I go to a bar and order a whiskey. I get complimented and criticised in equal measure. “That’s a very masculine drink for such a delicate young lady. Are sure you don’t want something else? Perhaps a spritzer?” I smile and turn my head away from the person attached to the opinion I never asked for. Laphroaig in hand.
The next time I’m out it is with friends celebrating. We order cocktails, shots and anything that comes with fruit. I watch the back of a bar tender free pour half the amount of vodka we pay for and ask (nicely) if they would use a measure and make the drink in front of us. I do this not because I am cheap, or because my experience behind a bar has taught me to gage the volume of peach schnapps required for a ‘Sex on the beach’; But because last time I had cocktails, an unexpected ingredient slipped into my friend’s Pina Colada causing an unusual degree of amnesia and an unresponsive manner to her limp, unconscious body. Thankfully, we all went home together. That time. To the staff and everyone else however, we were just young girls sipping cocktails and taking selfies. Easy money, easily pleased and easy prey.
With my parents I share wine. A rich merlot or dry sauvignon blanc, depending on the meat of course. It is acceptable, respectable and unquestionable. It is safe.
A work’s night out is always a wild card. I start off with prosecco, again it is expected, polite. Then wine if there are others daring to have a glass. If not, it’s cider or beer, subject to the mood and company. When the games commence you know there is no hope of a few Gin and Tonics sitting down at a table, admiring the floral aromas and the juniper berries swimming around your glass. If everyone is drinking one thing, you cannot drink another. It works in rounds, you see. We split into groups and cordially respect the rules: You buy the next lot of drinks for those who have previously bought drinks for you. Quite Biblical really. Yet, as the only identifying female in the group, the pressure to keep up is immeasurable. If I do, I’m a legend, one of the lads, but my femininity is called into question.
If I don’t, my limitations as a woman are confirmed, paradoxically both gaining and losing me respect. There is no way in which I can succeed in this situation. Thus, the conundrum continues.
Uni was different. There was equality but we were on a budget. Wednesday afternoons saw Lidl workers hold their breaths as the herds of students swarmed through their doors, grasping at single figure spirits and cans that looked almost identical to our favourite brands: Woodgates, Baywoods and everything in between “Bottle of wine before 9” was standard for Pre’s and at under £4 a litre, it was worth the trek home. Beer Pong had no limitations, anything alcoholic was allowed. Every gender, sexuality and ethnicity danced on tables after £1 Jägerbombs, throwing their VK’s into the crowds in a salute to our freedom. Once the hangovers kicked in, things were different but Wednesday nights were euphoric, unparalleled, utopian.
I wasn’t scoffed at for ordering a pint because it was “unladylike”. I could drink out of a bottle as it wasn’t deemed “common”. If I drank wine I wasn’t “predictable”. If I drank pink gin I wasn’t “basic”. The incredible thing about being broke in a student house is that almost everyone around you was also broke in a student house and nobody cared about your preferences. It is only outside of this environment that I have experienced the bushy raised eyebrows of concerned onlookers as I sink a Dark Fruits like it was Ribena. Only at home do I second guess my Rum and Coke for fear of attracting attention. Navigating the social constructs of drinking is difficult and exhausting. I shall be doing a Masters next year.