Why Can't Mom Enjoy A Drink Or Two?
My parents had a mixed marriage when it came to drinking. My mom, the daughter and sister of alcoholics, never touched the stuff. She lectured her children long and hard on the evils of alcohol. My father, a German-Irish American who spent years in the Army perfecting his bar-side elbow, had no problem with it. He even let me sip out of his beer bottle when Mom wasn’t looking. That was completely un-ladylike to Mom. And she wasn’t the only one who had an issue with drinking –– especially when it came to women. In our society, says Gina Barreca, editor of “Make Mine a Double: Why Women Like Us Like to Drink,” there’s often a double standard when it comes to the alcohol consumption of the genders. “When I came up with the idea for the book, I was thinking — as I mention in the introduction — of the ways women apologize when we pour one for ourselves (but never when we pour for somebody else, unless we’re apologizing for doing it too late or offering too little),” Barreca says. So, Barreca gathered writers “I knew who could speak to women’s experience with wit and honesty, whether they wrote about choosing to drink or choosing not to drink,” for the 28 essays in this entertaining, thought-provoking book, including Jamestown resident Laura Rossi Totten. In the book, Totten’s essay is called, “Mom’s Club: The New Happy Hour.” She writes about carefree twentysomethings who have no compunction about going out for cocktails with the girls, but once they become mothers, there’s really no going back. Instead, many other groups –– book clubs, crafting meetings, etc., — often become excuses for girls’ nights out. I could relate. I have a friend who owns a T-shirt — depicting a glass of wine — that says, “More book club, please.” Mothers ourselves, we may not go to the bar anymore, but we do find ways to socialize with our drinks. So, after reading “Make Mine a Double” I set up a meeting with Totten, for a drink, of course. We hit it off immediately, talking about everything from parenting to why there’s a men’s tradition in literature tied to drinking (think Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,”) but none for women. (My joke: Louisa May Alcott didn’t have “Little Women” running around with Mojitos.) Totten, a public relations professional who’s worked in book publishing but has not yet been an author, was a student of Barreca’s at the University of Connecticut in the 1990s. Two years ago, she by chance ran into her old professor, just as the idea for “Make Mine a Double” was germinating in the comedienne’s head. “I had two weeks to write it,” Totten says of her essay, “but I had ideas about being a mother, especially a young mother, and all the rules that go with that.” “I’m sort of a soft feminist,” Totten says. “But the implications with women and drinking are so far off the mark,” she felt compelled to write about it along with the other contributors Barreca gathered for the book. “No one thinks twice when a dad says he’s going to grab a few beers with the guys,” Totten says, but when a mother says she’s going out with her friends, it raises a few eyebrows. “Are you a bad mom?” is one of the first thoughts, she notes. We talked about the “party girl” stereotype, and how badly that hurts women who drink in moderation. These are women who just want to have some fun and let go with her buddies because they face so many challenges in their multi-faceted lives. “Why do we have to squash that part of ourselves?” when we become mothers, Totten asks. Do we have to rely on what she calls “socially acceptable alibis” for women to gather and put a few back? I sure hope not. Yes, I believe in healthy living. But after a long bike ride on a warm summer day there’s nothing like a cold bottle of light beer. On a Saturday night with friends, I have to say I’d rather imbibe the 65 calories in a one-ounce shot of Jack Daniel’s on the rocks than eat say, a 68-calorie English muffin. Only one ounce of “hooch”? Scratch that — make mine a double. firstname.lastname@example.org (401) 277-7155 Totten’s professional website is www.LauraRossiPublicRelations.com , and her blog is www.MySoCalledSensoryLife.com . Barreca can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com
Laura Rossi Totten of Jamestown contributed to a new book and women and drinking.
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