A momentary lapse in perfection

The things you do to make yourself feel better shouldn’t also make you feel guilty, right? I’m talking about those especially rough days that end with a second glass of wine, or a cigarette, or an episode of reality TV, a chocolate bar, whatever your choice coping mechanism. Whatever makes you feel better, whatever you need to calm your thoughts and get through the night. But ultimately, is that extra glass of wine worth the guilt?

The Atlantic recently published a piece (read here) about how (typically middle-class) high-functioning women are turning to increased wine consumption to cope with the daily stress of their lives. “In a recent poll done by Netmums in Britain, 81 percent of those who drank above the safe drinking guidelines said they did so ‘to wind down from a stressful day.’ And 86 percent said they felt they should drink less.”

The article continues, “Jungian analyst Jan Bauer … believes women are looking for what she calls “oblivion drinking.” ‘Alcohol offers a time out from doing it all—‘Take me out of my perfectionism.’ Superwoman is a cliché now, but it is extremely dangerous. I’ve seen such a perversion of feminism, where everything becomes work: raising children, reading all the books, not listening to their instincts. The main question is: What self are they trying to turn off? These women have climbed so high that when they fall, they crash—and alcohol’s a perfect way to crash.'”

I hardly think that life stress is confined to middle-class, middle-aged women, but it’s clear that some people are much better at handling stress and anxiety than others. I recently complained to my brother that I thought my teenage self was much better at coping with stress than I am now. When I was 14, I would mope and cry and listen to some HIM. Angsty – yes, a little pathetic – maybe, but ultimately harmless. But now, that generous glass of Shiraz, or that Marlboro menthol… those have more consequences, including health repercussions and the danger of addiction. And I am painfully aware of those consequences. If growing older is supposed to make you wiser, I haven’t figured it out yet.

My friends and I often joke about our ‘alcoholism,’ or say “Damn, you should’ve seen me last night, I was a total hot mess,” or “I never would have slept with him/her on a good day.” And really, we’re seeking a bit of sympathy and understanding, some affirmation that we’ve all been there, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing. Is coping by definition giving yourself some small allowance, some small lapse in perfection to do something you otherwise would not? Is it possible to perpetually hold yourself to a rigorously high standard of perfection, and should breaking that standard bring you guilt? What do you do to de-stress, or to cope?

Edit: For those who have individually expressed some sort of concern (mostly via Facebook), I do also have ‘healthier’ ways of dealing with stress – a favorite copy of Franny and Zooey, a bottomless bag of dark chocolate, an Aimee Mann playlist – but I suppose my point is that some days even stress eating or reading Salinger doesn’t quite cut it. And that’s where the wine comes in.

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About evajge

A friend once told me that all I eat is chocolate and cheese. I was both disturbed and amused to realize that he was right.
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3 Responses to A momentary lapse in perfection

  1. writingbolt says:

    So, does that mean you smoke? Or, guzzle wine?

    I have resorted to a number of strategies. I have picked on my skin/face. I have picked at my cuticles (still do in public situations). I have used crossword puzzles to cope with social anxieties at places like the airport. I have tried cool drinks and breaths of fresh air. I have snacked on Cheezits and gummy candies. I have recently been trying Oolong tea and aim to try pumpkin seeds this year as they are suggested for stress relief. Chocolate/hot cocoa occasionally works.

    • evajge says:

      My cigarettes are few and far between and I’m also trying to quit. I have always loved wine, though at this point I’m still more of a social drinker (or a glass with dinner-drinker) than a real wine-guzzler. I was never much good at crossword puzzles, but I did have a sudoku phase!

      • writingbolt says:

        Yeah I’ve heard that one before. Good luck. I hate Sudoku puzzles because they don’t stretch my brain. They just torture it:P Crosswords challenge my vocabulary/writing memory.

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