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?
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)