My friend Beth called the other day to tell me she had some family gossip from the holidays. Beth knows I love family theater, and that I’m a tad obsessed with her sister-in-law, Amanda.
Amanda is a published food writer and New York fashionista who manically art directs every minute of a family event, which makes for gorgeous meals, fantastic photos and painstaking drama. Any time there’s a family get-together, Beth calls me later and I get a good dose of schadenfreude.
Apparently this holiday was a doozy, chock full of jaw-dropping details. Beth wanted to arrange a time and place to discuss, and I immediately vetoed coffee in favor of a real drink. I wanted to savor every unsavory detail in a cozy restaurant with candlelight and good wine.
We met at a cute place that’s in the center of Jcrewville. I don’t know if it was the thrill of being out on a Wednesday night or the extra boost from having a surprisingly good hair day (according to Beth), but I was feeling brightly festive so when we bellied up, I ordered a vodka martini.
As an aside, can I just say, I love the martini. There’s something about the medicinal brightness of icy vodka and the reward of a salty olive. Plus, the glass – I mean, come on…right?
So once all settled in with my gigantic martini (Beth ordered a shiraz), I sat back and waited while she unpacked the family baggage, starting with Christmas Eve morning. I interrupted her only to ask insightful questions like, “what was Amanda wearing?” But as more information came out (a long cardigan, skinny jeans, riding boots), I started to feel ashamed about reveling so much in Amanda’s narcissistic shenanigans.
As cold guilt sept in, I warmed myself with more vodka. I saw unflattering glimpses of myself in Amanda: the manic need to make everything look perfect, the ache for continous positive feedback – only she seemed to be making it work. Maybe this was the basis of my obsession. Maybe this was why I ordered another martini.
When Beth’s recount reached 3pm on Christmas day, I knocked over a glass and spilled water all over the bar. I stood up to fix things and got tangled up in my bar stool. Beth’s eyebrows shot up. I somehow pulled my bar stool back underneath me and started to tell Beth that maybe Amanda might not be so bad. Maybe she’s a bit depressed. But I was talking really loud, shouting in fact. I think I even spit a bit.
I tried to climb on my soapbox about depression and what it does to people, but I kept slipping off. As Beth contemplated this, I interrupted her, loudly, to say that depression is ugly and boy, did I know ugly. I was trying to make some kind of point, but unfortunately the point kept sliding out from under me, like my bar stool.
I leaned over and stage-whispered to Beth, “Um, I think I’m a little drunk.”
She whispered back “Yeah, you seem a little drunk.”
We gathered our things and left— but not without me stumbling after her, knocking into chairs and slurring loudly about how much everyone needs a good pssssychiatrisssst.
The next day was a long one, and having two needy kids reminded me that martinis, while exciting, are best left to childless twenty-somethings who don’t have to explain why they need chili fries for breakfast. My head was pounding with regret. But I could learn from it, right? I made a list. To date, here is the best I can come up with:
1) If you plan on climbing onto soapboxes, keep sober because it’s slippery up there and you can easily lose your footing and your point.
2) When scrutinizing someone else’s narcissism, try to stop making it all about you.
3) Try not to judge your friends for being judgy when your own judgement is severely impaired.
4) Oh, and finally – do not yell, slur and spit when describing all the details of your own mental illness in public, unless you plan on sharing your schadenfreude with everyone.