Drinking and alcohol is everywhere. I know, yeah, duh welcome to literally the day you were born. I’m not talking Most Interesting Man Ever Dos Equis memes or Coors Light commercials urging us to “drink responsibly” though. No, beyond that – I am talking about the subtle suggestion, the justification and re-affirmation of reasons to drink which is even more sneaky, and therefore even more dangerous. I started paying better attention to times when I heard or saw something in popular media previously would have confirmed my beliefs and inadvertently lead to me drinking when I otherwise might not have.
Here’s where I found it to be the biggest issue (for me): Female-lead TV Shows.
Oh Mindy Lahiri or Hanna Horvath and their shitty life problems! Mindy and her big glass of red wine with a straw, or Hannah going out after work and taking 5 too many shots with co-workers. Scenes like these make it all seem so jovial and OK. Guys, I won’t lie – it’s so fun to play the totally free, emotionally unstable, (intermittently) single, 30-something woman living in the city role. It feels so good to live so horribly, horribly wrong and laugh about it with our friends at boozy brunch.
But here’s the thing: those are characters. Mindy Kaling isn’t having to struggle through her work day, dealing with the inner turmoil of “why do I drink” vs. “can’t wait to go home and drink.” Lena Dunham isn’t waking up in a haze, dreading having to tell her boyfriend about her behavior when she was drinking at that happy hour.
I had a hard time explaining this dissonance until recently, while reading William Porter’s book Alcohol Explained. Porter discusses the concept of “FAB,” or Fading Affect Bias, which is basically remembering the good about a situation or time period and readily forgetting the bad. See also: childbirth/rearing, tumultuous relationships, fearful events. He argues that once we’ve been without alcohol for some time, it’s harder and harder to remember why we stopped and alot easier to start questioning our choice to stop – especially when we see so many affable drinkers in modern day media (admittedly the only example he gave that was recognizable to me was Homer Simpson, but it works). He tells us that in reality, such characters (like Mindy Lahiri) “simply could not exist; the alcoholic/problem drinker is a vile, foul-tempered person, but the image remains.” This further nurtures our FOMO and curiosity about resuming drinking again as we start to view our drinking selves “in a warped and romanticised way.”
In short, it’s dangerous for us to relate to these (very relatable) women without ciphering out the parts that aren’t real life. We love Mindy and Hannah because they are so real, so like us, so fucked up. It helps and it soothes us to know other women are struggling with adulting and like them, we too feel entitled to “wine a bit.” This is an especially dangerous place for gray-area drinkers who may feel a connection to such characters, coupled with the fact that they themselves never actually hit a “rock bottom” and so it’s very easy to forget those awful hangovers and regretful Sundays and to instead remember only the “fun times.”
Whether you have stopped drinking alcohol or you are a gray area (or even black/white area) drinker, I encourage you to scroll through some photographs or better yet, an old journal to see how you really felt on those awful days. Personally, after my last break up (with a man and with alcohol) I was cleaning up my social media, deleting every photo of my ex. I realized then that nearly every night we spent together that was special enough to capture on photo had ended in a black out (or atleast brown out) for me. Before rummaging through my instagram feed, I was devastated over the breakup and had only FAB’d out on the exaggerated positives of our short time together; I hadn’t even noticed the pattern of enabling and fear that was ruling (destroying) my life the entire time. I thought drinking was something fun and bonding we did together, when in reality it was likely contributed greatly to our (and my) downfall. I was my own Mindy Lahiri.
I implore you to look at your own relationship with drinking or other habits and the ways in which you might be FABing yourself, and for the love of God please stop identifying with/glamorizing your fave lady drinkers :insert desperate wailing emoji: