LOUISE O'NEILL: 'I could probably live with making a complete idiot of myself on a Saturday night if it wasn’t accompanied by the Horrors on a Sunday morning'

Whenever I start work on a new novel, I make a conscious decision that I’m going to give up men and alcohol.

The former is always more difficult — hey, a gal has needs — but I quite enjoy how sanctimonious the latter decision allows me to become.

In my twenties I would have trampled over Matt Talbot to get to that blind musician first, stolen the fiddle and his First Holy Communion money to have cash for beer. 

But at the age of 31 a teetotal, yoga/salad/meditation-loving lifestyle has never sounded more appealing.

Of course, that can be difficult to achieve when, to the average Irish person, there are few legitimate reasons to eschew drinking.

These are as follows:

1. You’re on antibiotics.

2. You’re a recovering alcoholic.

3. You’re pregnant.

And even at that, glasses of Guinness may be pressed upon you because “it’s very high in iron”.

“So tell me,” my sister keeps asking me, “how will you ever find a boyfriend, then?”

(She has a point, our dating rituals begin and end with a bottle of wine.)

“Sure, why would I need a boyfriend?” I tell my sister, cuddling my Yorkshire terrier to me in an iron vice grip. “I have Jinky!”

I can’t be certain but I have a feeling when I left the room she held a toy dog in front of him and asked him to point out where the crazy lady had touched him.

In the last few years, I definitely drink a lot less.

I’m not the sort of person who would have a glass of wine with their dinner. I don’t go out every weekend.

My problem is that when I do drink, I’m bad at it. Not bad, bad.

I don’t get aggressive or drink-drive. It’s nothing like that.

My problem is the gaping disparity between what I’m like when I’m sober and what I’m like drunk.

When I’m drunk, deviant Louise arrives and she wants to get messed up.

Sober: I’m lovely. I’m considerate; I listen to what other people have to say because that’s what having a proper conversation is about.

Drunk: I monologue at random boys about my ‘writing process’ and my plans to liberate teenage girls from a patriarchal society. 

Calm down, dear. I make up stories for a living. I am not the second coming of Christ.

I start talking in non sequiturs to such a degree that I imagine I must sound something similar to this: “People should wear tinfoil hats ... Dishwashers ... Why is there no nice word for female genitals? ... SIMON COWELL ... I love my dog ... Do you think Santa exists? ... mumble mumble ... patriarchy ... I love my dog ... I like mango but pineapple makes my tongue swell up ... I love him appropriately ... Tell me where you stand on cyclists? ... Waaah ... eyelashes...”

I ask questions like, ‘What do you want to do for the rest of your life? What makes your heart sing?’

(YES. I actually used those words. I’m blaming Oprah. Our parents didn’t know their inner child from their spleens and they turned out OK.)

And I tell the most outrageous, unfailingly pointless lies.

When drunk I’ve read every book, I’ve seen every movie, and I’ve visited every country on the planet.

I once spoke with a stranger at a hostel in Cartagena for an entire hour about my travels in Cambodia and the beautiful people I met there. (I’ve never been to Cambodia.)

But the very worst has to be the ‘sexy dancing’, as anyone who has seen a 1.30am stampede onto the dancefloor when Beyonce’s ‘Crazy In Love’ is played can attest to.

Angela, one of my closest friends in New York, who spoke like Lil’ Kim and danced like Josephine Baker, told me: “You got some moves for a white chick but let’s face it. White people can’t dance.”

Sober Louise remembers this advice. Drunk Louise also remembers it and decides to PROVE HER WRONG. Shudder.

I could probably live with making a complete idiot of myself on a Saturday night if it wasn’t accompanied by the Horrors on a Sunday morning.

At first it’s a lovely black hole of nothingness, a sort of soupy amnesia. 

Then, like hand grenades, the memories explode one by one, creating a Fear so terrible that Hunter S Thompson would be forced to make a fort out of his bedclothes and hide away forever.

After a few hours of manically texting friends and receiving no replies, I have convinced myself that I have had sex with someone’s boyfriend/father/grandfather and that they all HATE ME.

It always turns out that they’re just still asleep (phew).

It was fine when I lived in a city where I was totally anonymous except for the handful of people that I was out with.

But in a small town, there are always multiple witnesses to your shame.

Most of them were also too drunk to remember but there are always the smug few who refuse to be cool, and who can and will tell you every mortifying detail of your Jagerbomb-induced attempts to emulate Dita Von Teese.

God, those smug non-drinkers. How I love being one of them.

I want to be a smug non-drinker all the time. 

It’s my ‘perfectionism’ and ‘control issues’, friends say sagely, throwing out any old catchphrase from a vintage J-17 or Sugar article on anorexia and they’re probably right.

I can be hard on myself. It’s the same mentality that in the past has made me believe that if you don’t come first, you may as well have come last, only weak people get the flu, and that I have to be twice as good as everyone else in order to be vaguely acceptable.

Maybe I should just be nicer to myself? Spend more time alone, practising self-love? (Why does everyone keep laughing when I say that? Oh. Wait)

I do know that when I’m teetotal for months at a time that I think more clearly, I’m more focused, and I have more energy - all of which are incredibly useful when attempting to write a novel.

So here goes. Book 3.

Welcome back, Boring Louise.

Oh, how I’ve missed you.


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