August 7, 2006

Belly Up To The Bar

Does drinking make you say stupid things? Of course. But does it make you say things you don't actually already believe, that belch unbidden from some surprise spring of nastiness that wasn't there before? Doubt it.

This article from today's NYT tries to explain why Mel Gibson is an idiot. His apology was nonsense. He blurted out exactly what he thought. Don't we all?

We are a culture of cowards. We say what other people expect us to, what other people want to hear. If we don't, we spend an awful lot of time working away on our computers, solitary in our pursuits, staring into the dark on endless nights. Wait a minute. Nevermind.

We call it 'I love you, man' drunk. When a guy gets enough beer in his belly to drape himself around anyone close at hand and declare his drooling red-eyed love for people he probably just met. Men are notoriously tight-lipped with their emotions. I think 'I love you, man' drunk is their chance to connect with a world they usually just watch.

And women? We're already the touchy-feely members of the club, so what happens when we get a little into our cups? Easy. We surrender our Director's Chair of Making People Happy and say what's really on our minds. I've heard friends finally admit they married the wrong guy, they are terrified of never being promoted, and if their mother were to move to Istanbul they'd help her pack and pay for the one-way ticket.

Booze usually makes female insecurities surface; for men, it seems to take away the straps of control that require them to move through their lives like stealth bombers. In other words, it both deadens the repercussions and amplifies the fears.

For most of us, a couple of glasses of wine is a tiny vacation from being who we're supposed to be. For chronic alcoholics, of whom I've known a few up close and personal, it's the recognition that who they're supposed to be is a barren wasteland of nothing. For some, there is no line to cross anymore; that blurred reality is the clearest thing they possess.

So is Mel an alcoholic or an anti-Semite or both? Maybe he copes with being the second by being the first. I don't know. I've never met the man. And even to those who know him, he is an actor.

I make a living saying things that nobody else will. Everybody thinks the things I write - I just take the shots and say it. Every time I think I've crossed a line, I get a bushel of mail telling me there's a crowd waiting on the other side. I say from now on, we make a pledge to dredge up natural courage, as opposed to the liquid kind. If you love someone, tell them. If someone is making you crazy, tell them.

Just make sure they've had a drink first.


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