The 6pm sauvignon…could you cope without yours
Another day, another female celebrity announces her dependence on alcohol.
A week or so ago it was Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding. Last week, it was her band mate Nicola Roberts, who said in an interview she was so upset by taunts about being ‘ugly’ that she would dispatch her driver to buy her booze.
But women who drink are not exclusively young, or famous. They don’t roll around in the street showing their knickers, sitting on kerbs outside nightclubs. They don’t wheel their possessions around in a trolley, like Edna, The Inebriate Woman in the Seventies BBC drama.
Addiction: Sarah Harding has recently admitted having a problem with alcohol
You will probably never see them drunk or even tipsy. But they are everywhere. I don’t know one woman who does not spend all day, every day, dreaming of the moment the clock strikes 6pm, and she can have a glass of wine.
These women are not alcoholics, but drink rules their lives. And I can see how easy it is to become one of them. Who knows why the ice-cold glass of chablis or fruity warm barolo becomes such a salvation, the only highlight at the end of a long, stressful day
I was in a meeting with a group of women when the new Government diktat that we should abstain from alcohol on two days a week came on the radio.
It was early January, which meant the word ‘detox’ had been swimming before our eyes.
But still, of all the women there, only one did not admit that she was longing for that first crisp glass of sauvignon blanc, and she was unable to drink only because she was on antidepressants. We’d have laughed had it not been so tragic.
There have been three times in my life when I’ve needed – truly needed – a drink.
The first was when I was about to take up a job as editor of a magazine, in 1998. I was really nervous, and had a tiny glass of wine the night before the announcement was made in the papers.
Daily routine: Liz Jones says many women drink every day to cope with life's stresses
I was then immersed in the world of fashion, in which everyone drinks, all the time. Champagne flows backstage at shows, there are endless launches and parties and hotel stays.
I remember very early into my tenure I was on a trip with a freelance fashion writer. She was in her 60s, and after lunch one day in a smart hotel in Paris, I watched her walk among the deserted tables, finishing all the dregs in the glasses. I was shocked. I really hoped that would not one day be me.
The second drink was on Millennium Eve, when I was stood up by a man. I had a lonely glass of champagne, determined that I would no longer be so scared of men, so uptight. A different man moved in with me four months later (you see Oiling the cogs worked!), and then I felt happy and normal, and didn’t need a crutch, even when we broke up.
The third moment of temptation came this Christmas, when I found myself alone, questioning every aspect of my life.
What is so worrying about women and alcohol is that concerns about health rarely enter the equation.
'We kid ourselves a glass of wine is a lifestyle choice, our right, a reward, when it could well be our downfall'
As I removed the foil from a bottle of champagne my only thought was, stupidly, of Kate Moss. She once admitted she hadn’t walked the catwalk sober in a decade.
As I poured, I said to myself, well, a bit of bubbly doesn’t appear to have affected her skin, and she’s been at it for years.
Maybe it won’t hurt. It will numb the loneliness. I deserve a treat. I can pretend I’m having a good time.
I discovered over Christmas that if I didn’t eat anything, the fog – when I could forget my troubles, if momentarily – descended faster.
At the end of the week, I put out only one bottle instead of three for recycling, such was my worry the bin men might murmur: ‘Oh, her, the mad cat woman, she lives alone, and look at how much she drinks!’
Much as we shouldn’t condemn women who have breast implants for their recklessness, but rather question why society has persuaded them they should look a certain way, so too, instead of telling women to give up drink two days a week, we should be wondering why we drink.
The stressed, super-busy women drink because they are too poor to shop, too tired to cook or go out or even speak. The pop of a champagne cork no longer means good times, a cause for celebration, it means the start of a slippery slope.
We kid ourselves a glass of wine is a lifestyle choice, our right, a reward, when it could well be our downfall.