1. wearing flip flops to dinner
2. smiling at and talking to complete strangers
3. eating about 5 times as much as usual
4. drinking during the day
The last of these is the one that I find causes the most controversy. On a flight to Vancouver with friends for a skiing holiday Harriet leaned over to me and whispered, "are we drinking ?" as they wheeled the drinks trolley through the cabin. It was 11am in Heathrow and I'd already been traumatised at being told I needed at least 6 months on my passport to enter Canada (I had 5) and because an older Asian man who had taken 20 minutes to check my passport before we got on the plane had told me to carry a second form of ID 'just in case.' So I replied, "Well we are on holiday."
In America they have a very different relationship with drinking and see it as a form of sociopathy to drink like we do over here. My friend Steph has a Scottish father and a Californian mother. She moved to San Francisco about ten years ago and after 2 months in her new job her work colleagues staged an intervention as they were worried about her drinking every evening after work. In order to alleviate their fears she explained, "It's ok I'm not an alcoholic, I'm British." When me and hubbie went to Las Vegas we had some explaining to do as 'Sin City' seems to also have an issue with what they consider problem drinking. Ironic really for a place that sells a jug of margaritas for $1 and where you can drink for free so long as you keep playing the slots.
I blame my own delight in drinking during the day on a poor start to my drinking life. While it's customary to have a youth filled with illicit cider drinking and getting into pubs when underage I did no such thing. I went to university ill-prepared for the nights out and had no idea what to order when someone asked me what I was drinking. For one term I drank only Martinis and for another pints of black Russian. Not only was this bizarre, but also very, very expensive. It also meant that my traditional Sunday night out left me so hungover that I routinely fell asleep during lectures on Monday afternoon. Well what do you expect when you timetable 6 hours of history for a Monday ? I told everyone I was narcoleptic, but I suspect they didn't believe me as I slid down my chair then snored like an asthmatic Alsation while Trevor tried to drum up interest in the crusades.
Not being able to hold my drink was also my downfall at work functions so I decided to just tell people I didn't drink as it was much simpler than explaining that later I'd fall asleep in the loos at Paddington so that my male work colleague would have to send a woman in to find me and ask if I was alright.
In the last few years I've been drinking a lot less, first because I was dieting, then because I became pregnant and chose not to drink at all and subsequently because if I had a drink then fed by son he'd be up all night like a loony. So it makes me laugh when I see my in-laws as they always offer me a drink before dinner with the explanation "of course we don't usually drink on a (insert day of the week here) it's only because it's Xmas, Easter, the Queen's birthday, the end of the bottle." They needn't bother of course, but for some reason they feel the need to justify it. It's almost refreshing in a culture where if you don't drink everyone thinks you must be a bit weird. When hubbie stopped drinking someone asked him (in all seriousness) if it was because he had the clap. I might try that line next time someone says "Oh go on, one won't hurt."