Back off, villagers

My Fellow Inebriates,

If you’ve been following me you know that at one time I had a price tag on me for $10, which covered the cost of two bears—one to go home with the customer, its twin to go to charity. Having acquired an irreversible taste for alcohol in the few weeks I lived at the liquor store, I was determined to fall into the first of these categories—that way I would be certain to go home with people purchasing alcohol. Logical, right?

Yet I failed to be fully logical when I chose my purchasers. (Yes, I chose them—I practically jumped at them.) Sure, they were loading their cart up with hooch, but the woman I’d come to know as my mother looked about 11 months pregnant.

She was 10 days past her due date, in fact, and accompanying my soon-to-be dad on a pre-Christmas booze-shopping trip so the house would be stocked for all the guests they expected that holiday. Little did I know, she’d done everything in her power to persuade Miss P to vacate her uterus before the onslaught of Christmas visitors, but Miss P was determined to remain inside. So there my mum was waddling around the liquor store, hoping some exercise might trigger labor.

My mum was painfully resigned to watching houseguests drink constantly for two weeks while she learned to nurse her new baby or—more dire—continued to jump up and down trying to dislodge Miss P sometime before 2006. Shopping for alcohol was the closest she could hope to come to enjoying alcohol.

So it wasn’t very logical of me to wink at them. If I’d known anything about pregnancy/nursing/parenting, I would not have been lured by the nine bottles of wine, the giant Bailey’s bottle, the magnum of champagne or the 25-year-old whiskey in their shopping cart. I would have waited—logically—for an alcoholic to buy me: someone with obvious jitters, for instance. Not a gravid woman and her clean-cut husband.

But I did wink at them, and next thing you know, they adopted me.

I was reminded of this by a comment from Emily (The Waitinghighly recommended), who, with eight weeks to go until her baby arrives, has already endured months of abstinence from alcohol and is having a very typical pregnant craving (which I have apparently been exacerbating) for BEER. Beer, people! As my mother can corroborate, pregnancy often brings on BAD-ASS cravings for beer, even among women who don’t ordinarily like it. My mother’s been through two full summers pregnant, and in each case she would have sold her soul for a beer.

And there’s almost nothing that makes society more hopping mad than the idea of a pregnant woman drinking.

Even if she’d collected a dozen authoritative medical papers asserting that one drink could not harm a third-trimester fetus, my mother would not have indulged.

Did she have the occasional sip from my dad’s glass? Sure. But only occasionally, and not in public. Because society vilifies women who drink while pregnant. That is, after it patronizes them with zero-tolerance doctrines about fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Take the geezer handing out wine samples at the liquor store the day I was purchased. This man saw my mum heaving herself along near his table and PREEMPTIVELY called out to her: “I’m sorry, ma’am, I can’t give you a sample. I have very strong feelings about pregnant women and alcohol.”

My mum almost smacked him.

First of all, she didn’t want any of his f#cking Dixie-cup plonk.

Second, she hadn’t bellied up to his table so much as filled the entire store with her behemoth tummy. There was no hiding that tummy, and the last thing she had the slightest inclination to do was let fifty other shoppers watch her damage her baby by drinking a thimbleful of cheap pinot noir.

Third, she’d abstained from alcohol for nine months already. And guess what? She’d had a glass of wine on a couple of occasions before discovering her pregnancy, and her doctor had reassured her thoroughly that it was no big deal.

Fourth, it was no one’s effing business.

I was already in the cart at that point and I started getting frightened. Not only had I foolishly chosen family-type people who probably wouldn’t restock their liquor cabinet after Christmas; I was going home with a freaking enraged woman! I clung to the bottles, quivering.

My mother has remembered that old guy’s self-righteous and unsolicited remark verbatim for six years. Rarely has anything antagonized her so much.

Pregnancy is a unique condition in that society tends to put a collective stake in it. Whether they’re grabbing the belly uninvited, advising the gravid what to eat—or denouncing women for simply craving beer—people overstep boundaries around pregnant women. Get knocked up and you become public property.

It’s well established that alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix. Alcohol crosses the placental barrier, causing central nervous system damage, and is the leading cause of intellectual disability in the westernized world. What is not well established is the amount of alcohol that can harm a fetus.

Any OBGYN, unless he/she is a crackpot, will reassure a pregnant patient that the couple of drinks she might have had between conception and implantation cannot affect the fetus, and that fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is caused by excessive drinking during pregnancy, not by one drink. The problem is that scientists don’t know exactly what constitutes excessive drinking. There are too many variables to ascertain a cut-off, so doctors advise pregnant patients to avoid alcohol altogether.

There's a world of difference between heavy consumption and moderate consumption. Source: Wikipedia

Society has done a good job shaming women who don’t adopt the zero-tolerance doctrine. The handful of times my mum took a sip of my dad’s beer during her pregnancies, she did so very surreptitiously, knowing judgment was everywhere. Intellectually she knew one sip was fine, but she couldn’t feel good about doing it—and not because of logical health concerns but because she didn’t feel like being condemned.

Despite my expressed awe of women who eschew alcohol, my mother didn’t find it to be a constant hardship. It’s the sort of responsible commitment parents make, and continue to make, over a lifetime. A commitment made from parent to child, within a family.

Which is to say it has nothing to do with the idiot doling out vinegary pinot sips at the liquor store.

Sure, he might argue, it takes a village to raise a child, and he was just being a good villager.

But the thing about the village model is this:

The village is IN YOUR FACE from conception to birth, and then it fucks off. Yes, it royally fucks off and leaves parents to their own devices, trying to figure out parenthood with precious little village wisdom to help. The village is in your face if you want to prevent pregnancy, it’s in your face if you don’t want to continue being pregnant, and it’s in your face if you, pregnant, decide to take a half-glass of champagne during a wedding toast. The village is like an asshole backseat driver that only gives a shit about your child until it surpasses eight pounds.

Statistically a lot of women make bad choices about alcohol during pregnancy. But they make plenty of other bad choices, too, yet the magnifying glass remains stubbornly on their bellies instead of addressing the socioeconomic concerns that lead pregnant women to engage in reckless behavior.

I’m just a bear, and a drunken one at that, and I’ve meandered again. Emily asked me to recommend something for after Bebe comes. I’m going to say Guinness: low alcohol, B vitamins, and an incredibly satisfying sipper (the beer-review wankers would say “sessionable”). I’m not going to say Emily should have a Guinness right now because I’m not a doctor and I have no business dispensing advice. But I bet her doctor would say it’s all right.

After all, doctors used to prescribe Guinness to pregnant women.

17 thoughts on “Back off, villagers

    • hahaha, I have no idea where I was made; I became self-aware in the liquor store (in Canada). The country is a little more lefty, but not our part of it! We live in a very conservative area where I could get skinned 😉

  1. Brandy Clinton says:

    Great Post! This site is one of the websites I visited today that is worth bookmarking and adding to favorites. I cant wait to read more interesting facts and ideas on this site.

  2. You are my hero, LSB! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Dare I say I am drunk with happiness? You have tided me over in a way that the scant communion wine I have consumed in the past several months has not! 😀

    A Guinness sounds fantastic. I now have something to look forward to (other than the baby and all)!

  3. I once drank a single glass of sangria when I was seven months pregnant. With the blessing of my very conservative midwife. My mistake was doing so in public. You’d have thought I was drowning puppies in the toilet judging by their reaction.

    • It’s bizarre how all-or-nothing thinking rules the day on this topic.
      I read a study yesterday that said women who have one to two drinks a week while pregnant have children who focus better in school! But the study was immediately stomped all over by the reigning authorities in a PANIC to discredit it.

  4. I love this, Liquorstore Bear! Like “The Waiting” I also am 32 weeks, but I have had the occasional drink, and I’m admitting it to people openly. If they don’t like it they can suck it.
    I come from a family of Liquorstore Bears. Honestly I thought we were the only ones, so I am glad for this family reunion. My father has a bear in his liquor store, although I don’t think it’s as astute in dispensing advice and witticisms as you are.
    That being said, my exposure to alcohol has been life long and therefore resulted in, *gasp*, logical choices and a very good idea about what a moderate amount of alcohol is.
    All these soap box assholes have major problems with alcohol in general. Mix in pregnancy and their heads explode. This stems from the fact that they are emotionally eleven years old and left to their own devices they would drink themselves into a puddle of pee, vomit and total loss of self control because they cannot control themselves so alcohol is seen as a demonic vice instead of a mature way to enjoy life. But out of control eating? That’s a-okay.
    Case in point-a pint of Edy’s cookies and cream? ADORABLE during pregnancy. What’s a little gestational diabetes?
    A glass of Chateau Neuf de Pape? CALL CPS!!!
    Either grow up people, or stfu. I have yet to come across any scientific literature that proves FAS or spectrum disorders come from light drinking. If I’m not downing a liter or Popov, leave me alone. And I’ll return the favor when I spot you inhaling a bag of oreos. Believe me, I’m dying to say something to you, so don’t try me.
    All the best, my bear friend,


    • Thank you very much for your kind comments, Mary. You make some great points. This is a huge issue with a lot of dimensions to it, not the least of which is women’s sovereignty over their bodies. North American society constantly teeters on the verge of subjugating women in fundamentalist fashion, and this is one of those thin-edge-of-the-wedge issues. Next thing you know some dingbat senator will be trying to push through legislation authorizing waiters and bartenders to deny women drinks if they suspect pregnancy. There was a huge uproar here in Vancouver a number of years ago when a Red Robin waiter denied a pregnant woman a drink with her lunch. The restaurant backed him up!
      Extremism is a sickness, and it seems to always start with women as a target.
      Good to hear you have liquorstore bears in your life. We actually have a bunch in the house and they are mostly interested in alcohol (although they also enjoy science fiction). I love hearing about other families where the bears have come to life. (I read it’s a common writerly quality to be able to “perceive” us.)

      • Our Liquorstore Bear first became sentient a few years back when my nephew, Evan was about four at the time, picked him up and wouldn’t let him go. He and the bear had a glorious exchange where even Evan’s sense of communication was heightened.
        Evan became distressed when someone would try to take the bear away from him. He’d grimace and swing the bear away and closer to him.
        Telepathically we could sense Evan singing (apologies to Dylan, Positively 4th Street)
        “You’ve got a lotta nerve, tryin’ to touch my bear. If you don’t move you hand I’m gonna swat it…”
        Although I know that the song was the bear’s creation. Evan doesn’t listen to Dylan.

  5. I had a few glasses of wine and a few beers over the course of my last pregnancy, and now that I’m into my second one by almost 8 weeks, I don’t see any reason not to do the same. My body says “not now” because of the almost-barfs, but when things settle down, I’ll know. Mommas know these things. I did drink my first beer in public on my babymoon and told my husband not to bring up the fact that I was preggo under any circumstances. But around my friends, they encouraged and supported a pregnant woman enjoying a well-deserved and occasional drink.

    • Liquorstore Bear says:

      There are some studies to support moderate drinking, but they generally get pounced upon and discredited. I’m going to compile some this week for a Part 2, but silliness will prevail for the next couple of days.

  6. I was the victim of a peremptory liquor warning. At a restaurant, the waitress asked my husband if he’d like a glass of wine, turned to me and said, “Nothing for you, Mommy.” My name being Janice, I was kind of alarmed. It strikes me as more than hypocritical that we will admonish people who are very unlikely to endanger their unborn children with demon alcohol. Women who are addicted to alcohol, though, we are ready to vilify. Never mind helping them to stop drinking.

    • It just falls right in line with society’s view of women as vessels for childbearing. Funny enough, though, that rabid attention wanes as soon as the kids leave the womb. Then where’s the concern about their nutrition, learning, dentistry…?

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