It was just after midnight when I got out of the car. House keys in hand, I wobbled off in the general direction of the door. “Okay,” I told myself, “I can do this. Must keep the pants buttoned until the coast is clear.” The internal pep talk ended as I straighten my sweater and neatly arranged pieces of hair behind my ears. I tightly gripped the wad of cash in my hand and kept mentally rehearsing what was beginning to sound like an implausible alibi. I was giggley, woosey and couldn’t think straight. Like a teen coming home well past curfew, I tentatively entered the house. “Hi. How were they? Did they give you any trouble? Did they go to bed on time?” I said in one rapid fire sentence. Smiling hard at the babysitter, I was trying to look and act my most serious, my most adult, my most sober. And it was VERY hard. I couldn’t focus on a word the girl said, as my thoughts were racing…How many glasses of the Benzinger did I have? How many beers followed? Why did I only eat 3 scallops and the amazingly decadent cheesecake? Since when did the chandelier in the entry way swing in circles?
We don't go out that often, and when we do, I always end up wondering the next day what possessed me to drink so much. See, I always fancied myself as a friendly, slightly incoherent Sinatra-singing drunk, who would jovially repeat her stories, dance very badly and become an extremely close talker…or in my earlier years, to some degree publicly disrobe. (Don’t worry it wasn’t in an “Old School" – Frank the Tank, streaking kind of way…more like an all of these tequila shots have made it really, really hot in here vibe.) This night, however, the sitter didn't seem as nervous as the other ones, and accepted the outstretched money (always with an extra hour or two tacked on for tip) without the bewildered looks I have grown accustomed to getting. "I think we are in the clear," I began to say in my head, hand poised on my belt buckle. Then my husband came in. “Arrghble…blurble? Good?” He said. “Drive safe!” I said as she quickly ran out the door. “Darble…ack…snurp,” he said, mumbling like the toddler in my 5 year-old’s book “Knuffle Bunny."
As I climbed the stairs, shoes, clothes and jewelry in hand - (oh so what, old habits die hard...the kids were asleep, the sitter had peeled out of the driveway and my husband was talking like Bob Dylan on acid to a small cactus in our kitchen…and it WAS really, really hot in our house, I was free to get as nekkid and esoteric as I pleased) – two things came to my mind, first a quote about drinking by Ernest Hemmingway, “Always do sober what you say you’ll do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut;” and the mantra “sober people don’t do that!” The latter was a silly battle cry a college freshman year roommate and I would say to help us make the long walk from the bus stop to our dorms after a night of drinking scorpion bowls, $1 drafts or contraband kegs of Harpoon at off campus parties with “older guys”….Saying it repetitively and at the top of our lungs, made us think that we were sober….even if it only confirmed to everyone else that we were not. Looking back, my college education taught me, often the hard way, that there are many things that sober people do and don’t do.
"Top Ten Things Sober People Don't Do".
10) Wake up in the middle of the night and pee in other people’s closets
9) Kiss a butt ugly, no REALLY fugly guy just because he’s on the football team
8) Race large beatles under bottle caps for money
7) Stuff Munchkins into mailboxes as a present for the mail carrier the next morning
6) Buy into the whole "Fourth meal" thing and eat low grade meat by products from Taco Bell, roast beef of any kind, chicken wings or any other spicey food sold out of a cart.
5) Organize a group of people to write birthday wishes to a friend in Sharpie marker on their collective backsides (there is photographic evidence of this, it does not involve me, but I will pay handsomely for a copy)
4) Harass your future wife for a $2.00 cover charge (hey it was the early 90s!) at a party wearing a “Just Do Me!” t-shirt
3) Hook up with your future husband because he "looked cute" in the "Just Do Me!" shirt...or maybe you just mistook him for another fugly football player...
2) Scream obscenities out the window at clergy (not proud of that one)
1) Partially disrobe in front of your future sister in-law (the first time you meet her) because it was too hot out.....in March.....on an outdoor basketball court.....
Editor's Note: Over time, I have come to justify the last point as a subliminal fashion intervention....it was 1992, I still had remnants of late '80s hair and was wearing a bright red (Ronald McDonald red) wool blazer with a black rayon blouse with obnoxiously large white polka dots, jeans with some kind of faded wash and black cowboy boots....I'm sure there was a cableknit twin set in the back of my closet screaming to be worn.
Doing the recap on the latest installment of Friday "soccer parents night out", it was hard to find the one drink or one defining moment when we transformed from sober to silly. To our friends in the bar, we both seemed the very model of collected and coherent. I’m sure there was in depth discussion about stimulus packages, when Obama will wear a Snuggie, cures for malaria, the layoffs on Sesame Street and other major problems afoot in the world. Then, all of a sudden, it was time to go. The clock was ticking and the babysitter was about to turn into a very sour pumpkin if we stayed out any later. We had to be responsible...we had the kids to think about...the eight year old had the dreaded 8:30am soccer game. The crowded, dimly lit bar was like Oz – no flying monkeys or Tin Men, but slightly smokey, technicolor and surreal. Nothing seemed to touch us: not the wine, the beer or the lack of solid food in our stomachs. But after saying “goodbye” and crossing the threshold into the cold night air, it was like we clicked our heels. We were suddenly in black and white
…but where was the damn Yellow Brick road to get us home? Next thing I know, I am at our door, rehearsing my questions for the sitter. Kansas
After his final goodnights to"Arthur the Cactus" in the kitchen, my husband slowly worked his way up the stairs, mumbling several obscenities about the early soccer game in the morning. Although I can't be absolutely certain, I am pretty sure we got busy that night, as I was lying naked and incoherent on the bed and have been known to barter sex to get out of taking the kids to the early soccer game...(plus for my husband, seeing me lying there drunk and without clothes on must have been like being at Disney with no line at Space Mountain....it's too good to pass up the ride even if it's gonna make you puke!). Just before I passed out, I remembered to make note of another thing sober people don't do: accidentally slip the babysitter an extra $100 instead of an extra $20 as an added tip....