“Our doctor says we’ve become alcoholics.” The man opposite me took hold of his wife’s hand as a sign of mutual support while I sat stunned, staring at the couple I’d known since college. I admit, I took umbrage on behalf of my friends because they were the most everyday people I could imagine. I wanted to shout, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe it.” But I didn’t. Who was I to quarrel with a doctor’s judgment?
After a moment of silence to allow his news to sink in, the husband went on to explain, “We like a cocktail each evening and a couple of glasses of wine at dinner.”
Hearing him, I fell back in my chair. “That’s it? A cocktail and wine at dinner?”
“That’s it,” my friend murmured, seeming as mystified as he’d been given wings and told to fly.
A few days later, after I’d forgotten that conversation, I came upon an article about drinking in Town&Country. “The Tippling Point” reviewed the new alcohol consumptions standards published by the American Heart Association. According to that august body, a man should drink no more than two alcoholic beverages per day and a women but one. (The Tippling Point,” by Lawrence Osborne, Town&Country, January 2014 pg. 64) Indulging any more than that constitutes a drinking disorder.
I felt my blood begin to boil again. Having lived abroad, I wondered how these standards would be viewed in places like Italy, France or South Africa where most evenings begin with a sundowner followed by wine at dinner. I’ve spent time in these countries and don’t recall ever thinking the residents were flaming alcoholics.
In my view, we Americans are too weighed down by our Puritan origins. Either that or we’re still suffering a hangover from Prohibition. Certainly, the standards of the American Heart Association run counter to the drinking habits practiced around much of the globe. Even Benjamin Franklin liked his drink and was fond of saying, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” (Benjamin Franklin, 1790) For a mathematical proof, see the picture below.
(Courtesy of www.secretsofthefed.com)