Drinking with the girls

Watched an amazing documentary on Tuesday, 'Drinking with the Girls' on BBC3. I typically don't watch a lot of TV but this one caught my eye in the TV guide, as it was about binge drinking and women. Women always seem to get the short straw in the media, in terms of negative coverage. I do understand that binge drinking is a real problem in Britain, but it was interesting that the programme featured no men at all.

Someone who had caught a glimpse of it said 'there were girls p***ing in the street, it was terrible', but I have to say that there was much more to it than that. The hour long programme followed women in different decades, with reference to how alcohol is presented to them at different stages of life, e.g teens all your friends are doing it, 30s many friends get married, christenings etc, to the extent that it seems there are virtually no special occasions where alcohol isn't on the menu.

Although at a glance, people could say the slot was as an excuse for the presenter to down loads of shots and dance the night away could initially have a point, the issues raised by 'Drinking with the Girls' ran far deeper than that. It featured women in their teens right up to their 60s. Deep down, reasons for their drinking were soon uncovered. The girl in her teens had no contact with her Dad. The girl in her 20s was a student. But the person who struck me most was the lady in her 50s who had lost a baby when it was 3 months old. Although on the surface she was very sociable and chatty, deep down the partying was just a void to fill the sadness of loss- she said every day when she got in to an empty house(she was divorced) she couldn't stand the silence for the first ten minutes then she was okay. I found the whole thing unexpectedly moving and was in tears for some of it. Although there was no obvious conclusion to the documentary, it kind of left you open to make up your mind. The best piece of film making I have seen in months.

I just typed the phrase 'drunk girls' into my facebook search page. Scores of groups came up, with the option to 'become a fan of alcohol' and join 'the drunken text appreciation society.' Interestingly when I typed in 'drunk pictures' and clicked on one of many groups, the first 40 pictures were of men. Telling.

For me the drinking culture began at 14. Havin a sister who is 10 years older meant I got invited out with her and her friends - I have always got on with people of all ages - but they always made sure I never had more than a few drinks, and got home safely. This all changed when I turned 18 though. There is so much focus in society on turning 18 and 'it's legal now' is dotted in birthday anouncements through the land. I think Britain really has the wrong attitude to alcohol. In countries like France and Italy children are allowed in pubs and, particularly in America, they simply don't have the 'drink until you fall over' culture. For so many people here it just becomes a way of life.

I went to uni at 18 and drinking is so much part of the student way of life you'd become a social outcast if you didn't drink. It is positively encouraged in fact, I remember my fresher's week and there was a pub crawl one evening, it was too busy for us and we split off and did our own. Another night there was a 'traffic light disco' where girls could put coloured stickers on themselves to indicate their availability. I just remember girls with green go stickers on their boobs and bums. Classy.

The first term I went out 5 nights a week, as I had saved up to come to uni and, along with a student union trip to Amsterdam in Janury 2001, it was one of the best times of my life. But soon I began to go out less and less and, as the work builds up, I don't think you can continue that type of lifestyle without compromising your grades.

Just before the next academic year started I met my ex. That was my first serious relationship - 5&1/2 years- and although I won't go into that much here - there's many blogs to come about that time!-the relationship became stuck in a 'never going out' rut. I hear people say 'we'd rather stay in and watch a DVD with a bottle of wine' and it makes me laugh, because that was exactly the excuse I'd give for not having a social life between 2003 and 2007. The reality was that the only way we could go out was if I paid or I managed to escape and go out with the girls from work or friends I knew from uni. All I'll say on that time for now is I'm glad that period of my life is over.

I only had a couple of months being single after my first serious relationship ended and meeting boyf. I was going through a bout of ill health at the time so didn't make the most of my single situation in the way many people do, but I felt so free. Me and boyf met the day before I left Liverpool to go back down south indefinitely. I had had so many people in my life that were draining me and poisoning my outlook, I needed a clean slate. It was only a fleeting meeting - a couple of hours through a friend -but a connection was made. Although I get on with most people I don't feel like I really connect with a lot of people, on a spiritual level. Because of my previous experiences I am quite guarded about what I give away and people who first meet me find me completely different once they have got to know me. I also think theres a lot to be said for having a bit of mystery about you.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I looked into boyf's eyes the day I met him, and a part of me fell in love with him straightaway. Even if I had never seen him again I would always have remembered our meeting. Boyf wears glasses and it was only when he took them off to rub his eyes that I saw them properly and just melted! For the next dew days I couldn't get him out of my head and decided to text him and say hi - I had cheekily got his number! I was so happy when he sent me a message straight back. Texting is great when you are a bit fragile and not really sure whether to pursue a love interest. Not very good when you have been drinking though, it's so easy to misconstrue a text.

The thing I like most about when we first met was that we were both sober. I think getting together under the influence is a recipe for disaster, you don't see people's true colours when they have had a few in most cases. Boyf hardly drinks - he just has an amazing energy, another thing that I love about him -and I definitely drink less since being wth him. These days - I must be getting old!-I would much rather have a £10 bottle of wine with a home cooked meal than a £1 bottle of lambrini that tastes like vinegar and makes you feel terrible the next day.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no angel, I love to party hard as much as the next person. But you have to know your limits and when to draw the line or you will end up one of the statistics that we see in the papers -'Rising numbers of women admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning.' One shocking moment of 'Drinking with the Girls' was the presenter being sick, after drinking too much. The camera closed in on the toilet bowl and I had to look away. I've never understood people that carry on drinking after throwing up. Surely that is your body's way of telling you to stop.

So, food for thought then. Next time I go drinking with the girls I know I'll have a good time. But I'll also be watching my units. The recommended amount for women is there for a reason. Let's stick to it.


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