Are big nights out bad in middle age? Sometimes they make us feel less alone
You’re not as young as you used to be and alcohol is no longer your friend
“I went out the other night with a couple of friends and ended up in a snug at 1am with a last glass of red red wine in front of me that I really didn’t need” Photograph: istock
I’m generally perfectly happy to ignore every crumb of lifestyle advice on offer, especially if it’s aimed at “women of a certain age” and involves tips on “spring cleaning” one’s ever-so-slightly saggy life.
In fact, the older I get the more averse I become to cleaning up anything, whether it’s emotional baggage or that pile of decade-old mud-encrusted football boots mouldering under the stairs.
However, I went out the other night with a couple of friends and ended up in a snug at 1am with a last glass of red wine in front of me that I really didn’t need, and on the morning after I felt like a piece of putrefying roadkill. (And no, of course putrefying roadkill doesn’t actually have feelings, but if it did, well . . .)
So, in an effort to get a grip on my tiny life (and having finally found my glasses in the washing machine), I started reading about ways to clean up my act, courtesy of an online publication that popped up in my inbox on the very morning in question.
Designed, presumably, to support and enlighten women who find themselves skating unsteadily over the menopausal ice, the friendly guidance in the newsletter, however noble the editorial intention, left me, perhaps unsurprisingly, feeling shoddy and inadequate.
The truth is it was the end of a long week and I couldn’t wait to get out and about
Let’s start with the advice about diet, shall we? I completely accept that had I stayed home that night and lashed into a nosebag of chlorella, barley greens, spirulina, tempeh or tamari (rather than digging out my eco dress, made from recycled rubbish bags, and battling a minor hurricane to get to the barstool), I’d have been a happier and healthier woman the next day. Indeed, my ongoing stubborn refusal to take care of my nutritional needs by including a variety of seaweeds on my plate is downright negligent.
There’s no two ways about it: coming home in the small hours to eat cold leftover potatoes straight from the roasting tin is no substitute for the beneficial effects of getting a regular helping of fermented sauerkraut inside you.
Still, there’s no point in crying over spilt Horlick’s, as my Granny Maddie used to say. It’s all very well wishing I’d stayed home twiddling my joss-sticks that evening, but the truth is it was the end of a long week and I couldn’t wait to get out and about.
I made myself a strong cup of coffee before I read the publication’s sobering advice about wine. Whether it’s crisp and cold or warm and ruby, this particular subject spawns numerous spring-cleaning pointers that are a lot harder to imbibe than a dewy glass of the stuff itself.
“You’re not as young as you used to be,” said the warning words. “Alcohol is no longer a friend!”
I scoured the article for guidance for those who, like myself, occasionally find themselves basking on the shores of vinous conviviality. Women, it advised, should drink red wine rather than white (it’s less fattening), and eat when drinking, while also consuming two glasses of water for every one of wine (I fear I’d drown).
Then, the next morning, by way of apology to our livers, we should, apparently, get a shedload of water with lemon juice into ourselves. And be sure not to grab and eat the first thing that comes to hand (especially if it’s the cat, because the cat is furry and sentient).
We talked about the people we had lost, the painful, complicated, irascible and loved dead
Big nights out aren’t our friends in midlife, according to the piece, which also insists that we should actively remember how lousy we feel the day after we have one.
I don’t know if I agree that big nights out with friends are bad for you; in fact, maybe they are pretty much exactly what’s called for at this stage of the game. And lest it sounds like I’m trivialising the effects of alcohol, well, I hope I’m not; I’m just being truthful. Like many of us in this country, I’m well versed in the duplicitous nature of that particular beast.
On our night out, we sat, my friends and I, in the back of the emptying bar and, among other conversations, talked about and remembered the dead. (Hey, I’m a laugh a minute).
We talked about the people we had lost, the painful, complicated, irascible and loved dead. And even on that hungover, vaguely neurasthenic morning after, I felt, I don’t know, better, saner, relieved. Sometimes it takes a big night out to make us feel less alone.
Next time, though, I’ll seriously attempt the wine-to-water ratio. That’s a piece of lifestyle advice worth swallowing.