Make mine a girls' night out

After a hard day at work, forget the slog home to open a tin of soup. Meet the birds down the boozer
Click to follow
The Independent Online

This week, researchers discovered a shocking new trend. Apparently, 53 per cent of the capital's twentysomething women go out for drinks straight after work. This new "social group" has been dubbed the After Hours Home Avoiders, or AH-HAs, and everyone is fearfully worried about them. Good God, concerned health professionals and right-wing social commentators are muttering, if girls don't go home to wash their hair/wax their legs/ring Mum on week nights, the very fabric of society may be rent apart. Personally, I'm just terribly relieved to have my very own social category. AH-HA woman, c'est moi. Or at least was me, when I still had the stamina of extreme youth.

This week, researchers discovered a shocking new trend. Apparently, 53 per cent of the capital's twentysomething women go out for drinks straight after work. This new "social group" has been dubbed the After Hours Home Avoiders, or AH-HAs, and everyone is fearfully worried about them. Good God, concerned health professionals and right-wing social commentators are muttering, if girls don't go home to wash their hair/wax their legs/ring Mum on week nights, the very fabric of society may be rent apart. Personally, I'm just terribly relieved to have my very own social category. AH-HA woman, c'est moi. Or at least was me, when I still had the stamina of extreme youth.

I remember the euphoria that used to accompany the end of every working day. Thin from lack of food, cigarettes and regular aerobics classes, we would gather in the Ladies, apply a fresh coat of make-up and, if it was a big night out, change into an outfit brought to work in a plastic bag. To go home was out of the question. No one wanted to trek back across town, get ready, and then go out. You'd be knackered, for a start, and all that impetus would be lost. Other times, work outfits would be updated for the evening (a button undone, high heels put on). If the evening was to end at one's boyfriend's, more complex forward-planning was required in the form of clean knickers and a toothbrush.

Few of us were interested in food. In fact that would have entirely removed the point of that first delicious shot of Chardonnay on an empty stomach. Emotionally scarred by our dealings with sadistic line managers, exhausted by office warfare and tormented by the sense that we had everything to prove, we'd start with a glass and end up drinking a bottle each. Later, we would tumble into taxis and, well and truly smashed, head for home.

As a single girl, the only night of the week I didn't go out was Monday, when I would drag myself home, buy a can of soup at the local supermarket, eat the soup straight out of the tin (I'm afraid so) and fall into bed at 8 o'clock.

Shouldn't I be dead? You may ask. I admit, I got into training at university, where drinking wasn't so much a recreation as a way of life. I don't tar all students with the same brush; I think I must have hung with a very heavy-drinking crowd. These days, I drink and try to avoid becoming drunk; then, getting drunk was the object of the exercise. As a very young journalist I wrote an article for a glossy magazine, and on my contributor's notes for "interests" I put "drinking and dancing" - rather like you might put on a CV "theatre and contemporary fiction". It's hideously embarrassing on a number of levels, but mainly, it's rather shocking that back in 1990, it seemed perfectly OK to refer to drinking as a sort of hobby.

For I have this horrible feeling that one day, drinking will be like smoking. The health risks will be so irrefutable that, one by one, we'll all give up. People who drink will have to put up with their children emptying bottles of expensive claret down the sink and saying, "Mummy, please don't! Don't you want to be alive to see your grandchildren?"

On the other hand, as the amount doctors say women can safely drink gets less and less, the amount we actually drink gets larger and larger. In fact, we're told that alcoholism is an increasing problem among women who drink to deal with stress at work. Privately, I file this in the same category as the research that revealed successful women were going bald because their testosterone levels were rocketing, and the notion held in some Victorian circles that education made women infertile. In other words, "Woman, know your limits!" as a satirical Harry Enfield sketch memorably put it.

Of course, if alcoholism is increasing among women, that's a bad thing. But there's a difference between drinking more than is good for you and having a "drink problem". The AH-HAs are simply doing what men have always done. They're single, they're childless, and they're young enough to come into work with a hangover, buy a bacon sandwich and some hot sweet tea and start all over again. Lord knows, that time in your life doesn't last long. Mine ended when I got a job that was too demanding to do with a hangover, and found a husband, thus eliminating the need to chase men.

Now I have a child, and nights on the razzle are rare indeed. But at the end of a long day, I'm not ashamed to say that I "unwind" with a bottle of wine. You can lecture me about units all you want, but I'm a firm believer that what tastes and feels so good can't be all that bad.

Comments