I used to think that the moaning twenty- and thirtysomethings just weren’t trying hard enough.
“Oh, I can’t do it any more,” older friends would say whilst I was at university, or in the initial months of my first job. “I just can’t drink like I used to.”
They’d go on to complain, with varying degrees of bitterness, that they could no longer put away bottle after bottle as they had in previous years; that the hangovers were longer, and plumbed new and terrible depths. Where there used to be a slightly sore head that lasted only until mid-morning coffee and was thoroughly cured by the hair of the dog, now there were horrendous headaches, with nausea and fatigue that could only be solved only by a day’s worth of cold water and plenty of carbs, and a decent night’s sleep.
“Pfffft,” Best Mate and I used to scoff, as we laughed off a night’s hard Pirates of the Caribbean 3 Top Trumps drinking games. “Lightweights. They’re just not trying hard enough. Not enough practice, maybe that’s the trouble.”
Ah, youthful hubris: how wrong we were.
“Urgh, I feel horrific,” I said on the phone to BM on Friday lunchtime as I sat outside in the sun, breathing deeply and trying to suppress the nausea that had been lingering since before I’d gone bed the previous evening.
“Uh oh,” she said, trying to suppress giggles. “What did you do?”
The sad reality was that the evening had been nothing to write home about. Out for drinks with a client and a journalist, I’d started the night with a couple of glasses of red wine. Once the journalist left, there was more wine, ordered increasingly speedily and by the time I got up to go, several hours later, I had a horrible sense of foreboding that the following day was going to be utterly, all-consumingly horrid.
Which, foresight be damned, it was. Depressingly, the evening was one that, several years earlier, wouldn’t even have given me cause for sugar in the morning-after coffee, let alone an all-day hangover that saw me chain-drinking tea, trying desperately to stave off the nausea for fear that I might throw up all over the boardroom during a conference call. The 10am email from the client admitting to feeling a bit rough was scant consolation.
A few years ago, things were completely different. Speckled Lad and I would quite happily scarf three bottles of red on a Tuesday night between us with no consideration for supper, both able to head to work on Wednesday morning via a cheese and tomato croissant from Pret, with no cause for complaint. Friday nights were full of wine in bars, followed by wine in restaurants, followed by spirits in restaurants, and then nightcaps in bars – and Saturdays up and about
But then, a few years ago, I was younger, and not – gulp – approaching my late twenties. Now, I’m not a lightweight, or not trying hard enough, or even out of practice: I’m just older.
It’s almost enough to make a girl turn to the bottle – in moderation, naturally.