In which I dismiss a kiss by being sober... Katie Byrne
I'VE been off the jar for four months now. I also haven't kissed anyone for four months. I would like to say that this is a coincidence. Actually, that's not entirely true. A gentleman, to use my favourite phrase from teenage discos of old, 'stuck the head in' over the weekend.
He must have thought the three pineapple juices and five sparkling Ballygowans had gone to my head.
What followed was an intensely awkward scene that made me question my sober levels of desirousness as much as it must have made him question his better judgment.
It was the usual jogtrot of a date: dinner, drinks, nightclub. He became progressively more inebriated. I became progressively more boring.
When you're sober, you realise that nights out are just too long. And as much as you try to seem 'up for it', you're fantasising about your pyjamas and the newspapers from about the time dessert is served. Actually, that's just me trying to seem 'up for it'. In truth, I'm imagining my pyjamas and the newspapers while I'm in the taxi heading into town.
'One day at a time' goes the motivational maxim for those trying to live a sober life. 'One hour at a time' goes the motivational maxim for those trying to endure a sober night out.
The kiss was landed as I was stepping into a taxi. At a taxi rank. Outside Zaytoon. His head closed in in slow motion, giving me adequate time to pull out a move that I didn't even know I had: The clinch, otherwise known as the do-over.
Yes, with a swift duck and right head tilt, I managed to block the kiss and move us into that tactical position employed by boxers for a moment of respite.
Other defence mechanisms kicked into gear: The words "no chance" came firing out of my mouth before I had time to self-censor. There was no chance I was going to kiss someone at a taxi rank, among a throng of couples falling up against shop shutters.
No bother with a few drinks on board -- "Oi! That's my shutter! -- but in stone cold sobriety? No chance.
"Have I just been rejected?" he asked.
"Noooooooooooo," I rallied, "Yes -- no ... I'm just not kissing you in public."
His face dropped.
"Not like that! I'm not kissing anyone in public. Not you, per se. Sorry. I'm embarrassed."
"You're so sober," he said disparagingly. We stood in silence, passion giving way to indifference. Then I hatched an idea. "Do you want to go into Zaytoon?"
"You want to go into Zaytoon to kiss," he said eyeing me like I was the drunken one.
"Down the back," I offered - this would also allow me time to slip to the loo to remove my red lipstick so that the kiss wouldn't mess up my immaculately applied make-up.
"No. I've gone off the idea now." "Oh. OK. Cool," I squeaked, now feeling like I was the one who was rejected.
We stood in silence again. This was supposed to be a spontaneous, romantic kiss. It felt more like we were a long married couple in a moribund relationship. In fact, this is what I imagine marriage counselling to be like.
Had this kiss been landed a year ago, I would have been pressed up against a shop shutter with the best of them. Although I still would have suggested going into Zaytoon ... to order a kebab and chips and engage in another tryst with la passion gastronomique.
They say that people who stop drinking return to the emotional age at which they started drinking. That's about right. My biggest concern about this sober kiss was that my school principal might walk by.
It struck me that save for those behind-the-bike-shed kisses of my early teens (during which you'd 'get off' for about 36 hours and then worry that you might be pregnant with the Immaculate Conception for the next month), alcohol has been the prelude to every first kiss I've ever had.
It's not that it's an aphrodisiac; rather that it's an un-inhibitor.
A few of my friends gave up the gargle at the same time. During our early sober odysseys on nights out, there was an ongoing dare: who could hook up in the nightclub?
Besides being an incredibly juvenile idea, it was also rather bizarre. Essentially we were saying: "I dare you to act on your basic evolutionary drive in your natural state of being."
None of us dared, of course, for it was the most dangerous of liaisons. Perish the thought we might have done something without all responsibility absolved.
"I'm a weirdo," I assured my gentleman friend as my cab pulled out. That should keep the passion burning. The art of seduction is to keep them guessing, after all...
"You're such a weirdo," spat my older sister when I told her what happened later. "You've lost your spontaneity," she continued. "You're going to have to start drinking again."
My sister has christened me 'nana' since I gave up drinking, so I was expecting this sort of reaction. But she had a point.
A Cork woman I know who has experience of giving up alcohol once told me that it's "technically impossible to get a poke when you're sober - sure, you're in bed when everyone starts pairing off".
I knew sobriety was the kiss of death to my social life, but I forgot that your social life is your sex life when you're single.
It's said that old-time Alcoholics Anonymous members prey on newcomers. This all sounds very sinister and cult-like until you assess their chances in the 'real world'.
Of course they'll try their chances with new arrivals - it's their only chance!
So what options does this leave me with? Well, after careful consideration, and upon looking at every aspect of my situation objectively, I'd have to conclude that I'm totally f***ed.