Tuesday, September 27, 2011

At 45, I'm finally an adult

Because I put on so much weight last spring that I couldn't fit into my professional clothes, I cut out wheat, grains, potatoes, pasta, sweets, processed foods, fruit and all beverages except for water (I'm lactose intolerant, so dairy was already out). Excitingly, I'm beginning to fit into my suits again, but also exciting is that, I'm beginning to like wine!

Few will understand what this means to me. When I was 15, I did not like beer, wine or alcohol, but everyone assured me that I would soon. It didn't happen. In college and graduate school, I gave it my best, sucking on bottles of Rolling Rock and sipping mixed drinks, but my taste buds simply rejected it. Alcohol tasted nasty to me.

In my late 30's I began a three-year career in the restaurant industry where alcohol knowledge was required. I had to endure wine training sessions, sipping and spitting while others swallowed. Unable to distinguish between "buttery" and "oaky" or "jammy" and "fruity," I memorized wine descriptions from books. My opinions on different wines were simply "yucky" and "yuckier."

For decades, I've been the non-drinker. With acquaintances and co-workers, I would turn down a drink, explaining that I don't like alcohol, only to have them make suggestions of kinds I might like. It got tedious to constantly face people who couldn't believe a grown woman could simply not like the taste of alcohol. Worse was when people assumed I was judging them for drinking. I felt bewildered and chagrined that they saw my behavior as moralistic.

A couple of new year's eves saw me resolving that this would be the year I'd start drinking. Marrying Mr. Restaurant-and-Alcohol (my husband has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years), motivated me greatly, but my resolve never got me past my natural recoil from the sharp burn of fermented liquid. Each time I failed, I felt disappointed in myself.

Now I suspect that my hyper-mega-sweet tooth was a large part of my distaste for alcohol. As a sugar addict, sweets were my main coping mechanism. I used to eat cookies for breakfast, following up with other pastries and candy all day long. Red wine in particular tasted sour and bitter and I couldn't understand how anyone could finish an entire glass without making a face.

Although I've cut out carbohydrates in past attempts to lose weight or deal with a health problem, I think this time is different because this time I'm not white-knuckling it. This time letting go of the sweets and starches has really worked for me. Why? Because, at the age of 45, after decades of trying, I have finally emotionally let go of the carbs. I did this over the past year with intensive work on my food and emotional issues with an amazing EMDR therapist (if you're in the area, you can find her here).

Delightfully, eating only vegetables and protein for the past two months has cleared my palate for flavors that used to be intolerable. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a glass of red wine, not in an attempt to fit in socially, but because the smell of it actually appealed to me. This had never happened before. I spent the rest of the dinner taking tiny sips every once in a while, just enough to get the flavor of the wine in my mouth. I was amazed to actually like it. At the end of two hours, I'd finished only half the glass, but for once I didn't leave the rest because it was gross to me. I simply stopped because the meal was over.

Since then I have been bewildered to twice enjoy a small amount of red wine with dinner. Last Saturday night, I ate a piece of steak and sipped on Shiraz. I used to hate Shiraz.

This is a huge breakthrough for me, a real accomplishment that I don't expect many to understand. I have long associated alcohol with adulthood and felt trapped in perpetual childhood because I just couldn't join the club. I'm so excited to finally be on the inside. I want to stay here, I want to keep liking the taste of wine and I want to keep feeling like a grown up. I want these things so much, I might never add sugars and starches back into my diet. Who needs cake, potatoes or pasta? I've got adulthood!

(photo by my husband, Bob Martin, who is very proud of me)


cantorman said...

What a grace to be drinking wine because it is enjoyable. I'm sure Bob will give you an excellent introduction, and he now gets to be the guy who [re?]introduces you to all the lovely things wines may do when paired with this or that. Enviable. Congratulations on your new palate.

cantorman said...

What do you like so far?

Regina said...

Cantorman, actually my husband doesn't drink wine. He has a bartending background and his main knowledge is about mixed drinks and liquors(and Bud Light). But he will be happy that he won't be drinking alone all the time anymore. I liked a Chianti and a Shiraz, so far.