Wednesday 18 September 2019

Victoria Mary Clarke: 'If you need to be wasted to be at a party, you probably don't really want to be there'

HEDONISM: Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger in Animals
HEDONISM: Alia Shawkat and Holliday Grainger in Animals

Victoria Mary Clarke

I have just seen a new film called Animals, about two women, Tyler and Laura, who are thirty-ish and on a final bender as Laura - a novelist who has only done 10 pages in 10 years - realises that real life should have started by now and her best friend desperately tries to drag her back to the party and drag the party out forever.

It is a genius film about those kinds of friendships and about growing up that should be mandatory for everyone in their teens, but it is also good for anyone who is wondering if maybe now is the time to stop chasing that elusive buzz.

I haven't had a drink for six months. So I watched with a mixture of revulsion and a bit of superiority as Laura and Tyler drank the dregs of other people's wine and snorted coke in strange men's flats and vomited and bought packets in pub toilets and stayed up all night every night and called in sick to work and had trouble paying the rent and defiantly kept on partying.

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I was appalled when Laura ordered a dry white wine in a pub, imagining the hideous headache, when the barman said: "We only have one kind of white wine."

I recognised myself in almost every scene, and it made me grateful to have stopped that stuff. And for it actually to be really completely OK for it not to be a struggle, for it to feel really great to have no need to get wasted and no sense of missing out on anything.

I recognised the feeling of being bullied and manipulated into staying out later than you want to, having "just one more drink"; being made to feel like the sad loser, the one who is no fun or even a total bitch for not doing it. And I recognised the feeling of being the one who pushes other people into having just the one - or even breaking their sobriety.

I started to drink when I was 13. I did it as a way to feel like I could fit in, I did it so I could pretend to be a party person, the kind of person that you would want to have around, somebody fun and entertaining and confident.

Which was basically the opposite of how I felt. And soon it became something I did automatically, I put on red lipstick and I put on a new personality, the kind that let me go to pubs and parties and make conversation and meet people.

And in the world that I lived in, this was the most normal thing you could do, it was as normal as getting a latte is now. When I got my first office job in London in my late teens, everyone went and had a few drinks every lunchtime and most of us went straight to the pub after work.

When I met my husband, Shane MacGowan, he was as famous for being a drinker as he was for being a singer and so the rest of my life was spent surrounded by alcohol, all of the time.

In the film, the women are too close for comfort. Tyler is disgusted when Laura wants to start getting up early to write and doesn't want to drink in the mornings any more. Some of our friends gave up drinking and they were regarded with unease; I never wanted to be one of those people awkwardly asking for a mineral water. I might have noticed the hangovers getting worse but I wasn't about to stop drinking.

The thing is, we party for a reason. We party because we want life to be fun and carefree and exciting and spontaneous and playful and limitless and full of possibilities.

And we need a break from the slog and the seriousness and the responsibilities and from the dread of getting old and dying.

But even those of us who can still do Electric Picnic are fully aware of the come down, and we know real life is always waiting for us after the weekend away. So the only way to do it is to learn how to make your real life more like a party, more playful, more fun, more spontaneous and exciting.

You need to stop trying to pretend to be anything you are not, and stop pretending to enjoy yourself just to fit in. It isn't easy, but take it from me, it can be done.

Because if you need to be wasted to be at a party, you probably didn't want to be there in the first place.

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