll and a little tipsy. She casts a cursory ‘I’m not entirely satisfied, there’s always room for improvement but sure, fuck it, it’ll do’ glance in the mirror and hobbles down the stairs. She forgot to take the price sticker her shoes and it says in red ‘REDUCED Eur15’. Whoops. She has a couple more glasses of wine while waiting for the girls, glad to have the chance to get a bit drunk before they arrive. I’m way more fun when I’m drunk and everybody else seems like more fun when I’m drunk too, she says to herself.
‘The Girls’ are coming round for pre-drinks. The doorbell rings and in trot Shazza, Mazza and Bazza all gleaming and blow-dried and full of squeals of: “LOVE the dress” and “You look gorgeous!” and “Louboutins?” to which Sheila replies “But of course!” and then they tell each other how fat they think they are and how fat they don’t think each other is and then they drink more and more and one starts crying over something and another dances like an eejit and knocks something over.
In other words, a great time is had by all.
Someone rings a taxi. They’re all dying to head out to show off their finery. Mazza and Shazza both puked so they have to get more money out or the ATM to make up for the precious booze they lost. They’re also convinced the impromptu puking session has made them look a little slimmer too, which is a nice little bonus. They all slide into the taxi. Sheila is stung with sitting in the front and everyone knows it’s the shit seat for two reasons:
1. You always end up paying more because your co-passengers are flinging coppers at you and it’s hard to keep track of who’s shafting you.
2. You have to listen to the effect on the recession on taxi drivers and any other gripes the man in question has. Then you have to politely back him up and agree with him so he doesn’t overcharge you.
Sheila and The Girls are having a brilliant time. They’ve necked back the cocktails and sunk a few shots and none of them feel sick. They’ve been dancing all night and feeling like Beyonce. Click, clickity click goes the camera and the girls squeal: “Profile photo!” Bazza does some sexy moves on the dancefloor and sticks her boobs out. She fervently hopes that the photos come out well and she doesn’t look fat—she really wants to make her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend jealous. They all hug each other on the dancefloor and say: (the original and best) “You’re my bessht friend” even though Shazza actually hates Bazza really.
All three girls agree it’s been ‘the best night ever’ (even though they did exactly the same thing last weekend) although it comes out like this: “Itschhhhh beeen uh bessssssht night evaaaaaaa”. Bazza’s disappeared but everyone assumes she’s grand: “Ah she’s a fine wedge of a woman she can take care of herself”. When we leave the girls they are up to their eyeballs in chips in the chipper with curry sauce dripping down their chins. Sheila burps.