NICE GIRLS? THEY ORDER CHARDONNAY!
And Miss Madame is most definitely a nice girl.
Dear Miss Madame,
I live in Brest, a town on the western coast of France. My French roommates and I are in our twenties and we go out pretty often, usually to a little cafe/bar down the street that’s always full of salty old men. At first it was pretty charming, but now that the first bloom is over I’ve noticed some weird behavior. Here are a few items for your perusal:
I like beer. I’m also very tall. But every time I try to order a pint, the bartender asks me, “Are you SURE you want a pint? A pint pint?” I say, yes, of course I’m sure I want a pint pint, and he lifts his eyebrows and slides one over the bar as though giving me the keys to someone else’s Lamborghini. I asked one of my roommates what this was all about, and he looked at me like it should have been a rhetorical question and said, “Ladies don’t order pints.” You can imagine my reaction.
After dealing with truculent teenagers all day (my job), the first thing I want when I get home is a glass of wine and a nice sit on the patio in complete silence. Afterwards, I tend to make myself a leisurely dinner, have another glass, and then sit down in front of the computer and watch a movie. I admit that some nights, though by no means often, I’ll polish off the whole bottle (did I mention I’m living in France? My pastry consumption is also, to put it mildly, through the roof.) One of my roommates cornered me the other day. Very concerned. “Women who drink alone are sad and depressed.” To which I replied that of course I wasn’t depressed, I was just single and therefore alone most of the time but didn’t let it stop me having a good time, which in my mind is getting tipsy and watching old Daria episodes. His reaction? Incredulous pity (I’d like to blame this on his ignorance of Daria‘s existence, but somehow I think it has more to do with the wine).
Dear Miss Madame, do you have any suggestions about how to a. order pints in peace and b. drink my solitary wine in peace? I don’t want to cause a ruckus or seem ungrateful, but all the pointed concern and pointed looks are getting on my nerves.
Pet, set down the bottle and allow me to clue you in on a little age-old cultural wisdom. Nobody—not your mother, not me, not a French bartender, not even yourself if you’re honest—likes a woman who drinks too much. It’s a truth that has been true since the beginning of time. And a truth that has been true for four thousand years—well, it’s a hard truth to give the cold shoulder!
Honestly, I literally cannot think of an event more horrible than being out in public and seeing a woman who’s had a few too many. It’s embarrassing not only for her, but also for everyone in her would-be charming company—and certainly for all the innocent bystanders passing through. When I get into bed after such a shocking occurrence, I have to apply lavender essential oils to my eye mask with positive abandon, Sasha dearest. It really is that traumatizing.
You know I hate to play the devil’s advocate, but women who drink excessively while giggling through the Latin Quarter are a crying shame, and women who drink excessively while staring at cartoons on a computer screen in a dark and lonely room, stuffing their faces with custard-filled brioche, well, they’re simply begging for a roommate’s well-intentioned intervention.
Let’s face it. What are you doing with your life, Sasha? Can’t you stop replacing human contact with a bottle of Beaujolais? Your roommates and those nice men down at the bar seem like excellent friendship candidates, and perhaps you can lead the way to finding new and improving pastimes (personally, I’m a big fan of paint-your-own pottery classes—you meet the most fascinating people!)
Here’s my advice, duckling, and it’s really quite simple. If you want men to stop paying attention to your drinking habits, stop drinking. Nowadays, women drink almost as much as men (terrifying, I know), and while men can’t be relied upon to curb their alcoholic enthusiasm, that doesn’t mean we ladies can’t show them the way by practicing womanly virtue in a sea of debauchment (as the more empathetic sex, it’s our sworn duty!) Don’t invite criticism, Sasha dearest. In fact, this motto is a lovely lifelong companion—if a man criticizes you, think on it. He’s giving you solid gold advice, even if he doesn’t follow it himself. Consider yourself lucky!
To your health, my sweet!
Your ever faithful,
image credit Taylor Erwin