I am depressive. This is partly because the world actually sucks, partly—maybe mostly—because I am 49 and when you are around 49 and a woman the estrogen and progesterone remaining in your body are in a dance-off to the death which you can’t cut in on but must simply watch in horror, for, well, in my case, for going on four years. The participants are tiring but neither seems quite ready to give up.
For two weeks or two months I will feel fine and then, suddenly, for days or weeks, I find myself carrying a lead blanket everywhere I go. Actually, there is the lead blanket I am carrying and then there’s another one, draped over my head. It has eyeholes that let in the shapes of things so I don’t bump into them, but unfortunately it does not let in much light.
It would be tempting to say that nothing helps when you feel this way but the truth is that something does help. That thing is alcohol. Now I have always loved a drink. But aside from a period in my thirties right after a short marriage and a divorce—and I wasn’t mourning, I was celebrating—I have not been an everyday drinker. Three times a week, sometimes four, and generally fairly moderately, except, you know, some days, but not daily. Except that it came to my attention recently that in fact I have had a drink almost every single day for the past two years.
I am embarrassed to admit that yes, this started on November 9, 2016. Oh, and, of course I had a drink on November 8, 2016, too, I mean, duh. Anyway, I say embarrassed because I firmly believe things were awful before Trump, and I don’t think his election is the beginning of the end of the world. (Everyone knows that the end of the world began the day Rhoda was cancelled.) That said, his election marked the start of me drinking every single day. However, in “fairness” to him, his victory did kind of just happen to coincide with my reproductive circus taking down its tent, brushing down its elephants, etc.
An aside here, when people make jokes about middle-aged women and wine, or moms and wine, yes, it’s tedious and clichéd, but the reason that’s a thing is because middle-aged women physically feel like shit and they’re self-medicating with alcohol. Also when you are going through perimenopause you can be in a bad mood for weeks, like your worst PMS for weeks, and having a drink is a cheap, effective deterrent from acting like a fucking bitch, all the time.
So recently I stopped drinking, for two weeks, because drinking every single day is just not good for General Health. The first couple days were a little hard, but after a while, I was like, Wow, it is nice to feel the same way all the time. I would like to try to think of something else nice to say about not drinking but that’s pretty much it!
During this time, I did not allow myself to go without a treat. Treats are crucial. And my treat was chai. Now, I made this chai from a mix, because while drinking chai is a treat, making it is not. There are some instant chais that are extremely gross, and have a lot of sugar in them. This mixture is just the spices and the tea itself, pulverized so all you use is a tiny little spoonful. They very kindly include a spoon in the container, in case you thought maybe you’d rather get into your car and drive it off the road than take the time to find one.
So I got fancy goat milk, which I also love, and this chai mix, and when I came in the door from work, instead of sliding into the bathtub as usual with my tumbler of cold vodka and a Margaret Drabble novel, I had goat milk chai instead. And I’m not going to say it felt the same as vodka, but it was pretty good. Ingesting something spicy, well, it’s not like buzz-level awesome, but some kind of alteration takes place. Plus, humans are so simple. Sometimes you just have to replace one thing with another.
So that whole two weeks I wasn’t drinking I happened to be lead-blanket-free, because as I said the lead blanket comes and it goes, as it wishes, and I thought, Wow, this is so great, this nice new healthy habit. Once the two weeks were up I had a drink, and the next night I didn’t want one, and I was like, Yes, this is how it is supposed to be.
And then the lead blanket came back. And I looked at it and shouted, “Goat milk and tea and spices are no match for you, curs’d foe.” I’m just kidding, I didn’t do anything, because in order to do something I would have to have felt something resembling ambition.
When I walked in the door that night, I thought, If I had a drink I could make these Really Bad Feelings maybe go away for like twenty minutes. But then, actually, I realized that I was so depressed, so apathetic about everything, so sinking under the weight of chemistry that I really could not hope to change anytime soon that drinking wouldn’t do shit. Oddly enough, this made me laugh.
My chai and a turkey sandwich my delightful companions, I watched Blue Is the Warmest Color for the fifth time. My favorite scene is the one where Emma explains Sartre to Adèle and Adèle says, “Maybe I am bad at philosophy, but for me, existence, essence, is like the chicken and the egg.” A few times I wanted to turn it off because I thought, “What is this even doing for me?” but I stuck with it, until gradually I sort of felt I was living Adèle’s life instead of my own, and then it was time to go to sleep.