Life from the bottom of a Roy Rogers

I’m allergic to alcohol.

Whenever I tell people this I almost unanimously get two responses. From the die-hard boozehounds, I get a look of unabashed horror, like I just said, “I have leprosy!” with a big girn on my face. “And it’s catching!”

“Oh god,” the not-so-closeted beer-hunters will say, “that must be horrible.” And then they shudder, cross themselves, and pound back a frosty Pilsner - because they can. Bastards.

And then there’s the more mild but still rather shocked, “Wow, really? What happens when you drink?”

To set the record straight, I suffer from a somewhat rare (but more common in Asiatics) high-octane, burnin’-down-on-the-hot-side-of-town-you-dig allergy, where I get a form of anaphylactic shock. The throat swells up like a Brooklyn hot dog in the sun, and I have a lot of trouble breathing. Plus, I get all splotchy and red, like W.C. Field’s nose, but all over. It’s not pretty. Also, it’s an allergy to alcohol in any form: I can’t take cold or cough medicine that contains alcohol (so it’s Buckley’s Cold remedy for this guy), and up to recently I couldn’t use mouthwash, or hairspray (due to inhaling the particles)… but that’s gotten better with age.

Being allergic to alcohol has its plusses and minuses. A top of the head list:



I’ve saved a TON of money I’ve blown it all on pot. Well, used to. ;)
I slowly get to watch a large group of people get drunker and drunker (a fascinating sociological experiment) If I come into a party and everyone is already totally loaded, it’s almost impossible to relate to people.
Highly decreased chances of walking up beside someone and not remembering their name. I have absolutely no excuse if I do.
Decreased change of making a complete ass of myself. I do a great job of that without the help of alcohol, and again, noone to blame but sober ol’ me.

DrunkThe list goes on and on. It’s a strange existence, in some ways. I’ve come to realize just how much our social lives revolve around the fine art of two-fisting and rampant wine drinking: We go for “Friday drinks” to celebrate making it through another cruddy week at work. We go to the bar to meet and try to cajole the opposite (or same) sex that we’re mighty fine examples of studmuffins. We pound a few when they rebuke us, and get some “liquid courage” to try again. We propose toasts to those worthy of such attention, and have wakes for those who have passed on. We start the evening off at the bar before clubbing, or after a movie or the theatre to debrief with friends. We drink at weddings, and drown our sorrows when we’ve down in the dumps.

I can’t help but think of the famous Dean Martin quote at this moment: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” Well, we didn’t end up as a sodden wreck in a bunch of bad Matt Helm movies, either… but, I digress.

Through all of this, I don’t actually miss drinking all that much. I used to be able to drink (and boy, did I ever) when I was in high school - after quitting for a while so that I could actually finish off my high school diploma, my allergy popped up: a teensy surprise at the very end of the dark tunnel of chemical changes we call puberty.

What I really miss is the possibility of taste. When I was able to drink, I was a typical “drink to get loaded” type. Who cares if it tastes good - what’s the alcoholic percentage? Because of this, I’ve missed out on fine wine, smokey, high-falutin scotch, manly whiskey drinking, tequila (and the worm), Jack Daniels, creme de menthe, Jägermeister, lime rickeys, and especially all of the actually GOOD beers.

Guinness? Wouldn’t know it unless it was prefixed with “Alec”. I can just see my friend Trevor, a massive Guinness fan, recoiling in shock. I missed out on all the yummy sounding beers with words like “nutty” and “honey” in them. I missed out on Heineken (“Fuck that shit, man, PABST BLUE RIBBON!”), and Coronas, and… sigh. My beer education consists of Molsom Club (usually found in the sweaty fists of someone with a mullet), Extra Old Stock (for the extra old men), and Labatt’s Blue. The words Pee-pee de chat come to mind.

The reality, however, is that I’m 100% used to not drinking. Sure, when it’s a hard day, or a really hot summer afternoon, I feel a twinge of desire for a frosty beverage. I think we’re programmed to want beer then; it’s encoded in our genes. But I don’t really miss it at all. I do find that I usually make friends with people based on their personality when they’re loaded - happy, smiley drunks are usually a thumbs up, falling over, barfing, easily lost high-maintenance drunks are are a no-no - and really, (here’s the thirties thing again), we’re at the age now where we just don’t put one on as often as we used to, anyway. So life is good.

That is, it’s all good until it completely turns to suckitty-suck-suck when I read something like this: Study: Drinking can ward off dementia. SIGH.

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