In other words, you drink too well — to excess, quickly, on an empty stomach, with the intention of getting drunk. You’ve been told this by your government, Michael Carr-Gregg, and, in particular, those loose-haired, hemp-chewing Europeans who hang outside the Victorian State Library:
“You oh-ssies don’t understand the pleasure of good food and wine. You just binge drink — in the week nothing, on the weekend everything. In Europe, we drink red wine with the evening meal. It’s normal. You know how old I was when I had my first glass of wine? 6. And you know who poured it to me? My father.”
In Australia, drinking is about getting so drunk you break through the doors of perception into uncharted, awe-inspiring realms of being. It’s about telling your new friend how great her breasts are by feeling her breasts; it’s about expressing ‘hard truths’ that society needs to hear, like “Is it just me or does Peter look like a penis? His head I mean?”
It’s about communing with a fetal version of yourself who speaks no language known to man, knows no bounds set by his legal and cultural institutions — she of the Never-Have-I-Ever, that scintillating, Friday-night magus-lady who dared to dream of stealing other peoples’ hats and ties in the club and draping them around her own physical person, she who was bold enough to whisper hungrily into the DJ’s ear, “Play ‘Single Ladies’ again,” who was, in short, utterly free and irresistibly charismatic in her freedom.
It couldn’t have been any other way.
Sweetly understated and matter of fact, it’s every bit as dependable and no-fuss as your national character — you could fight desert Nazis with it or grow superannuation out of it. Any activity accompanied by having a few beers gives you a warm all-over glow: You have or would do all of the following:
a) Have a few beers and watch the footy or cricket
b) Have a few beers and go to the footy or cricket
c) Have a few beers and float down the river on a tyre
d) Have a few beers and build a bonfire
e) Have a few beers even though you’re taking flagyl, or
f) Just have a few beers
Of course, having a few beers really means buying a couple of slabs, going out after, getting ejected from a public house, and pissing all over your own leg as you zigzag home in a Michael Jackson anti-gravity lean.
So now that you’re paralytic, it’s time to hit the dance floor. For the first time in your life the moment is perfect — the club is pumping, you’ve had a few beers, the song is so smooth and sexy and it’s rising to that moment when the party breaks like a wave on all the beautiful, writhing patrons. Every day I’m shuffling. Now you’re shuffling for the first and only time in your life. Your legs have become lasers; your arms are so light and swift; your lips and eyes are at one with the lyrics of the song….Could it be that you’re actually popping right now?
“Can’t break ya seal mate!” You just can’t engage in that kind of behaviour unless you want to ruin the night of you and everyone else around you. So don’t do it. Do what you need to do but just do not break your seal. Push the envelope but don’t.break.the.seal. And don’t let your friends do it either. If they do try to do it, protest loudly and violently. Physically try to prevent them from breaking their seal if need be.
“Look mate, you’re either gunna be stuck here all night, dying to break your seal, or you’re gunna break yout seal and be f*cked mate!”
Though of course everyone keeps a loose tab in their head, and everyone knows that Jonno never pays and you don’t hold it against him but it is a bit of a shit bloke thing to do.
His musty breath is a reminder of the lives he’s led (a veritable Don Juan!), his intimate body heat evidence of the power and the passion of that still defiant spirit. As he stares you unevenly in the eyes, wobbling a little like a Frog in a Pond but with intensity of mien undiminished, pay careful attention to his words:
“Listen in son and listen in good. This is some advice that I wish my old man had told me. If he had, things might have ended up different. Never, and I mean never, look a cat in the face. Don’t make me explain why. Just don’t do it.”
It was supposed to slink away with the baby boomers, but both the merry land-baron boomers and the charders are here to stay. Something about that pale green-gold in your hand and the phonic pleasure of the word “ice-bucket,” as in “may I have an ice-bucket please”, draws you back each time. So, even if the drinker of chardonnay smells of stinky, stinky cat’s piss, it will always be a goer. But remember — stinky, stinky cat’s piss.
In the days leading up to the skull session, counted and crossed off feverishly by your twenty-year-old self, you wafted in thoughts of epic beery shenanigans and possible orgies. Then, throughout the skull session, presided over by a cruel, and, come to think of it now, actually quite lame older student with patchy facial hair and a venereal nickname, you began to feel strongly that you were participating in an ancient, meaningful, valuable cultural practice. This is the stuff of temples and of mead halls! Of Caesar and Churchill! Finally, vomiting alongside five other people in a three-cubicle pub bathroom, you knew very strongly and very clearly: Yeah, this is what life is all about. Glad to be a part of it.
It’s not all bad news though — as soon as you’re fifty you can make like your parents and commence life as a functional alcoholic. After all, a bottle of pinot a night followed by a swig of Tokay is the key to longevity.