In high school, I dated a really nice guy with a big nose whose deodorant smell was overpowering. I went out with him because nobody else was asking me out. One summer, when I was 16, we went to The Boot, a famous local bar near the campus of Tulane University that didn’t check IDs. It was 50 cent hi-ball night. So I ordered a hi-ball. “I’ll take a hi-ball, please,” I said to the bartender.
He looked at me with impatient pity. “What kind of hi-ball?” he asked. I still didn’t get it. “The regular kind,” I answered. Surely that demonstrated enough infantile naivety to kick me out of the bar and direct me to the nearest ice cream parlor. But no. This was New Orleans, circa 1979, after all.
Fortunately, my date returned from the bathroom and we settled on screwdrivers for the evening. Later, he poured me into his Camaro and we made out for, like, hours.
The next morning I drove my sisters to summer camp, then was standing at the sink taking aspirin when my mother approached me and said, “What is that on your neck?”
Mom: Tricia. What is on your neck?
Me: (Swatting.) What, Mom? Is it a bug or something?
Mom: Uh, no. Come look at yourself in the mirror.
Well. Did you know that hickeys can be the size of golf balls?
Mom was rightly appalled, not just because of its existence, but because I apparently had no memory of receiving it. I later called Mr. Big Nose to complain, and he apologized. But I think he was proud of himself.
Anyway, I think of that moment as perhaps the first sign that I would develop a habit of drinking too much, a habit that lasted, oh, a couple of decades. Did I have a drinking problem? Absolutely. I clearly recall taking magazine tests in college to determine whether I was an alcoholic. Do you ever drink in the mornings? No! Phew!
I didn’t have the benefit of today’s anti-drunk-driving campaigns, or the understanding of how different my life would be if I quit drinking, or even cut back. I believe that all of my experiences have culminated in the person I’ve become, which would indicate that I have no regrets – though I do. I wish getting drunk had not been such a major part of my young adulthood. I wish someone had stepped in and said – Listen, girl, you could be a contender. Buckle down.
Mostly, I’m grateful that I emerged from that period without tragedy. I didn’t kill anyone on the road. I didn’t fall from a balcony during spring break. I wasn’t picked up by a rapist/murderer when I hitchhiked drunk in Mexico (GASP).
But I tell you. I sure wish I remembered more details about that time in my life.
For more on this topic, check out my guest editorial in this week’s Folio Weekly. Click here and it will magically appear.