With increasing conversations between Billy and I about starting a family, the possible proximity of motherhood has, naturally, made me reexamine my drinking habits, which has in turn made me think about cultural drinking habits in general. I had a GYN appointment not too long ago, a new doctor, so naturally they asked the typical questions–do you smoke (no), do you drink (yes), how much (1-2 drinks a day). She asked me to clarify, and I said I have a drink with dinner and often one after dinner, so she nodded, and said “I’ll put down one drink a day because it sounds better.”
I did a decent amount of research on it one night, looking at US drinking averages vs other countries, and the results basically turned out that the US Dep’t of Heath has a much stricter policy than most other countries’ equivalent public health groups, while there is not a widely correlational change in alcohol related illness and death–and in both the US and Europe, drunk driving and violence hold the top two slots for alcohol related death and injuries. Not to say the risks aren’t there, and health problems don’t increase drastically as drinking increases, of course.
It’s not a huge difference. But in the US, it is recommended to not have more than 1 unit/day to be safe. Most other countries with a body that issues any kind of statement say 2, or 2/3 is fine, and a lot of countries have a weekly correspondence to this–such as the US, which no more than 7/8 units/week, vs 14/15 is other countries.
Which really just led to reading about the cultural attitudes towards drinking, which is nothing I did not know, but basically comes down to: in the US, drinking daily is considered a problem, where as getting drunk is not. But in places like Italy, drinking daily is a part of the social and familial culture, while getting drunk is offensive.
And then there is the idea of drinking while pregnant, and the cultural differences there. Almost every body governing public health recommends minimal drinking while pregnant if not complete abstinence, but the cultural attitudes towards it are completely different. Rather than a culture where 1-2 units/week (even up to 7/8 units/week!) is considered acceptable with little to no effects shown in babies’ development, even mention it in the US and you get responses like “you can’t wait 9 months?” or “is one drink really more important than your baby?” (The same research about units/week is true across the board, it’s just hushed a lot more in the US because it’s so taboo.)
One of the comments I found, and oh I wish I could find it again so I could copy and paste it, but it was basically: ‘There are no health benefits to drinking anyway so why would you ever take that risk? Wait until the baby is born and then hire a nanny so you can take a two week vacation and spend it getting drunk while you commiserate that life as you know it is over.’
Because THAT attitude towards motherhood is SO much healthier and better for a child’s development than a glass of wine from time to time, right?
Which leads into another problem with our culture, which is our utter obsession with controlling pregnant women, and our complete disregard for actually helping children and babies. The entire pro-life movement is completely reflective of this. A group of people who uses shame and scare tactics because they love babies, but very rarely do anything to show they actually care about these babies once they are born. Once they enter school. Once they become adults who are damaged because they were born to mothers who were not ready.
And the point of this entry really isn’t about that, but it really is about how obsessed we are as a culture with judging other people. Back to drinking: If someone says they have 1-2 drinks a day, it sounds terrible. But yet, if someone talks about the partying they did over the weekend, bragging about their consumption (that often totals 7-14 units anyway), we find that acceptable because it is–what, social? I find sharing a new, fancy beer with friends social. I find drinking wine or beer with my husband with dinner each night a part of our family culture. I probably drink less per week than the average frat boy, or even less than one of my coworkers’ husbands, who parties with his friends every weekend despite being a 50+ year old retired cop. But because I spread mine out over the course of the week rather than cramming it all into one night, my drinking habits are more looked down upon in this country on paper.
I will try and find some of my sources and attach them. I was doing a lot of this research a couple weeks back and didn’t bookmark the links. But it’s really just… Both annoying, and interesting.
There is also what *else* people drink that is non-alcoholic where I am also far more European, as I really only drink water, coffee, tea, and beer or wine. I don’t drink soda, I don’t drink flavored beverages, I don’t drink dairy, and I don’t even drink that much store-bought juice because most of it is so sugary I can’t stand it. And it doesn’t seem like that is often factored into general public attitudes anyway. I personally find soda to be terrible in basically every regard, and it is pushed on Americans from a very young age, in spite of all the health problems it can cause.