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'Acquiring the taste'

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

The first time I had alcohol I didn't like the flavour. Father said it was an 'acquired taste' and I should keep drinking it until I had learned to find it enjoyable. I was eleven years old, and excited to be inducted into this oh so adult thing. It was serious business, and I stuck at it, for Father's approval, for the adultness, for the kudos and for the apparent 'approved naughtiness'. Like a second ice-cream, or staying up past bed time, I knew it was a bad thing we were being allowed to do.

I knew that because mother was saying that she thought I was too young. (interestingly, she did not argue that my older brother was too young, he can't have been more than 14 at the time, most likely 13)

It was a Sunday dinner, it was red wine, and because we were children, we had to have it diluted with water. Father instructed us that over time we would want less and less water. He looked proud the first time I tried it undiluted - I had successfully acquired the taste.

Father was what was referred to as a 'Francophile' - very trendy in the late 70's and early 80's. He had been chatting with french families while on holiday and learned that in France this is ordinary. It enables children to understand and enjoy alcohol from a young age, enabling us to be in control and develop a mature and responsible relationship with alcohol. It means we won't go crazy when we turn 18 and can 'finally have a drink', it is already established and is not a 'forbidden fruit'. It will not be dangerous, we won't overdo it, and won't end up in danger with the excesses of alcohol in our early adulthood.

As a plan it worked. By the time I turned 18 I knew and understood my relationship with alcohol very well. I relished in drinking heavily, knowing my limits, the shambolic charisma of illicit drinking, drinking spirits, day time drinking, and not getting sick or falling over. I could drink a lot and still 'pass' as sober-ish.

I ended up with the dangers of heavy drinking during my whole adulthood, because I learned before hand that it was respectable, desirable and fun.

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