Friday, June 6, 2008

Anatomy of a Hangover

We all know the myriad benefits of alcohol. It puts a tickle in your trousers and a tale on your tongue. It has a knack for making those pesky inhibitions fade away. It is the prefered vehicle for bonding, and the social benefits derived from sharing a drink with someone really can't be overstated. In fact, my Grandfather used to famously tell me that you should never trust a man who won't have a drink with you (my Grandmother, on the other hand, was famous for advising: "never marry a man who drinks"). Of all the things my friends and I like to do, I would venture to guess that in about 95% of those things, the enjoyment is greatly enhanced with the addition of alcohol. Softball? Check. Camping? Check. Skilled games of hand-eye co-ordination? Check. And though it may be true that some of us have what others consider to be a mild drinking "problem", most of us can rest assured that at least we're not full-fledged alcholics. Because as we all know, alcoholics go to meetings.

It is for these reasons, then, that we choose to contend with the hangover. I've been fortunate in my life, because I generally know when to shut it down, and I don't get goaded into nearly as many games of competitive drinking as I used to. As a result, I haven't had to deal with those epic sorts of hangovers for quite some time (although, with this being the first true summer-like weekend in Toronto, there's a good chance I'll be changing my tune come Sunday morning). In any event, I don't claim to have a remedy for those wicked, mind-crushing hangovers, the only thing I ever really prescribe for myself after a night of debauchery being multiple pints of water and about 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

But for those of you longing for more creative cures, check out the following piece. Some of the highlights for me were the names given to hangovers by different cultures ("made of rubber", "hair ache", "howling of kittens", and "carpenters in the forehead"), and the fact that taking Tylenol is one of the worst things you can do for your hangover (something I've long suspected).

Bottoms Up!

A Few Too Many, by Joan Acocella

Of the miseries regularly inflicted on humankind, some are so minor and yet, while they last, so painful that one wonders how, after all this time, a remedy cannot have been found. If scientists do not have a cure for cancer, that makes sense. But the common cold, the menstrual cramp? The hangover is another condition of this kind. It is a preventable malady: don’t drink. Nevertheless, people throughout time have found what seemed to them good reason for recourse to alcohol. One attraction is alcohol’s power to disinhibit—to allow us, at last, to tell off our neighbor or make an improper suggestion to his wife. Alcohol may also persuade us that we have found the truth about life, a comforting experience rarely available in the sober hour. Through the lens of alcohol, the world seems nicer. (“I drink to make other people interesting,” the theatre critic George Jean Nathan used to say.) For all these reasons, drinking cheers people up. See Proverbs 31:6-7: “Give . . . wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” It works, but then, in the morning, a new misery presents itself...

Read more HERE.

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