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“You f*cking don’t drink, don’t do any drugs, don’t eat meat, and you don’t sleep around. Why the f*ck are you even alive?”
So said a Gen Z to me recently, in complete and utter disgust.
Well, put in those stark terms, I kinda felt the same way about myself. But I rallied and countered the Gen Z and said, “But I am still pretty cool.”
“How dare you?” Gen Z asked me, aghast that the word cool was coming out of my mouth—and that I used it to refer to myself.
They could not fathom that people like me existed, much less claim (with a straight face) that I was cool. Yes, I know. My self-pronouncement doesn’t exactly bode well for me being anointed the coolest person, if not among my friends and family, then at least in my house. A house where I live alone.
“Even your refrigerator is cooler than you,” Gen Z sniped back.
Said fridge is a 14-year-old, wobbly, has-been-on-its-last-legs-for-five-years-now, but still works and tries hard to keep my vegetables cool and its owner—aka, me—even cooler.
“Wrong!” said Gen Z. “Even the sturdy, cool fridge cannot save you from being so uncool”
This little tête-à-tête with a deeply unimpressed Gen Z made me wonder about myself, especially when it comes to the not drinking part.
I have solid reasons for why I’m a vegetarian. It’s all I’ve ever known as I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life. I also have reasons for why I don’t do drugs. I mean…drugs! Like, come on, I’m just not that stupid. And, their f*cking illegal. I may do the occasional stupid and silly thing—”No, you won’t,” shrieked the Gen Z from the next room—but I’m not doing anything illegal. And I don’t care how uncool that makes me.
The whole not sleeping around part? Sorry, there are certain things I simply will not reveal publicly. “That’s cause you have nothing to reveal,” taunted Gen Z.
But the alcohol part? I mean, was I that much of a stuffed cabbage—”Yes,” said Gen Z, emphatically—that I didn’t even partake of the occasional booze? Because, honestly, I really don’t drink at all.
Why, I wondered?
So, the thing is…I do like some types of booze. I like Bloody Marys and Pina Coladas. “Kill me now,” said the Gen Z.
I really like Bloody Marys and Pina Coladas but I don’t consume a lot because alcohol is a key migraine trigger for me. And the straight-up whiskeys and gins and rums, well, I just don’t ever touch them. The more I tried to think about why that was, the more I remembered.
Back when I was in my early 20s—”About a million years back,” sniped the ever-so-kind Gen Z—I remember going to my friend’s home for lunch. The plan was to spend the night at her place. When we got there, her cousins and other extended family were there as well. It was the weekend and they’d all just crashed her place. It was a party-in-the-making.
I remember now the booze that was on display. There was everything: whiskey, rum, vodka, beer…it was a veritable booze-fest.
Up until that day, I hadn’t seen so much alcohol, much less drink any.
“Figures!” said Gen Z, disgustedly.
(At this point, I was in full ignore-the-Gen Z mode. My logic was: If I ignore him, he can’t hurt me. It didn’t quite work that way, but I tried.)
Back to the booze tale… I was a stupid 22-year-old and all of the folks at my friend’s place were so cool and sophisticated. They used terms like jigger and lightning and mash and sour mash, none of which I understood. Not the alcohol version or even the regular dictionary version. Like, what the f*ck is a jigger, y’all? But between peer pressure and trying to be cool about everything, I just nodded my head when they tossed these terms around willy-nilly.
And when it came to actually drinking, this virgin—this alcohol virgin—pretended she was more experienced and nodded her head to every drink she was offered and drank more than she should have.
In hindsight, I was so lucky that I was with a group of people who were genuinely good friends. Because one hour in, I believe I completely blanked out. I remember waking up some six or seven hours later to a quiet and still home. Everyone was passed out, and I was in my friend’s bed with a trash can next to me. I tried to get up but felt completely wrung out and crashed back to sleep again.
The next morning, I was beyond embarrassed about what had happened the previous evening. Which, by the way, I still have no memory of. My friend told me that an hour in I started to puke and then just passed out.
For someone who is always in control, or tries hard to be in control, losing my memory because of alcohol is still an event I have not come to terms with. I also remember clearly that I didn’t even like the taste of booze. Whiskey, gin, rum, beer—I hated all of them.
I guess, I developed an anathema to alcohol because of the above incident. Over the years, I have taken a sip here or a sip there but that’s it. I do like the tutti-frutti drinks with the cute hats, but that’s it.
“Barf! Aren’t you the one who has always advised me that you should never quit after you fail the first time? That you should try and try and keep trying?” said the Gen Z, and walked away in disgust. Hoisted by my own petard, methinks.
Just then, my cousin walked in. “What time is your flight to India tomorrow?” she asked.
“In the afternoon. It’s a looong flight, and I never sleep well on a flight, especially these long international flights. Phew! Pune to Paris!”
“Order a Bloody Mary on the flight. That should help.”
I smiled a big, goofy smile, showing all of my teeth. “Okay…”
“No,” my cousin shrieked, “Not your ridiculous virgin Bloody Marys. You need alcohol to if not pass out, then at least get a comfortable buzz. So, no tutti-frooti drinks. Get a Bloody Mary with vodka!”
Gen Z walked in, sneered at me, and sniggered, “As if!”