Last week, I found myself in a familiar situation: I had a million things on my mind, a looming deadline and I was struggling to write a story. My laptop and I both needed a change of scene. So, I went to the counter bar at my neighborhood wine shop, ordered a crisp glass of rosé and got back to typing. It worked like a charm and reminded me that treating yourself to a drink is one of life’s sweetest pleasures…
I can’t recall exactly when I came to appreciate a solo glass of wine, but I do remember making a concerted effort never to do it. In my twenties, for years, it just seemed awkward — maybe even wrong — and I’ve always been a rule follower. Plus, I couldn’t help picturing Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary, lip sync-wailing “All. By. My-self!”
But somewhere along the way, as I grew up, my attitude shifted from “I shouldn’t” to “Why wouldn’t I?” I’ve never been someone who craves Alone Time, but when I know it’ll be just me on the sofa for the evening, I’ll visit my go-to wine store and choose an old favorite or something totally new. Sometimes I’ll splurge a little since I know a nice bottle will last a few nights.
Having a glass alone is an opportunity to take a deep breath and unwind, literally and figuratively. Sipping on a Pinot Noir is, for me, the perfect complement to other not-so-guilty pleasures: staring at bad TV, ordering in dinner, taking a bubble bath or reading a good book. Hemingway, a legendary drinking enthusiast, described it this way in The Sun Also Rises: “It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company.”
I’ve come to appreciate the mind-relaxing, restorative powers of my own glass of wine even more since having a baby. When my son was five weeks old, my husband took a business trip abroad and I toughed out the disorienting days with a newborn on my own. In the blur of endless bottles, diaper changes and some hand-wringing about whether or not I was doing it all right, pouring a little wine at night allowed me to remember that I’m a fully formed, adult human. While I didn’t have the brain capacity on those days to explore a single idea or interest other than new motherhood, I was flooded with relief to simply sit down for a minute, pause and be… myself.
While drinking alone in my apartment is more for quiet enjoyment, I’m equally happy having a glass at a restaurant or bar on my own. Not only do you experience all the spiritual benefits of a drink at home, but someone pours it for you, and the opportunity for conversation is there for the taking. I always ask the bartender a few questions about the wine list or chat with my seat neighbors. I also savor the chance to do some subtle eavesdropping or peacefully flip through a magazine.
When I go out alone, I usually order a sparkling wine, a personal tradition born of one of my favorite drinking experiences. Several years back, I decided to quit being a lawyer and give writing a try. At the end of my final day at my law firm, I was equal parts exhilarated and terrified. I stopped into a bar by myself and ordered a glass of Champagne. Exploding with nervous energy, I blurted out something about it being my last day as a lawyer and first day of trying something totally new. Right then, the bartender and all the patrons erupted in cheers.
While I can’t say I’ve been applauded over a drink since, there is always something a little celebratory about having a drink alone, whether you’re taking a second to raise your glass to your own milestone or just to having survived the day.
What about you? Do you relish having a glass of wine by yourself? Or do you prefer not to drink alone?
P.S. On living alone, traveling alone, and what do you do when you’re home alone?
Erin Geiger Smith lives in New York and writes a series for Cup of Jo on wine, beer and cocktails. She contributes to many publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
(Photo by Judith Marilyn)