Drink - Shane Watson blames drink on sexual repression

I have long thought that the root of our drink problem is sexual repression

Did you know that, according to a recent survey, of the estimated 80 million text messages sent in Britain every day, up to 57 million are made when the mobile user is . . . yes, you've guessed it, intoxicated? And that most of those involve confessions of ardour or sexual candour, and that almost all are later regretted by their senders? This is one of those statistics that remind you (as if you needed reminding) that we are a passionate but inhibited lot who rely on booze to help us express our feelings. I have long thought that the root of our national drink problem is sexual repression. For all their Faliraki bravado, most British people are scared stiff, guilty or confused about sex, which is why it takes so much drink to make it look as if they invented casual promiscuity.

We are not the only ones who use alcohol to loosen our inhibitions, however. All over the world, it is common to reach for the bottle before and during that first date, seeking the elusive stage between total relaxation and room spin. The main difference is that, in other countries, people seem to hit their stride earlier, and don't tip over into vomiting and violence or tears and recrimination quite so easily. This doesn't mean that it isn't still a difficult balance to strike.

For example, in the film Sideways, about two American men on a stag tour of Californian vineyards, the divorced loser of the piece has a tendency to "go to the dark side" when drunk, which doesn't serve him well when the pair hook up with two local women. The film has been lauded as an exceptional take on the male mid-life crisis, but it is also a razor-sharp analysis of the crucial role alcohol plays in bringing the sexes together. Wine is the subject that unites this unlikely quartet. Responsible for getting one couple into bed, it also puts the divorced loser into such a self-pitying frame of mind that he is unable to take the same route. In other words, drink is deal-maker and deal-breaker. To any British person, it was obvious that the divorced loser should simply have drunk more and gone for it. But then we tend to think of the first date as a kind of physical ice-breaker: if you aren't too revolted by the other person next morning, then that is a reason to get to know them better.

Something else happens in Sideways that suggests we are not alone in our tendency to hit the phone when drunk. The divorced loser, a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir down, decides to call his ex-wife from the restaurant. "Did you drink and dial?" hisses his horrified friend when he returns. Maybe experience has taught us that "drink and text" is the wiser option.

Shane Watson's novel Other People's Marriages is newly published by Macmillan (£12.99)

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