Even though I’m a Mormon, I still get asked sometimes if I drink. As many of my religion would respond, I don’t participate in traditional beverages intended to loosen the inhibitions and make the world look fuzzy.
But, I do like to hang out with drunk people in bars.
Bar people are my kind of people. The drunker they get, the more relaxed I am. Why? They’re never going to remember how awful I sound with the karaoke mic in my hand.
The best part about hanging out in bars is that I don’t have to pretend to be normal. I don’t have to be “appropriate.” For me, trying to act like a normal person on a regular basis is a lot like trying to shove an elephant into a gorilla costume: dangerous and unsustainable, unless you have access to military-grade tranquilizer darts.
Let me tell you exactly what I mean.
I go to the grocery store to buy bread. I see the other moms, with their skinny jeans and their curled hair, trying to decide if high fructose corn syrup was invented by the devil. They are generally being low-key, normal people. All of the sudden, “Smooth Criminal” comes on the radio, and the part of my personality who is a big, beautiful black woman decides that she would like to reenact an episode of soul train, and perhaps throw a quarter into a jukebox from 30 yards away. As I’m considering exactly how many rolls of quarters I would need to make that a reality, and where I can find the nearest jukebox, I realize that I have moved into the hated zone that my husband or mother would consider “Not Appropriate.”
Appropriate is my nemesis. Appropriate is a tight-lipped, pale woman who carries a clipboard with a lot of empty checkboxes on it. She follows me around and tsks me whenever I consider doing something cool.
Say I see an abandoned mine. My gut reaction is, “Hey, I wonder if there’s any gold or diamonds in there. Maybe I should jump in that mine car and take a wild ride down into the darkness.”
Appropriate just shakes her head and shows me a picture of me being eaten by vampire diamond bats. So, I don’t do it. Really, I miss out on a lot of cool stuff (and jewels) by listening to her.
The only place that I’ve found where she doesn’t follow me is into bars.
I didn’t always know that there was a place I could check my Appropriate at the door. The first bar I ever went into was when I was 32. It was amazing. I’m sure I looked like a psycho, just staring at all the greasy dudes and the be-cleavaged honeys like they were exhibits in a German Expressionism version of a zoo. If they had sold memento t-shirts, I would’ve bought one.
As I stood watching the drunk crowd give a creepy trenchcoat dude a standing ovation for singing, “Uninvited,” by Alanis Morissette, I realized I could rap my entire feminine product grocery list and they would still cheer.
No need to be appropriate, people. That’s just not what we do here.
So now I go, knowing that I can just be me. Appropriate watches helplessly from the sidelines and tries to yell helpful hints over the sound of the karaoke machine. “Don’t eat those! Who even knows whose hands have been in there!” I just smile and laugh, and get hoof-and-mouth disease from the communal peanuts. Again.
And that’s why I like hanging out with drunk people in bars. It’s my well-deserved rest from a part of me that gets more overbearing with every year.
You see, I realize that I’ve started to listen to that Appropriate voice more and more. All the crazy shenanigans I got into as a younger person were fun, but Appropriate tends to keep me out of trouble and facilitates me living another day. She haunts me, reminding me that Cap n’ Crunch is not actually a vegetable, and that 6-year-olds aren’t quite prepared for tattoos. Generally, she is a helpful addition to my psyche.
Still, every once in a while, I like to take my mad, crazy self to the karaoke bar. I like to leave Appropriate on the doorstep and just let the freak flag fly. It’s the one time I can be all of me, uninhibited and alive, and not have to worry about whether I will embarrass anyone when I accidentally light a biker on fire.
So, no. I don’t drink. I don’t have to. Being free to be exactly what I am with no limitations is more than enough euphoria to go around. I don’t need liquor to let loose and forget about (non-life-threatening) consequences for a while.
I can be completely inappropriate all on my own.