Self Conscious & Defensive Drinkers

In life there are certain subjects of knowledge that society seems to value above others.  While we may believe that the study of medicine, the law, or business will ultimately bring us respect, no one wants to talk about those themes while letting loose at a cocktail party (unless everyone in the room happens to be a lawyer or a doctor).  Meanwhile, the people who have not chosen the path of mainstream education, like the guy who dropped out of high school and now plays in a band on the weekends, are the ones holding the attention of your dinner guests.  The uniqueness of personal experience will always trump education in a coolness competition. I know this because I've been on both sides of this divide.  At one point in my life, I was a scholar.  I studied for my masters in German literature and totally thought about the ideas of Kant, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. I totally thought this was cool and interesting.  I was totally alone in that assumption. 

You would think that terminating my future as a literature professor and beginning a career in a liquor store would make for less interesting conversation or even garner me less respect.  However, when people at a party find out that I know something about booze, it's all we talk about for the rest of the night.  Like I mentioned above, booze is simply one of those subjects that everyone feels they should know something about, but don't.  Maybe they know a little, a tidbit that someone told them once as guidance, but ultimately people seem to be fascinated by other people who understand alcohol.  I get pelted with questions about wine, whisky, and drinking in general once the K&L name gets dropped.  While at times the attention I get can be very flattering, there is a serious downside to this.

If you're reading this blog it probably means that you too know something about alcohol, so you may have found yourself in a similar situation when the conversation turns to booze.  This is usually a guy thing because it has mostly to do with ego, but maybe it happens with women too.  Since booze is one of those things that everyone at dinner or a party enjoys, the knowledge of booze becomes more valuable than say something truly worthwhile, like knowing how to save a life or the education of impoverished children.  When other people drinking realize that you actually know something about what you're all imbibing, they get self-conscious and defensive - instantly.  It's completely insane, but it happens 100% percent of the time, which is why I now try and refrain from talking about wine or spirits at any social gathering where I don't know anyone.  Usually it's very methodical and tends to manifest itself in one of the following examples:

1) "I think it's silly to care so much about something like alcohol."  Well, I'm not the one trying to talk about this!  People are asking me.  You asked me what I did for a living, I told you I worked in a liquor store.  Then everyone started asking me questions and that's it!

2) "I lived in France one time, and we drank wine everyday, and I stayed with the guy who made it, and he worked at a very prestigious winery, Chateau something or other, and HE knew everything about wine, and he told me...."  If you know something about booze, someone at that party definitely knows someone who knows more about booze than you.  You think you're so cool?  Well guess what everyone, you're not.  There's a guy in France and he knows way more than me or any of you about booze!  So suck on that.

3) "Have you ever had Macallan 30 year?  Oh, no?  Well let me tell you - it's the best.  Have you ever had Highland Park 40 year?  Yes?  Oh, that's not that good."  The test.  Someone who also knows a little about booze will definitely test your might by peppering you with questions to see exactly where you're at.  He'll most likely give himself away as someone who knows very little in the process.  However, as soon as he knows something you don't.....that's what you'll be talking about for the rest of the conversation.

Either by discrediting, competing with, or testing one's experience, someone in the room will always attempt to take out their anxiety on anyone who understands alcohol.  It happens at wine tastings, social gatherings, bars, dinner parties, family reunions, you name it.  If people are gathering and drinking, then at some point the subject will come up.  I used to chime in when that happened, but now I know better.  Maybe people like us who drink and understand alcohol are a threat because we enjoy our lives?  Maybe we're all to be snuffed out like members of a Bacchus cult?  Maybe it's that we've spent our free time learning about something that others don't make time for?  I'm not sure.  It's not like someone who understands booze is the most interesting person alive.  Besides, that guy only drinks Dos Equis anyway.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll