Hands up who gave up drinking for Lent? Right, now keep them up if you managed to stick to it. You at the back - yes, 'medicinal' sherry does count. No, Benylin doesn't.
Well done, all four of you! Just three more days and you can go swimming in a lovely gin jacuzzi. And to the rest of you, well done for trying. It's ok, I managed 12 hours of chocolate abstinence before mainlining a tub of Nutella and going "oh crap".
But the reason I ask is that, for me, your 40-day booze-free experiment is a perpetual state of being. It's been over two years now since my body slammed down its final Stone’s ginger wine and said, "No more! From now on nothing stronger than Horlicks shall pass these lips, or ye shall suffer maladies beyond all proportion and feel pukey on the tube." I won't go into it further, because it is boring and usually ends in me weeping over a box of cherry liqueur chocolates. But the gist of it is: me + alcohol = sadface.
Still, I thought that by this point I was comfy with my non-drinking status. For the most part all my friends have stopped looking at me like a war deserter, and I can recite details of Fentiman's entire fizzy pop range to anyone who cares to listen. I save money on drinks, which I then spend on taxis and late night newsagent flapjacks. I feel smug about being healthier, then fill the void left by G&Ts with refined carbohydrates. I get to keep my head when all about me are losing theirs, only possibly not quite in the way Kipling meant.
And as the months have passed I've been surrounded by fewer lost heads, because one by one my friends all seem to be losing their tolerance too. "Yes!" I cry, as another one staggers in with chronic shakes after a glass and a half of Pinot. "Let's all be non-drinkers together! Not drinking is the new drinking! We’ll be tee-TOTALLY COOL."
But then the other day, I realised something: I miss hangovers. I genuinely, sort of, do. Not the pounding head or the dry mouth or the sloshing into a work meeting with a stomach full of Berocca bit, but the camaraderie. The camaraderie and the breakfasts. Oh, the breakfasts.
During the three years I lived in the Highgate House, North London’s premier rodent/student/ugly 70s furniture refuge, we made a tradition of hangover breakfasts. After house parties we would round up all the bodies on the stairs and landings, check their pulses, and march them down to the local brunch spot for eggs Benedict and regret. Photos would be groaned over, salacious gossip dissected, and there was always somebody face down on the table who had to have their food boxed up ‘for later’.
A good hangover was something to be revelled in and crafted. A sofa-duvet here, a well-timed nap there. The license to put anything in a three mile vicinity into your mouth because it just might be what your stomach wants (oh whoops, it wasn’t). There is a certain togetherness in a hangover that you just don’t get from being a bit tired, or, say, having a spot of acid heartburn.
So while I get to be smug with all my saved calories and extra money and sensible nighttime decisions, please rest assured that I am also quite jealous. And will be eating the giant breakfasts anyway.