Wednesday, December 30, 2015

30 Days Dry – Part 3: Drinking Like A Man

Don Draper drank “Old Fashioneds,” James Bond had his martinis, Wolverine drank beer like water, Frank Sinatra loved Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Ron Swanson loves his scotch. The only manly man that I can think of who doesn’t have drinking as part of their mystique and identity is Batman, who in his Bruce Wayne persona would drink ginger ale pretending he was champagne.

In America to be a man, a real man, our culture tells you that you have to like sports, enjoy shopping for power tools and drink booze. I discussed what it means to drink like a man in this post 

As I’ve grown up as an adult, being able to drink “like a man,” has been one way that I’ve been able to bound with other man and feel more “manly” in conversations and in parties. I’m not a typical man’s man and wile I’ve come to terms with this, I’d be lying if I claimed that I was completely over feeling of masculine inferiority because of the fact that my identity and interest do not fit what most people typically consider as being “manly.”

Knowing the difference between scotch and bourbon, being able to understand the nuances of different hops in IPAs, and being able to not only drink my vodka straight but enjoy it this way made me feel more masculine. All of these actions connected me with the male heroes in our popular culture and provided an entry point into conversations with other guys.

Last week, at a holiday party, I realized that I was the only guy in the room of about 30 people who didn’t either have a beer or glass of wine in my hand (most of the guys had beers), while only about a third of the woman had a drink (only one woman had a beer). I saw for the first time that like make-up, hair care, nail care, whether a person was drinking and what they were drinking was an expression of gender. I’ve been going to these kinds of parties for years but I didn’t make this observation until I took a step away and wasn’t contributing to these trends.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with men or woman having a topic that they are more typically interested in that they discuss as a way of bonding. At the same time it’s important to think about these subjects and their implications.  A group of teenage girls who always talk about dieting and how to improve their bodies may be expressing some insecurities that need addressing and a group of boys who bond over making racist jokes need to understand the implications of their words.

Our view on alcohol in our culture is full of gender stereotypes. Masculine heroes often drink while feminine heroes often do not. There are girly drinks and manly drinks. Drinking for men is viewed as a rite of passage, while many people view drinking as not being lady-like.

In this month off, I've realized how much drinking is part of my masculine expression, which is one reason I've missed booze.  I don't understand why I need my masculinity affirmed, but I guess that's part of my biology.

Shouldn't something deeper, more lasting connect me with my feeling of being a man, like being a good father?  Maybe we've focused too much on the imagery and external things like booze to give us a feeling of strength that we really should be getting through our accomplishments and our achievements as loving family members.  I don't mind the idea of drinking beer as helping me feel more like a man, but the idea that alcohol could grow to define what it means for me to be a man is disturbing.

Maybe Don Draper drank to feel like a man because he was an inadequate husband.  James Bond's martini's maybe covered up his guilt for the deaths he caused, Wolverine had decades of pain and regret he tried to escape, and Frank Sinatra was an absent father.  And Ron Swanson, he's not really an example of man but a caricature of the worst stereotypes of masculinity, flaws and all.

And the sober one, Batman is even more messed up than all of these guys, but whatever. . .  

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