It's a bank holiday weekend, and the beginning of half term, here in the UK. In an effort to prove to myself that life still goes on without alcohol - I appear to have overdone it. Rookie error.
We had two families round for a barbeque lunch on Saturday. In typical UK Bank Holiday fashion as soon as we fired up the Barbie it began to rain. We moved inside and started eating at around 2.30pm.
They didn't leave until 7.30pm.
In the old days this would have been a result. A valid excuse for a whole afternoon of non stop drinking! Not now.
We must have finished eating by 3.30pm. Unlike back then (when, by this stage, I'd have given up any pretentions of 'proper hosting') I remembered to offer everyone coffee and chocolates. I'd cleared all the plates. Loaded the dishwasher. And they all just sat there drinking.
Don't get me wrong. It was great fun. The conversation was hilarious, and at several points I laughed until I cried. But - to steal a word from a comment left a while back by mythreesons - I felt itchy.
I really wanted to be able to turn up the dimmer switch, slump down in my chair and just go with the flow. I was way to upright and aware to be able to spend four hours at a table without eating or drinking.
By 5pm I wanted to stand on my chair and shout "RIGHT! You've eaten my food. You've drunk my booze. Now just EFF OFF out of my house." But I love them all, and they were having fun, and I couldn't.
By the time they did go home I had a crashing headache and realised that I'd been literally gritting my teeth for several hours. I was proud of myself, but utterly exhausted.
Then, yesterday, I woke up with a feeling of dread as the realisation dawned that I had to do more socialising. Again, a lovely invitation. Dinner at the house of some very good friends. But all I wanted to do was to hole up in my safe little house with my safe little family and watch Mad Men with a cup of hot chocolate.
I did the dinner. It was fine. But I found myself analysing everything I was saying as I was saying it. Was that funny? Why am I telling this anecdote? Is this gossip really appropriate?
In the old days I just said stuff without thinking. It probably shocked people, or upset them from time to time, but it was easy. It was natural.
Funnily enough, I now remember being this analytical about conversation way back in my teens and early twenties. Probably the last time I did dinner parties relatively sober. Apart from when I was pregnant. And that was easy. You could just sit back in your chair, quietly and serenely stroking your precious bump, then leave early without any qualms.
As we drove home (drove home! Now there's a bonus!) I asked The Husband "am I more boring when I'm not drinking?"
"How can I possibly answer that?" he says, exasperated. "If I say no you'll worry that you spent years boring everyone. If I say yes you'll worry that you're boring everyone now. You weren't boring then. You're not boring now."
He's right. I'm never going to know the truth.
I've realised that it's a bit like learning to walk again after an accident. You just have to take baby steps. And this long (so long!) weekend, I've been trying to run a bloody marathon!
What are we doing today? Going to old friends in the country for lunch. More socialising. More drinking. More itching.
My advice to any of you in the early days? Protect yourself. Take it easy. Baby steps.
Love SM x
For more on sober socialising read: The Drunkard Detector, Tartan and Tiaras, Blast from the Past