In my salad days, I was as unrounded as the next person. In life there are many journeys to make and for each of us the journey is unique. One experience I recall vividly is being invited for lunch at the home of a rather grand French lady in Bordeaux. I arrived starving as usual- being a student and prone to living off ready-made moussaka from the local supermarket and little else. The lady in question was my lecturer at university and we had struck up an unlikely friendship where we would spend hours discussing the various books we both devoured. Once in a while she would invite me for supper or lunch. On this particular occasion, the table in the very cramped dining room which was overflowing with bookcases, had been laid out with crystal, fine porcelain and silverware. I waited to be invited to sit and then began salivating at the prospect of a divine meal. The wine was poured and the water glasses filled as I unravelled a crisp linen napkin onto my lap. The first course was a pâté, a doorstop size which had been placed on a silver platter and passed around at the table. I was offered the first helping and promptly cut a huge chunk off. A squeal of anguish erupted from the mouth of my hostess: 'Mais, non! Ca se mange pas comme ça. Voyons, un tout petit peu. Cela se déguste!' No! You don't eat it that way. A little bit only. It must be savoured!' My hostess proceeded to cut a sliver off the pâté, she then placed this barest of shavings onto her plate and worse yet, removed only a minute soupçon from it which she then perched on an almost invisible piece of bread. At last she slipped both bread and pâté into her mouth. My humiliation complete, I followed suit.
A meal in France in certain circles, is an almost religious affair where devotion is applied in the preparation of the food and great heights of adoration must be reached as the food and wine are eaten slowly. It is impolite to sniff at the food or overly complement the cook. It is downright rude, bordering on savagery, to drink the wine as if it were water during a heatwave. Compare that to headline news this week that more than 50% of young women binge drink every weekend.
What is binge drinking? Quite the opposite of savouring anything slowly. The explanations the young women who were interviewed gave ranged from having nothing else to do, to peer pressure. Not only do we have the image of young women in a state of undress, lying blotto in the street after helpfully throwing up on a police officer, we now have to try very hard to understand why anyone would get themselves into this state in the first place.
I have been very drunk three or four times in my life. The pounding headache and retching over a toilet bowl made this experience somewhat horrible and every time, I vowed never to drink that much again. Yet despite the awfulness of a hangover, the women interviewed were looking forward to doing it all over again the following weekend. The complete lack of self knowledge or respect is the most shocking of all. We live in an era where information is freely available. Everyone knows that excess drinking will damage your liver and as it turns out, a woman's fertility. Young women in the prime of their lives appear to despise their existence to the point of harbouring a death wish. How can this be? Is it not obvious that women are more vulnerable to rape or worse when alcohol has taken leave of their senses. To not care in essence what happens when they allow themselves to be comatose lying in a gutter, is unfathomable to my generation. When asked why I never did drugs, I laugh and say I was simply too vain. Drooling in public is just not my thing.
I am amused to see how many women in the public eye harp on about being feminists but I would argue that the rise of young alcoholics, as these binge-drinking women are, is due to self-loathing and a lack of femininity. Feminism, that word bandied about as if saying it is enough to be seen as a forward-thinking woman who deserves equality, is dead. Anyone born today has everything already handed to them. When a woman drinks to get drunk deliberately and pass out, she is not a feminist, she's an idiot. There's nothing attractive about being an out-of-control drunk, it's what losers do. And being feminine, embracing what is best about being a woman is not the antithesis of feminism either. It is possible to be charming, sophisticated, ladylike, beguiling and a feminist and know how to hold one's drink. While these women are getting drunk are they capable of witty or erudite conversation?
I despair for the rank stupidity that constitutes vast swathes of the human race. A lack of self knowledge is what differentiates humans from amoebas lurking in the borders of evolution. No one ever accomplished anything when they were blind drunk. Binge drinking members of the fairer sex, literally throwing their lives away, should remember that.