News Opinion

Monday 24 October 2016

So you're a better boozer than those you sneer at? Think again

Published 23/04/2015 | 02:30

Ian O'Doherty
Ian O'Doherty

Do we really have a national obsession with drink? Or, more to the point, do we actually have an obsession with simply talking about drink in Ireland?

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The answer to both questions is, on balance, 'yes'.

But as in every other aspect of Irish society, the unspoken hypocrisy and snobbery when it comes to our drinking habits is as sickening as mixing vodka with red wine. You see, there are some acceptable ways to drink, and some extremely unacceptable ones.

Remember the moral outrage that broke out in January when a pub in a working-class area of Dublin decided to offer a 'Welfare Wednesday', which saw punters who could prove they were on social welfare offered cheap booze?

The sense of disgust which greeted that particular publicity stunt had as much to do with the class of the clientele as it had with any real worries about excessive consumption.

Let's put it this way, plenty of boozers located in south Dublin's leafy rugby heartland are quick to provide special offers for special occasions, but we don't have the Nanny state worthies up in arms over those. In fact, if you were to listen to some of the gibberish which was hurled around like confetti after that particular story, one would be forgiven for assuming that the only people who drink to excess are the unemployed or Northsiders. The reality is rather different.

What we drink and the way we drink is an instant social signifier and provides an easy but obnoxious way of instantly judging someone.

So, if someone drinks two litres of cider while sitting on a park bench they're a bum. But if some middle-class kids break out the vino or a few cans of Heino in Stephen's Green on a sunny day, they're simply drinking al fresco and enjoying the rays.

We have many different kinds of drinking in this country, but we only have two types of drinker.

There's the bad drinker, who is so feckless that he will waste their dole money or Children's Allowance on cheap hooch and then there's the good drinker - and the chances are that you fall into the latter category. Or, more accurately, you'd like to think that you do.

The good drinker feels safe and smug in the knowledge that they would never darken the doors of what they would - obnoxiously - consider a dive bar offering cheap hooch to the skobies.

The good drinker knows that they can go all week without touching a drop. Then, if there's a night out with the girls, where's the harm in lashing back some pre-dinner Mojitos, before enjoying a few bottles of wine with the meal, followed by a post-prandial Sambuca or two? After all, you earned it, didn't you?

The irony of the good drinker is that they are invariably the ones who are the real binge boozers, they just don't see it like that. After all, binge drinking is something the lower orders do, isn't it?

This middle-class binging tends to be more a female trait than a male one. That's not because of some innate weakness of the female gender. It's the result of a culture which tells people that anyone who has a beer on a daily basis is a chronic dipso, while someone who goes through the week without touching a drop before giving it large on a Friday night is merely letting their hair down.

And how did I come up with the apparently sexist conclusion that this is more a female issue than a male one?

Well, let's put it this way, have you ever heard a man chirp: "It's wine o'clock!"

Nope, I know you haven't, for the very simple reason that no bloke in the history of drinking has ever, or would ever, utter such a thing.

So continue the mock the working class and their irresponsible drinking. But you're no different and you are certainly no better.

Irish Independent

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