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.