March 20, 1999

One of the women from the Accounting Department stopped by the front desk yesterday afternoon. "We're going for drinks after work," she said. "You coming with us?"

This is the same nice woman who invites me to walk around Lake Merritt with her group at lunch. The first two or three times she asked, I pleaded "uncomfortable shoes" -- pointing to the ridiculous three-inch heels -- but after a while I simply told her the truth: that I like to spend my lunch hour reading. (Preferably alone, preferably with my shoes OFF and preferably not having to talk to anyone for a heavenly sixty minutes.)  But she still asks. She'll find me hidden away in an abandoned cubicle, with my notebooks and my newspaper and my Budget Gourmet Mandarin Chicken, and she'll say, "Wanna do the lake walk?" Eventually I'll have to break down and say yes. I figure that sacrificing one precious lunch hour of reading-alone-time, occasionally, is the price you pay for being considered "one of the guys."

But going out for drinks? That's a horse of an entirely different vintage.

Obviously I haven't spent a lot of time in bars, the past six months. (The fact is that even before I made the decision to quit drinking, bars didn't figure much into the routine. *Someone* and I would make the occasional trip to The Ram for a schooner of Buttface Amber Ale and a plate of chicken nachos ... and once in awhile the girls from the knife factory would invite me to The Wichita for a gossipy martini or eleven ... but towards the end, I did most of my drinking alone, in front of a computer screen.) So I'm honestly not sure how it would feel, going to a public bar now.

Would I be tempted to drink? No.

Would I feel foolish sitting there with a Diet Pepsi, while the Accounting Department is getting ripped on Margaritas? A little.

Would it be scary, explaining that I'm not drinking the Diet Pepsi because I'm trying to lose weight, but because I'm an alcoholic? Yes, probably.

Would it be hard work making conversation without that shot of *liquid courage* to take the edge off my shyness? Absolutely.

In short: the whole idea gives me a serious case of the willies.  And yet -- just like that lunchtime "lake walk" -- I know that eventually I'm going to have to suck it up and say yes ... not only because I want to be considered "one of the guys," but because I can't spend the next forty years avoiding situations where people around me are drinking. (Christmas Eve would be pretty damn lonely, for one thing.)

In the meantime, I told the Accounting Department Lady that I had "plans" after work  -- even though my only "plan" was to come home and eat a cold corned beef sandwich  -- but that I hoped she would ask me again.

Knowing her: she will.



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