TV Drinking And Other Favourite Pastimes
“You wanna try?” the neighbour’s daughter, Glynis, asked while brandishing a cigarette she had stolen from her mother’s pack of ‘Ransoms’. We had just got home from school and I thought, “Why not.”
As human beings we are creatures of habit. We learn a set of habitual behaviour which make us feel safe and content. Our habits are series of actions, that when initiated, enable us to deal with our fears, and allow us to overcome routine physical and mental obstacles and reach certain daily objectives – no matter how big or small. We’re not born with habits – we acquire them from our environment, often emulating the behaviour of others.
But in contrast to the simple, seemingly innocent manner in which my smoking habit started, the story of how my penchant for TV Drinking came about is a slightly more complex matter.
When series became a thing, so did my drinking. The back of wine bottles tell you that pinotage goes well with hard cheeses, or a chenin blanc paired with smoked salmon is the tits. But what every single label ignores is the greatest pairing of them all: TV and Wine. Everybody knows this simple truth – nothing tastes as good as a massive glass of wine, coupled with an episode of your favourite series. And just like the neighbour girl Glynis arrived at my doorstep that one warm May afternoon, with a stolen cigarette in hand, so a few other important women aided my introduction and blissful descent into TV Drinking.
In the early days, Game of Thrones’ baddest bitch, Cersei Lannister still lived in the shadows of her late husband, the philanderer and King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon. As she quietly schemed and conspired to make a name for herself in this highly competitive environment, no scene was complete without Cersei swigging back a goblet filled with the finest wine Westeros had to offer. Although, in hindsight, her drinking was a cry for help, she just made it look so damn glamorous. As Cersei’s drinking increased so did mine – and before I knew it, Robert Baratheon was dead, Ned Stark lost his head, and I was down to one bottle per night of the finest merlot Pick n’ Pay’s middle wine rack had to offer. Although I do not blame HBO or those two beefy creators of Game Of Thrones for my descent into serious series drinking, I do ask them to at least acknowledge the creation of stressful plots, and catastrophic events, such as The Red Wedding and “hold-the-door”, which created the type of atmosphere where drinking was a necessary coping mechanism.
The 1st lesson Scandal’s Olivia Pope taught me is: if you take care of yourself, get an education and work hard – anything is possible – even a whirlwind affair with the president of the United States. In ancient times it was said that the King’s mistress held the most power. Fast forward to modern-day America and the old adage still holds true. Olivia Pope could make or break governments with one single phone call. Now I’m not saying that she didn’t possess the self-determination and necessary skill set to achieve these marvellous achievements by herself – all I’m saying is that if you want to bring down a very dangerous, super-secret spy organisation, it doesn’t hurt to be sleeping with the leader of the free world. Liv also showed me that a bowl of popcorn, coupled with a massive glass of red wine constituted a perfectly acceptable dinner. When Olivia Pope had a particularly stressful day running around Washington, D.C. in her white pant suits and matching gloves, and stealing intimate moments with the president, nothing brought her more comfort than curling up on the couch with wine and popcorn in hand.
No matter how successful, wealthy or smart your grown-ass becomes, one can always depend on one’s mother to be your harshest and most important critic. In one of the most painfully beautiful scenes of Shonda Rhimes’ How To Get Away With Murder, high-powered attorney and protagonist, Annalise Keating sits at the kitchen table, imbibing massive gulps of neat vodka, while her mother, Ophelia Harkeness, portrayed by the incomparable Cicely Tyson, stands at the stove tending to a pot of unidentified southern goodness. Annalise pours another glass of vodka and then proceeds to sass-mouth her mother. Ophelia shoots back, “You showing your ass Anna-May – you really think you somebody…huh…high and mighty in this fancy rich house . . .” The scene reaches a crescendo as an agonisingly heart-breaking memory from the past resurfaces, causing Annalise to sling the half-drunk bottle of vodka against the kitchen wall <End Scene>. If highly accomplished Annalise Keating can drink away her problems, who the hell did I think I was to believe I was too good and fancy to do the same? But more than teaching me the mildly therapeutic benefits of slinging bottles of vodka against the kitchen tiles, this story arc helped me to understand that although, at times, mothers might seem critical, and two degrees away from indifferent about your accomplishments, they will go to extraordinary lengths to protect their offspring – even if it means burning a man alive. As was the case with Ophelia Harkeness.
The Neighbour Girl
19 years have passed and the neighbour girl Glynis, who is now more like a cool, slightly judgemental older sister, still denies giving me my first cigarette.
We are creatures of habit. But we also possess the power of self-determination – the ability to pick, choose, refresh, or discontinue certain habits and behavioural patterns as we see fit. When real life got tricky, I would simply grab a bottle of wine and head off to the seven kingdoms of Game Of Thrones, or get lost in a fantasy which involved an affair with the president (not SA), or imagine myself committing, and then subsequently getting away with murder. Make-believe and fantasy, paired with the right wine, might just be the most enjoyable avoidance strategy of all time. But here’s the thing: avoiding a problem doesn’t make it magically disappear.
However, this is not goodbye. I guess it’s more of a ‘see you a little less frequently’. TV Drinking will always have a special place in my heart and home. But it’s time to diversify my portfolio of pastimes – maybe try something new. I’ve always wanted to learn cross-stitch, or perhaps I could take up scuba diving. Or maybe I’ll hang out with the kind of people that make real life a little more enjoyable – people like the neighbour girl Glynis.
Lyle Lackay is a writer. And an aspiring talk show host.