When my friend, Elana, asked me if she could write an article for 3 Chairs about her thoughts on our generation’s drinking, I said yes without blinking an eye. Here’s what Elana has to say about the matter…
What does excessive drinking look like among women aged 20-30 today? Is it the woman who races to 9 am SoulCycle class on a Saturday, in order to make a 1 pm reservation for boozy bottomless brunch? Maybe.
For some of us, college drinking resembled a mid heart attack EKG reading: a lull with a severe isolated burst. A week of library time, and a spike of activity when the weekend came around. Unless serious danger arose (e.g. death or date rape), most drinking went unaddressed—binging is an ingrained component of socializing. Interestingly enough, a study found Bristish women who graduated from college were 86 percent more likely to drink everyday. So what is the effect on our bodies? Unfortunately, women are at a greater risk as lower levels of alcohol consumption have a more damaging effect on their bodies than men (NIAA), among these health risks are liver damage, heart disease, and breast cancer.
En route to the third decade is post-graduate life, where bosses celebrate their employees by liquoring them up, drinks are the go-to first date activity and Sunday can still be Funday. Whether you drink to get drunk or drink as an appreciation of flavor and craft, a good percentage of our lives are lubricated with an underlying stream of booze.
This is not to say having a drink a day means we’re alcoholics, remember, alcoholism is a disease. The latest edition of the psychiatric bible, DSM 5.0, defines alcoholism as a spectrum of “alcohol use disorder,” marked by eleven criterion, including: craving, tolerance, loss of control and dependence. We may not meet the DSM diagnosis, but when filling in the bubbles of those self-administered drinking surveys, we usually question the author: “ The person who made this survey must never go out.”
Lately, the spotlight is on professional women and their drinking behavior, mostly in part due to Ann Dowsett Johnson. Through her book Drink, she has made it her mission to tell a different story, illuminating the patterns of the overachieving, perfectionist, career woman who finds solace within her stemware. “It never occurred to me…that alcohol was the mother’s little helper of my generation,” Johnson writes in an excerpt published in the The Atlantic. So what purpose is drinking serving for us childless 20-something women? Just because we don’t have kids, doesn’t mean we’re not stressed! We deserve to reward ourselves after a long day of poorly paid labor with a micro-brew, am I right?
The real issue is when moderation becomes habit, when one drink a night requires no second thought and a bottle of wine is a mandatory accompaniment to a home-cooked meal—women wear the label “winosaur” as a badge of honor.
I have plenty of friends who have sworn off drinking for periods of time, either for health reasons (they may or may not have been on juice cleanses) or because they weren’t pleased with their behavior while under the influence. The all-or-nothing rule seems a little extreme to me, especially since we are not all diagnosed alcoholics. I do think it’s important to ask ourselves, “Why are we drinking?” The answer will vary based on the individual, but we should exercise choice in the matter instead of accepting drinking as a normal and necessary activity. Maybe we can even find a few social outlets that don’t revolve around drinking, like checking out those clubs with sober yoga raves.
Well said, Elana.