What is it about people? Why are they so mean-spirited? The minute you tell anyone that you're not drinking, they hate you. The fact that you've decided to give up drinking just drives people crazy. They use the tactics of sneering and sarcasm. They try to entice you with an array of liquors. They almost almost spit at you in disdain, as if you were the most heinous of perverts.
For three weeks now I have been pressured by members of the alco-cult. A sort of Christmas Party sub-section of the Moonies, the Boozies want to carry you to the portals of bars and clubs, and make you join their quest for the ultimate goal - mass hangover.
I've just been saying "no". It's a rare word from me in this context but at the moment I choose Aqua Libra. I have chosen lucidity. And it's been pretty good. Why? Two words really: "No regrets". To wake up in the morning to those two petits mots is a joy - oh what a joy. For starters - look in the mirror: eh, I don't look so bad. Next: breakfast - wow I've got an appetite. Then, inside handbag - no drunken-scrawled dates in diary. Even better: full Technicolor/ Dictaphone-accurate recall of all conversations. And best of all, knowing that I haven't given my telephone number to an ill-chosen recipient. Almost worth celebrating, isn't it?
It's not easy though. Take the office party. You're wearing a little see-through number and high heels, and you're all lipsticked up, then as your male colleagues get drunker and friendlier and you remain of sound mind, boy do you start feeling self-conscious. Marilyn Monroe and Shelley Winters used to talk about their "Fuck-me shoes". Why is it only at lam that you realise you are wearing a "Fuck-me dress" as well?
So, while everyone else is on their fifth pint of Chardonnay, you are sip-sipping away on Perrier. This is especially good for concentrating on your flirting technique. Your selection process is stronger, and you are, of course, going to avoid a skirmish. Office Christmas party skirmishes always seem to take on historic proportions. Eg: on the floor of the office with the risk of being caught by security cameras or in the office car park, definitely caught on camera (videos probably still available) whilst polishing up the bonnet of somebody else's car. Both allegedly, and nothing to do with me, I might add.
But if skirmishing is out, and you are full-faculty-endowed, quoi faire apres? That's when it all becomes rather surreal. It's late - you've done Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Chamba Wamba with a particularly ebullient chap who has a propensity for swinging you in the air. He's giving you a better work-out than your gym instructor. You (naturally) excuse yourself for the slow dance - sobriety having reminded you that the rubbing of loins and meeting of perspirations is not always wise in the workplace. Then the coach arrives, Cinderella-style for carriage to central London.
So what did I gain from this evening of admirable abstinence you might ask? Well I picked up my car in the West End and gave a lift to a health freak who told me about a new diet of eating according to your blood type. Still buzzing from my Chamba Wamba, I wasn't quite ready to go to bed, so what next? Well, how about my 24-hour Tesco? Then, as I am stocking up on salad bags, cat food and Mr Muscle when I see coming towards me, down the frozen food aisle, a camera crew. I cannot have people I know see me supermarket shopping like some sad insomniac at 3am so I bend over a display of baguettes until I am sure film crew have departed.
Maybe being on the wagon isn't so hot. Being filmed with Mr Muscle in Tesco at 3am or being filmed with Mr X in a post-party skirmish. Which is the more "Je ne regrette rien"?