1. You are obligated to drink it. While I, like everyone else, enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, there are certain times when I’d just rather drink some water. Not everything needs to be washed down by a liquid that makes you even thirstier, and sometimes you don’t need the extra calories. But if you are at a dinner in France and someone cracks out a bottle of wine (which they will), if you don’t drink it, you’re essentially slapping your host in the face or wearing your shoes indoors in some part of Asia or not partaking in the familial nap in Spain or, well, you get the picture. It’s rude. You have to smile, accept your serving, and drink. The French are not concerned if you want it, and not drinking it automatically makes you that guy at the high school party who doesn’t want to drink when everyone else is. You get those, “Come on, bro,” looks and the general feeling that your abstaining from drinking is pointing out their alcoholism. Why aren’t you doing it, man? It’s super fucking cool.
2. You have to pretend to know about it. Simply stating that the wine is “good” or “delicious” or “extra grapey” is not sufficient for the Frogs. You need to talk about it like it’s a piece of furniture, an art film, a designer dress, and a beautiful woman all at once. It should be austere without being demanding, coy without being slutty, and architecturally sound without being aesthetically boring. You have to do the whole swill, sniff, look around smugly, nod vaguely thing. I have yet to be at a dinner where some pompous asshole doesn’t take the tasting/smelling/looking at of the wine like a doctor delivering premies–delicate and precise, doing God’s work. And I’m the American in the corner who can’t tell the difference between Chateau LaTour and Mad Dog 20/20. Whatever, dude, just pour it in the glass. I know we’re going to have to circle jerk over how great it is for the next half hour, might as well be drunk for it.
3. The hangovers are ungodly. While I have never had a particularly strong constitution, (a combination of being a ginger and too much central air, I would imagine) wine tends to give me the most brutal hangovers of my life. Somehow I’m able to plow through a meter of shots (an actual quantity at bars here–again, my love affair with the metric system) with only one partner and wake up ready to run a mile in the snow, yet two glasses of wine and the next day I just want to sit in a bathrobe in the dark, watching Clone High and crying. And I don’t even have to drink that much, either. They elicit the kind of brutal, unyeilding headache that starts halfway through my second glass. “Oh, Christ,” my body seems to say, “I don’t know if you even have enough Pringles to sloppily eat in your bed tomorrow. Do you really need to be drinking this shit again?” I don’t know if it’s the tannins or an allergic reaction to the bullshit descriptions on the labels, but my anatomy can’t take it.
4. It’s deceptively cheap. Despite my impossibly high standards for everyone around me, I am not incredibly wealthy. In fact, I often find myself deciding between a pair of shoes I like here and eating for a week (take the shoes, duh! Live fat or die fabulous LOL!). And as a direct result of this, I began binge-drinking wine the moment I got here, as it is routinely the least expensive drink on the menu. Side note–5 Euro for a coke and 5.50 for an orange juice? Right, France. I’m sure like everything else in your country, they’re made out of diamonds and self-righteousness, but come the fuck on. Anyway, whenever I go out to eat(more or less to this day) the cheap asshole in me insists on ordering wine. It’s so easy to go out and hit the bars and order 4 glasses of your favorite wine (that they’ve usually cut with water, bastards) because you think it’s cheap and realize you could have saved yourself the time and energy and taken two shots. Frankly, as much as I idolize the fabulous, pointy-looking suburban housewives who get that zesty sort of drunk off of wine, I don’t know how they do it. Drinking red wine is like eating bread. It’s heavy, it’s filling, and leaves you really thirsty. After a few glasses, no matter how cheap, I just need to lie down and unbutton my pants (and not in the sexy way).
5. It’s messy. I don’t know who put out the APB that French people need to only serve red wine out of plastic cups at their house parties, but they need to chill the fuck out. While perhaps a preferable gastronomical alternative to Natty Ice, at least light beer is relatively easy to clean. It’s exhausting going to parties filled with progressively drunker people who are armed with red, permanently staining liquid. Each grand gesture that accompanies an inane thought about how America’s long-term goal is to invade every country more brown than Mariah Carey inevitably results in the launch of an ample splash of red across everything in front of them. And every time I take the metro home, I look down at my clothes (when did I start wearing so much white?) and I look like I just came from the set of a snuff film. It sucks.
Stop drinking wine for a while, France. I recommend, as a fair alternative, Vodka Red Bulls.