As dessert ended, the woman in the red dress got up and stumbled toward the bathroom. Her husband, whose head had been sinking toward the bûche de Noël, put a clumsily lecherous arm around the reluctant hostess. As coffee splashed into porcelain demitasse cups, the woman in the red dress returned, sank sloppily into her chair and reached for the Courvoisier. Someone gently moved the bottle away. “Are you shaying I’m drunk?” she demanded. Even in the candlelight I noticed that the lipstick she had reapplied was slightly to the left of her lips. Her husband, suddenly bellicose, sprang from his chair to defend his wife’s honor. But on the way across the room he slipped and went down like a tray of dishes. “Frank! Are you hurt?” she screamed. Somehow she had gotten hold of the brandy. “S’nothing,” he replied, “just lay down for a little nap. Can I bum a smoke?”
That dinner party was almost 10 years ago; it was the last time I saw anyone visibly drunk at a New York party. The New York apartments and lofts which were once the scenes of old-fashioned drunken carnage — slurred speech, broken crockery, broken legs and arms, broken marriages and broken dreams — are now the scene of parties where both friendships and glassware survive intact. Everyone comes on time, behaves well, drinks a little wine, eats a few tiny canapés, and leaves on time. They all still drink, but no one gets drunk anymore. Neither do they smoke. What on earth has happened?
If alcoholism is an addiction — which it is — how can people control their drinking just because it is no longer acceptable to get drunk? What about smoking, another addiction? Addicts are supposed to be powerless; is a little social disapproval more powerful than all the rehabilitation centers and 12-step programs and fancy new drugs?
Does fashion trump addiction?( Collapse )