Why Men Drink.
“Married men live longer than single men. But married men are a lot more willing to die.” Johnny Carson
Women are a curious bunch. I’d like to say clever on one hand, devious on the other, but that’s an oversimplification. Women have a wide range of thoughts and feelings and motivations. We just never know what they mean. All we do know is they scare the shit out of us.
It’s hard to say if that’s a woman’s intended purpose. Maybe women just want understanding. Males aren’t good at that. We’re better at throwing balls. Men have been throwing balls for centuries. I think it’s to get out of understanding women.
Not all ballplayers ignore their women, just as not all ballplayers drink. Most do, though. Sometimes they don’t have a ball to throw around.
Great ballplayers probably understand women the least. Divorce rates among the athletic elite hover between 60 and 80 percent. The whole notion of “keep your eye on the ball” obviously leaves little time to keep an eye on one’s partner. Again, an oversimplification. Not all ballplayers ignore their women, just as not all ballplayers drink. Most do, though. Sometimes they don’t have a ball to throw around.
Anyway, to understand why this is the case, we need to look at women through a historical eye, particularly how drinking coincides with women scaring the shit out of us.
At the turn of the 20th century, women were still in the early stages of the suffragette movement. As they rose up, men did what they usually do in uncomfortable situations. They got scared, they railed against women, then they drank. Men were (are) big scaredy cats.
Somehow that played right into women’s hands. Prohibition was on a lot of people’s minds back then. Temperance movements decried drink, calling it a “a curse on civilized society.” It destroyed families, and livers, and bank accounts and, frankly, didn’t do much for the economy.
All of which made politicians nervous since they were drinkers themselves. They saw rights groups like Women’s Christian Temperance Union aligning with the prohibitionists. Noble as their cause sounded, it only made men drink more, figuring they were no angels themselves, and there wouldn’t be a drop of alcohol anywhere if this thing took off.
So they railed against the women rallying, using violence and spitting wherever necessary. What men didn’t realize was that women were using Prohibition to gain a foothold into national politics. Several women’s suffrage associations produced pamphlets and magazines promoting their cause — even picketing the White House.
If speakeasies represented anything, it was just how afraid men were of women. And who wouldn’t be?
The picture you see above was one of their posters, done about the time President Woodrow Wilson switched his stance on women’s suffrage. With him on board, it’s no coincidence the 18th Amendment (prohibition) and the 19th Amendment (women’s right to vote) came along about the same time. It was, in a sense, a very clever maneuver.
Not that it stopped men from drinking. If speakeasies represented anything, it was just how afraid men were of women. And who wouldn’t be? In 1924, Maria C. Brehm was the first female candidate for vice president. In mills and factories all over the country, women were still employed on the assembly lines after the war, earning their own pay, and supporting the economy by buying new consumer products.
With this new disposable income, women became emboldened. To say “Lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours,” was a threat that couldn’t be ignored.
Except some women weren’t following the program. They were drinking at the speakeasies, too, confusing the hell out of men again. So men drank more, figuring somebody was going to see the irony, even if women didn’t.
Then Prohibition ended, bars opened up, and drinking was only interrupted by another war. I say “interrupted” because everyone still drank, but they did it in uniform. This made it all right. Uniforms made everything all right.
Women were enjoying new roles in society, including drinking and smoking, and carrying on the way men did.
By the time WWII ended, men came home to a changed America. Women were enjoying new roles in society, including drinking and smoking, and carrying on the way men did. Some even wore pants, and talked the lingo of the factories. For men who saw the horrors of war, this seemed worse. Who could make sense of women playing such an active lingo-ish role in society?
It was a tough adjustment to make. Men tried, obviously, furthering their educations through the GI Bills, joining trade unions (something women were doing already), and drinking. If women scared the shit out of men before the war, think what they were doing in the 50s and 60s, expressing themselves and wearing whatever they wanted. It was like stepping through the looking-glass and seeing a big-eyed cat. What choice did men have but to go out and get drunk?
Legions and Masonic Lodges were simply a way men could drink surrounded by other men who drank. By the time they got home, it didn’t matter who ran the household, or what labor-saving device was there in the kitchen. It made even less sense with a hangover.
Meanwhile, women were becoming major players in the increasingly consumer-driven popular culture. Cosmetics, in particular, soared in popularity. With their newfound wealth, women became drunk on consumption. They bought cars and poodles and ran up credit card debt. They also started drinking more, possibly because they were running up so much debt.
Among the obvious, like pink Cadillacs and fake fur, was the invention of the sweet alcoholic drink, better known as “the cooler.” Next thing you know, women are out-drinking men.
Marketers saw opportunity. If women were the “new consumers,” then products should be directed at them. Among the obvious, like pink Cadillacs and fake fur, was the invention of the sweet alcoholic drink, better known as “the cooler.” Next thing you know, women were (are) out-drinking men. Not all men, obviously, since men don’t take a challenge like drinking lightly, but it proved to be problematic just the same.
In an analysis published in the journal BMJ Open, 68 international studies were pooled, showing women have reached drinking parity with men, a dangerous situation, since women don’t tolerate alcohol based on their higher fat-to-water ratio. Because they have less water, the alcohol in their system remains more concentrated. They also have smaller livers.
The result is exactly what you’d expect. Women get drunk faster and stay drunk longer, making them bad drunks, or fun drunks, depending on which bartender you ask on Belly-Shot Nights.
Organizations like the Institute of Alcoholic Studies blame marketers for influencing women on specifically female programs. Bailey’s, for instance, backed Desperate Housewives. Then there’s Bumble, an app created by women, using pink tennis balls and the slogan “The ball’s in her court.” They’ve upped their media and online presence, drawing millennial women out on dates more, and drinking more, and God knows what else since “the ball’s in their court.”
We’ve lost the consumer game (women make 91% of purchases), and now we’ve lost the drinking game (women are now moving into the lead).
All of which has men scratching their heads. We’ve lost the consumer game (women make 91% of purchases), and now we’re losing the drinking game (women are now moving into the lead).
What’re scaredy cats like us supposed to do? Well, there’s no definitive answer. Our crutch has become their crutch. And maybe (hopefully) women aren’t so scary when they’re drunk or you’re drunk with them.
Not that women care one way or the other. They’re going out for drinks with their girlfriends after work. While they’re doing that, maybe we could make ourselves useful by doing the dishes, or cleaning out the garage, or trimming the cat’s nails.
Well, normally we’d drink in situations like this. But the garage is a mess, the dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, and the cat’s nails are atrocious. So we might as well get scrubbing and sweeping and clipping.
Women, huh? They’re right back scaring us again.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, satirist, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive) is available through Skyhorse Press. You can read Robert’s other articles and stories at robertcormack.net
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