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how not to drink

Reader B. L. writes:

I’ve been drinking too much booze lately. I’m starting to think it’s affecting my health, and I want to stop drinking, or at least cut back a lot. However, the holiday season is upon us, and I have quite the social calendar. Social calendar usually means free booze. What can I do to cut my alcohol consumption while still making merry?

Dear B.L.:

In most western cultures, imbibing the punch is such a natural part of our day-to-day lives, going without seems almost sacrilegious, especially at the holidays. But there are ways to navigate the happy hours and holiday parties while keeping your liver in tact, if you decide you must. (And way to go on being in touch with your body, buddy. Seriously.)

Decide on your level of wagon-riding.

Are you totally giving up booze this season, or just limiting your intake? Apparently, it’s easier to stay on the wagon if you go with the drinking-less option than the no-drinks-at-all option. Of course, it’s a lot easier to say yes to more drinks once you’ve broken the seal with the first one. But cutting back does not have to mean cutting off, and if you can handle having a single beer at the holiday party, you won’t have to beat yourself up for going cold turkey. Regardless of your goals, set them, write them down, and decide what your punishment is for failing. (More on that below.) You’ve got to decide if this is going to be a lifelong change, or just something you’re trying for a few weeks or months. Sometimes smaller goals are easier to accomplish and can lead to bigger goals. Just know what you’re allowed to let slip and when. Planning a single night during the month where you’re allowed to take part in the mulled wine gives you something to look forward to and will make it that much easier to stick to your plan.

Be the DD.

The number one way to limit your gin intake is to make sure everyone else has a stake in it. And the number one way to do that is to be their ride home. Volunteer to be the sober skipper for every party you possibly can. When anyone at the party asks if they can fill up your champagne glass, you just tell ’em you’re the safe ride home, and they’ll probably honor you somehow and bow to your will power.

keep these empty

It's hard to keep these empty during the holidays. Image: Paul /

Enlist a buddy who’s also not drinking.

This is why AA works. If you have someone else whose sobriety is as important to you as yours is to them, it’s easier to stay on course. Ideally, they should attend the parties you go to with you, but in the end, you can probably just have an accountability partner that you call after the parties to swap stories about how little you drank. In fact, why not try You get a “commitment contract” that will force you to pay money to a friend or charity if you don’t meet your goals. It’s like betting on yourself to win. Set a goal of not drinking for a certain amount of time, and voilà. Roll with it.

Advertise to friends and family that you’re not drinking.

This goes along with finding an accountability partner, but people need to know why you’re skipping out on happy hour after work sometimes. Probably your parents will be relieved. Sometimes drinking is one of those peer pressure activities where people will call you names for not taking a shot when they’re good n soused themselves. I think it’s a “share-the-guilt” moment, but who knows. Just let them know beforehand that you’re not interested, and while they may tease you, at least they’ll have foreknowledge so you won’t have to explain the situation to them when they’re wasted and want you to join in.

Get a soft drink in a fancy glass.

I don’t know about you, but half the fun in drinking for me is the glassware. Sometimes I’ll order a ginger ale or a Sprite in a martini glass with a twist so I have something in my hand that isn’t booze. It pisses off the bartender a bit, but it gives me the same look as a martini and keeps my BAC at zero. (And as long as you tip well enough or tell the bartender you’re the sober one of the evening, the work they have to put into your fancy soft drink generally loses the irk factor.) Bonus: nobody will ask why you’re not drinking, because really, you look like you are.

Add ice.

While it’s kind of tacky and I hate it when older women do this, getting a glass of white wine and adding ice will slow down how much you’re drinking because the ice will take up more volume, and will water down the booze as it melts. If you want Kat to smile upon you rather than scowl, get a drink that’s mixed with a soft drink (rum and coke, or vodka cranberry) and then just have the bartender refill the soft drink and ice as you go. Hell, you can even skip the booze part of the equation and people will be none the wiser. Once again, it’ll look like you’re boozin’ and cruisin’, even though you’re not.

Find something to replace the booze.

Beyond just replacing the booze with other drinks, you should probably find other activities to fill your time, too, to limit your exposure to temptation. While I don’t think you have to eschew every social commitment this season, you can cut back on the happy hours you usually go to. Find a gym class that you simply must attend, or go for a run, or volunteer somewhere at least once a week so you have one less reason to show up drinking somewhere. Why not organize your friends to participate in the fun? It can be like an after school special, where you prove that not only do you not need booze to have fun, but riding bikes brings you closer together as a friend group. Or something.


making a baby.

Reader A. F. asks:

I want to get pregnant. My boyfriend doesn’t want children. I don’t really want children, but I really really want to be pregnant. Pregnant women are just awesome. I feel like my BF is denying me a right I deserve. What should I do?

Dear A.F.:

I am a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose to have a baby. I have some great ideas about how you can get yourself knocked up.

Everyone wants one of these! Image: Maggie Smith /

These have worked for centuries (or, well, at least the last half century or so), and are surefire ways for you to get exactly what you want!

Poke pinholes in the condoms.

If you use condoms, that is. I mean, I know most people in a “committed” relationship forgo the condoms.  Anyway, you can do this without even taking them out of the package. Just poke a pin right through it. He’ll never know. Unless the condom breaks.

Quit taking your pills.

If you’re in a committed relationship, you’re probably on birth control. Just quit taking the stuff and don’t tell him. Most dudes are totally clueless and would rather not know anyway. If you’re not taking bc, and you’re not using condoms, you can just lie to him when he asks if you’ve gone to get the Plan B. Whammo!


If he won’t give you what you want, of course you should get it from someone else. There are plenty of irresponsible guys in the world who would love to knock a woman up, whether they know that’s the plan or not. Sex is easy to get as a girl, especially unprotected sex. And unprotected sex makes babies.

Good luck!


watching cancer die

i’m at the nebraska cancer specialists office in omaha, nebraska, watching my mom and a few other folks get their chemo treatments. the docs put benadryl in the IVs and the patients tend to pass out. my mom snoozed for a while. she didn’t snore like the dude down the way! an my dad snoozed, too, even though nobody gave him anything to snooze about.
now they’re both reading.
the IV monitors go off every once in a while, beeping to let the nurses know that it’s time for a changeover, or maybe the port is blocked, or, i dunno, maybe something about HOW THEY’RE PUMPING POISONOUS RADIATION INTO A HUMAN BEING’S BODY!!!
but it’s all calm in here. there’s only one other patient. she’s watching jeopardy. dad and i have raided the keebler cracker sandwich stash. i’ve been working some. i have a few jobs to do but i’m just plodding through.
it’s strange how cancer works. that the only serious way doctors get rid of cancer is by making the patient more sick than they would probably ever get with just the cancer. and it works, most of the time. or at least enough of the time that they continue to do it.
mom’s kind of nervous about the surgery. and the unendingness of chemotherapy is scaring her, too. she has to take pills for basically the rest of her life. and she may have to have more chemo after the surgery, which is not tempting to say the least.
but she’s a trooper. she’s ok.
shes made a friend here in the clinic. they’ve exchanged phone numbers. they may go have lunch.
i’m hyper aware of cancer fundraisers these days. breast cancer is kind of played out. i’ve always been wary of it. now it’s almost insulting, the breast cancer flowers, the breast cancer gifts, the breast cancer reminders. i think my mom would like to forget she’s got cancer and that she’s being treated for it. she’s got more scarves and hats than a girl could no what to do with, but what she really wants is to be able to think clearly, taste tomatoes, enjoy a beer, walk without getting dizzy, and sleep through a night without hot flashes. and, uh, maybe have her hair back. maybe.
so hopefully this is the last chemo. and hopefully the surgery will be easy and short and she’ll heal quickly.
i think we’re about halfway through. i’m not worried. but i have so many friends who have lost moms to cancer — even though it wasn’t breast cancer. i’m trying to be cautiously optimistic.

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