When I was pregnant with Jake, my husband and I still got invited out to bars on the weekends like we did before the pregnancy--but I rarely went. Sometimes I'd tell Brian to go on without me, other times the two of us would just stay home or go to a restaurant together, but rarely did I fraternize with drunk people. I tried it a few times, early on, and I discovered something very important that many of you may already know: Drunk people are only tolerable when you are also drunk--and the drunker the better. In my pregnant sobriety, I would sit at a table in a bar with my friends for a couple of hours thinking, "Good God, why am I friends with these people?" I learned how very important it is that either all of us be drunk, or none of us be drunk. Pregnancy is tiring and irritating enough without the added tedium of 7 drunk idiots haw-hawing at every unfunny remark made and continuously repeated in a two-hour span.
However, it so happens that I did buy a lot of booze while I was pregnant. I know, I know, this doesn't surprise you, but I promise, it wasn't for me, it was for Christmas gifts. Brian and I spent that Christmas in Corpus Christi visiting his extended family, and there were many people there we rarely see. What kind of gift do you give people whose tastes you don't know well? Booze; always a safe bet. Plus, Brian's mom and dad have been getting more into wine recently, and have been experimenting with different types and reporting their findings to us (because we're big wine whores), so I thought it would be cool to get them 10 bottles of different types of wine. (Plus, while I love to buy gifts and normally spend the months prior to Christmas traipsing through store after store looking for just the right gift for each person on our list, that Christmas I was the size of and relative shape of a Shetland pony, and wished to minimize the traipsing. The liquor store was my answer to a one-stop shop for all the good little boys and girls on my Christmas list.) So with the 10 bottles of wine for the in-laws and the various single bottles I bought for this person or that, I ended up buying probably 20 bottles of wine that Christmas, all while I was 6 months pregnant.
Nothing makes you feel quite so seedy and shameful as shopping for booze while pregnant. Not to mention I wasn't just buying one or two things, but a whole, bulging shopping cart-load--really, it was like that scene in Leaving Las Vegas, where Nicolas Cage, having decided to check into a hotel and drink himself literally to death, is cha-chaing through the liquor store, piling bottle after bottle into his shopping cart, while drunk off his ass. Well--except for the fact that he wasn't pregnant. And I wasn't drunk. As far as you know. But just as I was trying to console myself with the thought that surely bystanders who saw me lumbering along behind my cartload of spirits would know I was buying this for other people and not for myself--the meddling old man who rang me up looked disapprovingly at me over his glasses and actually wagged his finger at me as he said gravely, "None of this for mommy." Yeah jackass, I got the memo that booze isn't recommended by the Surgeon General for fetuses. Man, it's like a pregnant girl can't even be an alcoholic these days without catching some flack. Things sure were a whole lot different when I was in utero. My mom drank, smoked and did God-knows what else while I was incubating. Now, just because a few babies have been born with a third leg or no skin, everyone's all uptight. (Just kidding, of course. I behaved myself very nicely while pregnant--and really haven't drank much since Jake's been born, either. Damnit.)
I didn't set foot into a liquor store again until my son was 6 months old--an unheard of stretch of time, considering most of my adult life I have faithfully frequented those magical places on a regular basis. The liquor store is my Toys R Us. Or was, anyway. Drinking is not as much fun now that I have an infant in the house. Even when he goes to grandma's now and then and we have a night out with friends, I'm always acutely aware that we'll be picking him up soon and he'll be chirping merrily at 7:30 AM, ready for breakfast, so drinking is no longer as fun as God intended it to be. At any rate, recently I had to buy Brian's dad a birthday gift, and he is not easy to buy for. I asked Brian's mom for hints, and she recommended getting him some different imported beers.
Brian's parents are not the alcoholics I'm probably inadvertently making them out to be, and it's not like we buy them booze for gifts on a regular basis. In fact, it's the opposite--they don't drink that much, which is why it made sense to buy them a variety of wines that Christmas, since they haven't drank enough wine in their lives to know just what they like--they're still experimenting to find what appeals to them. Plus, they have a built-in wine rack in their den which has been completely empty all the years I've known them, so I thought it would be cool to fill it. As for the imported beer for the birthday gift, same story--Brian's dad likes imported beer but doesn't drink it often enough to be a connoisseur, so it was a nice idea to get him a few different kinds to experiment with.
(Certain members of my family, on the other hand, know exactly what they like to drink, thanks to many years of dedicated attention to their livers. No experimentation needed there.)
So there I was, one Friday morning, faced with the chore of buying Brian's dad's birthday beer. I also needed to pick up a six-pack for Brian, since that was the night of my friend Vanessa's surprise birthday party, and Brian would not have time to stop at the store before heading to the shindig. I had Jake with me, though, and while I hated to take a baby to the liquor store, from what I understand, it's frowned upon to leave a 6-month-old home alone, even if you lock him in a small room with a bowl of water and a jar of baby food, and no access to lighters or other dangerous items. Bizarre, but whatever. I'm a rule-follower, so I did what's expected of me and took him along with me. To the liquor store.
He was asleep by the time we got there, so instead of just carrying his car seat by the handle and possibly waking him up, I put the car seat in the stroller so he'd have a smoother ride and hopefully get to finish his nap. I felt like a colossal ass pushing my stroller into the liquor store, but I kept my eyes front and didn't check to see if anyone was staring, or possibly grabbing a phone to call Child Protective Services. As I perused the imported beers, Jake woke up and began to fidget and complain, so I picked him up and carried him on my hip as I shopped for the beer. Then I began to calculate how many six-packs I needed to make a decent-sized birthday gift--I decided on four. Plus one for Brian--that's a lot of beer to carry. I needed a shopping cart. But there's no way to push a shopping cart and a stroller both at once...plus the baby wasn't even in his stroller at the moment, but chattering happily away in my arms...why not put the beer in the stroller? I'm a common-sense girl. So into the stroller, exactly where Jake would normally sit, I piled 5 six-packs of bottled beer. That made the stroller pretty heavy, so I had to lean my shoulder into it as I struggled to negotiate the various wine displays and aisles of liquor, pushing my combination stroller/booze wagon toward the cash register while balancing my 20-pound baby on my hip.
When I was almost to the register I encountered a tight corner between the bargain schnapps bin and the wine gift bag display, and one of the cashiers cheerfully hustled over to help, pulling my overloaded stroller the rest of the way to the register for me. In all, there were three cashiers gathered around as I hefted 6-pack after 6-pack of beer out of the stroller, like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, mumbling lamely about a birthday gift for my father-in-law. Why did I feel like I was lying, when I wasn't? Funny how when you think you look like a criminal, it makes you actually feel guilty, as if you really are doing something wrong. Anyway, no one said what they must have been thinking--that Jake should be removed from my custody as soon as possible--and I paid my tab and left. Along with one of the cashiers, who generously transported my tower of beer to the car for me and loaded it in. Yes, I bought so much beer at the liquor store with my infant that I needed a carry-out.
That's where this episode of The Bad Mommy Chronicles should end, but just yesterday I reached a new low. My friend Brooks recently had a birthday, and would be coming over to my house that evening. I needed to get him a birthday gift...but what do you get for the guy who has...some things? Brooks is a dear friend of mine and I love him. I think you know what that means--I had to get him a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. Not because I thought he'd actually drink it, but just because the thought of it made me giggle. That would mean yet another mother-son outing to the liquor store.
As we entered the store (a different one this time), a cheerful girl behind a table parked right by the door said, "Hi! Would you like to try a sample of our Vodka Mudshake?" I had seen her through the glass door as I approached the building. This was a liquor store that almost always had someone handing out samples at the door, but I assumed because I had a baby on my hip, she'd let me pass unmolested. I was a little surprised she even asked me, but I laughed and responded, "Right--that wouldn't look wrong or anything, drinking booze with a baby in my arms," and she replied, "Oh, it's just a sip." Damn pushers, they know just how to get you. But she had a point. The little sample cups stacked beside her were the size of thimbles. "Okay, I'll try it." So I took my sip of creamy, chocolatey vodka-stuff, thanked her politely, and then pivoted toward the cashier to ask, "Where's the Mad Dog?"
I've got to hand it to these liquor store employees, they are masters at not acting judgmental when someone does something that the rest of the world would consider wrong. I get the feeling I could smoke a crack pipe while carrying a basket of severed arms around the store, as long as I was on my way to the register to make a purchase. Instead of being shocked that someone would bring an innocent baby into this den of iniquity and then commit the even graver sin of buying the cheapest swill in the store, normally reserved only for people who sleep on sidewalks, the cheerful cashier insisted on holding Jake for me while I selected from the colorful array of Mad Dog flavors. Lime green, bright red, orange, purple...wait, isn't this supposed to be wine? It says so right on the bottle, but to my knowledge, there are no orange or lime-colored grapes. Never mind. I'm an old fashioned girl, so I went for the tried-and-true purple stuff, none of those new-fangled fancy flavors. Brooks would be puking up purple, like decades of Mad Dog drinkers before him. I hadn't seen a bottle of Mad Dog since high school, and I had forgotten how unbelievably cheap it is--$2.99 a bottle! See, it's true--you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a fine bottle of wine. I took my baby back from the helpful cashier and, with my bottle of cheap rot-gut in the other hand, I carried Jake to the cash register. He sat on the counter, grinning and swinging his arms like a madman while I paid, and the sweet, smiling cashier asked me not once but four times if I was sure I didn't need help out to the car. Thanks lady, but like any good mother, I think I can carry an infant and a bottle of booze from the liquor store to my car. My mother did it, my mother's mother did it, my great-great-grandmother's mother did it...you get the picture.
So anyway, it's day 203 of Jake's life, and he has yet to be taken away from me. So far so good!