Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hangovers & Me

This could be a short post.

I don't get them.


Well, not what I'd call a hangover.

I mean, yes, sometimes you wake up a bit dry-mouthed, perhaps with the suspicion of a headache, feeling that you've not had nearly enough sleep, heavily disinclined to get out of bed or do anything too strenuous for a few more hours yet.

That's called LIFE. Get over it. Hell, I feel like that almost every morning, whether I've been drinking a little, or a lot, or not at all. I wouldn't call that vague sense of fatigue or unease a hangover.

I think it's perhaps just a case of my pain threshold being set exceptionally high. I have suffered some of the most excruciating pain known to man. Ever since that experience, blisters, stubbed toes, headaches, even toothaches barely register with me. That's not PAIN.

And perhaps also, more specifically, my threshold for hangovers has been set exceptionally high.

I had a hangover once. It was the hangover to end all hangovers. Literally. I might have felt slightly rough after a serious overindulgence a few times since then, but I knew it wasn't a hangover because it didn't feel remotely as bad as that - so I just ignored it, and got up, and got on with my life.

My one-and-only hangover occurred after my brother's 21st Birthday Party. It was the only party of its kind my parents ever hosted at our home, and for the life of me, I still can't imagine why they chose to do it. The bro was nearly 7 years older than me, so I was still little more than a kid, and little experienced in the ways of alcohol (although I had been allowed small but steadily increasing amounts of wine and spirits at Christmas over the past few years, and generally had a couple of halves of bitter shandy or lager & lime whenever I went to a pub with my folks).

This was a whole new world to me. It should have been quite a staid party - small, mostly family (I'm sure my brother must have had the 'real' party in a pub with his mates on an adjacent weekend); but quite early on, things started to spiral strangely out of control. Everybody seemed to have gone there with the idea of drinking until they dropped, even people that - as far as I knew - didn't usually do that. My uncle (dad's elder brother) started the rot. He'd just come back from a Mediterranean holiday where he had discovered a new drink called 'the screwdriver', which he thought terribly sophisticated, and which he insisted on introducing me to. We finished a bottle of vodka between us. I think that's what really did the damage; to this day, I am exceedingly wary of Smirnoff. However, there was a lot of wine and beer as well; and maybe a little bit of gin and whisky.

There are two strange snapshots that linger in my mind from later in the evening. First, my brother's best friend of the time, a young trainee golf pro called Rob, claiming that he could no longer find any clean glasses, and so digging a large Pyrex pudding basin out of the kitchen and filling it with two or three cans of Newcastle Brown, which he then proceeded to drink, quickly but rather messily. Second, one of my brother's work colleagues, a vivacious young woman named Barbara whom I had met a few times before when visiting him at his office, arriving very late (after already spending most of the evening in the pub, I gathered; although in those days that didn't deter anyone from driving) sitting on the floor with me and urging me to share some of the full bottle of gin she had obtained from somewhere (yes, we were literally under the table - or at least, under my father's writing desk). This was, I suspect, the first time (but the first of many) that I have found myself fancying a woman but realising that the age gap made things indecent (she was at least 10 years older than me, alas; these days, of course, the age difference usually goes in the other direction!) and that I was really far too drunk to do anything about it anyway.

After that, I had a hangover. Well, what I had, I think, was full-on, honest-to-god, lucky-to-have-survived-that alcohol poisoning and acute dehydration.

I had all the classic symptoms: dry mouth, dry throat, cracked lips, freeze-dried tongue; sensitivity to light; sensitivity to noise; sensitivity to being awake; sensitivity to being alive; the strange sensation that the inside of my eyelids had been coated with coarse sandpaper; joint pain; muscle pain; HEADACHE; acute acid stomach; occasional loose bowels and projectile vomiting (though, mercifully, at least not at the same time). Yes, THAT was a hangover.

Oh yes, and I got about 5 or 6 hours of semi-delirious coma rather than sleep. The following day - a Wednesday, I think - was a school day. I got through lessons, just barely, by excusing myself to go the loo every half an hour or so, for about half an hour at a time; sometimes I shat, sometimes I vomited, sometimes I think I just slept with my head resting on the loo-roll holder. Probably I also prayed for death and swore that I would never touch strong drink again; it's the kind of thing you do when you're not thinking straight.

In the afternoon, it was Sports. Not quite as bad as it might have been, I suppose. God forbid that anyone should have asked me to start running around in that condition. It was the first week back after the Easter holidays, and for the summer term I had taken the option of signing up for some cheap golf lessons with the local pro (not my brother's pal, Rob, unfortunately [he was probably in the same condition as me that day, anyway], but his rather stern Scots boss).

I was dreading it. Funnily enough, that was about the best I ever played in my life. I was in so much discomfort that I didn't make any unnecessary movements. I sometimes wish I could mentally recreate that feeling, to recapture the 'secret' of the game. My swing may have been very stiff and rather slow, but for the first - and only - time in my life, it went straight back and straight forward, and I was knocking the ball plum down the middle of the notional fairway almost every time.

That was my brief shining moment in the game of golf. I got steadily worse at it throughout the term, as I slowly recovered a full range of movement - and discovered the exquisite horrors of hooking, slicing, sclaffing, etc. (Golf coaching always seems to be based on the dubious premise that every golfer has a characteristic swing which can be modified and improved with careful attention. A swing. Just the one. Not me. I have dozens. I can hit the ball wrong in any number of different ways. I am a golf coach's worst nightmare. Or, I would be - but I've only played twice in the 25 years or so since then.)

So, anyway, that, my friends, is a hangover.

Don't come whining to me about how that third bottle of retsina left you feeling "decidedly secondhand" the next day.


georg said...

I know I'm not going to feel well when I either wake up drunk or wake up in Technicolor. I never vomit the night of drinking. I vomit the following day, if I've had too much. Too much is like matching Jazz drink for drink. I'm not made for it and shouldn't try. Three drinks is plenty for a 24-hour period. The last time I matched Jazz, I drank Southern comfort mixed with Amaretto, and he was drinking straight Jack Daniels, and we drained four bottles of booze. I was puking for two days after. He, of course, was fine. Bastard.

I woke up in technicolor in college. I had died my sheets bright blue and purple. We were drinking terrible strawberry dacquiris and rootbeer schnapps. I believe the mix was well past the expiration date, because we didn't have a lot of alcohol at that time, but I still woke up surrounded by bright red and the blue and purple sheets. Yuck.

People who get hangovers don't drink consistently, I believe. You have to maintain the blood level in your alcohol stream to a normal constant, and then you shouldn't have problems.

The British Cowboy said...

I get hangovers. I drink regularly.

I will say, georg, that drinking things like SoCo and Amaretto mixed and Strawberry Dacquiris and Root Beer Schapps are sure fire ways to anger the drinking gods and make you deserving of a hangover.

Anonymous said...

1. what is the legal drinking age in the UK?

I grew up in a dry city. At some point, it was no longer dry, but, by then, my social activities already centered around non-alcoholic events.

Is it normal for pre-teens/teenagers to drink in the UK, in the presence of their parents?

2. so Smirnoff is a vodka? Did you notice the Smirnoff sign in front of the dilapidated building in the pics I recently sent you? I wonder who's buying it in Kolkata.

3. Do age gaps really make things indecent? what is the cutoff line - assuming everyone is legal... Oh, wait, there I go applying Tulsa standards again - assuming everyone over 18 is legal. What's the UK standard? the **** Standard (are we allowed to say **** yet?)

4. You did all of this on a Wednesday!!!??? (back to #1 and my amazement at all of this).

5. I've never drank alcohol - but these symptoms sound familiar - I think it all has more to do with dehydration, insufficient sleep, and exhaustion - and in my case, all that second-hand smoke. Though I'm pretty sure I've not experienced this to the extent you describe without the help of some (legal) pain medication.

After surgery, I was given some pain medication which I later learned has the same effect as some of the non-legal stuff out there (again, never tried the non-legal stuff). I well remember my body's reaction and would never want to feel that again! (and am soooo greatful to The Bat and Baree Bajee for returning from their night out in Georgetown to help me through it!)

But not all pain medications are the same, apparently. After I had my wisdom tooth removed I was given some stuff that makes 99% of people sleep for 24 hours. I, on the other hand, became hyperactive and decided it was the perfect time to build that closet I had been planning. Afterall, I already had the day off from work. When the medication wore off, I found myself with a fabulous walk-in, newly acquired powertools, and the afterthought that playing with power tools while high was probably a very stupid thing to do (not to mention the driving I must have done out to the home improvement store to purchase the tools and all the supplies). oh well, i loved the closet. and it's not as though I don't know my way around a garage - so even high, I was probably still okay with the tools.

Froog said...

Georg, I'm with the Cowboy on this one. Those are some of the most horrible liquor combinations I've ever heard of - it practically made me ill just to read about them. Take a leaf out of the Jazzer's book, and stick to a single drink, and a high quality one. Mr Daniel and I go back a long way, and he has never abused me the next day.

The Cowboy's sensitivity to hangovers is legendary. It's amazing that he keeps on drinking, really, when he suffers so badly for it the next day.

Tulsa - damn, this is like an exam paper.

Legal age for drinking in bars in the UK is 18, but you can drink with a meal when accompanied by parents at 14, and - I think - you can legally drink at home with your parents' consent at 12.... or maybe even 10. [And you can have sex at 16, apparently.] I would say it is very, very common for children to be allowed at least modest amounts of alcohol at home from a fairly young age. It is in fact quite common for kids of 14 or 15 to be able to get served (illegally, of course) in bars.

I wouldn't absolutely swear to it, but I think the party was on a Tuesday - and the subsequent day of hell at school was a Wednesday.

Yes, age gaps make things indecent. Especially when you're 14. I always used to think that 8-10 years was about the largest age-gap I would consider acceptable; although these days, now that I am "around" 40 - though still, I think, looking considerably younger - I can push the limit in the downwards direction to perhaps 15 years. I think the biggest gaps I have in fact spanned were about 8 years upward, and 14 downwards (I was a bit embarrassed by that one! I briefly dated a girl I met at a wedding party. I knew she was young, but I had assumed she was an undergraduate. That didn't seem too 'naughty', since I'd just gone back to University myself to study law. I nearly choked on my drink when I discovered she was still in high school, had not quite turned 18. She was much older than her years, though; an extremely bright young woman. We remained in touch for a long time.)

Anonymous said...

sorry to make you relive Uni

I'll give you an 8 out of 10 points for your responses.

Ali Bali Bee said...

"Around 40"???? Thank gawd you're not a prosecution lawyer for speeding offences, Froog...