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Dating and Hand Grenades  by Che' Rippinger

Use of alcohol skews your romantic judgment
The Denver Post, Sunday Lifestyles,  March 17, 2002   

I just read an Associated Press article that may drive people to  the bars in search of good mental health. Like anyone needed more  incentive to drink. The report from the medical journal The Lancet  found that alcohol consumption "... may ward off Alzheimer's  disease and other forms of dementia."

By any chance, did the medical people verify that it is a  good idea when dating has caused the dementia?

Oh sure, alcohol helps boost confidence in a dark setting  like a bar, but last time I checked, it also impairs good  judgment. Therefore, without the pricey research of the  aforementioned study, I can put forth my Alcohol Theory No.1:  Drinking actually increases dementia. Go ahead, give me a grant so  I can prove my overly obvious hypothesis. Or, if you'd rather, I  can dredge up my own history for free.

Everyone's got a story or two - some have hundreds - about  faulty decisions made as a result of a bad drinking night. I'm  embarrassed to admit that I'm no exception.

On my very first international trip, I was told that the  wines in Italy do not produce a hangover, something to do with the  sulfates, sugars or lack of preservatives. I set out to test the  validity of this theory by drinking my way across the country. The  wines and foods were so exquisite that this experiment was an easy  scientific quest, not to mention a heck of a lot of fun.

This trip was with a group from church, but my fellow  travelers were hardly the ordinary folks defined by religion.  Suffice it to say that, even though the median age was 60, the  back of the tour bus held a bunch of party animals.

One was the minister, who told the nastiest and funniest  jokes I have ever heard. He kept our sides splitting while the  front-of-the-bus people napped.

The minister's wife had a son, "Stew," who not only was handsome and slightly arrogant, but also was the only other person my age.  I enjoyed talking with him since he shared my interest in learning  the language and diving into the culture with our passionately  exuberant Italian-American tour guide, Alvaro.

On the final night, a big party was thrown with copious  amounts of wine served. I was feeling fairly giddy and very full  of myself that night. I had just started martial-arts training and  thought I was hot stuff. I later learned otherwise.

To regain a few of my senses, I went out to get some air on  the terrace. There I met up with Stew. I sat on the balcony ledge,  with my best stabilization techniques in place so I could remain  upright and pretend to be semi-coherent instead of totally toasted.

 Stew was apparently not amused or impressed by my martial  arts training and decided to test my skills. He shoved my  shoulders back, and since my blood alcohol was about 18 times over  the Italian legal limit, I flipped over backwards in a  non-Olympic-style summersault, tumbling off the balcony railing and landing on a bush.

Luckily, it was only a 3- or 4-foot drop, so I wasn't hurt.  Alcohol not only dulls the senses but also relaxes the muscles.  The fight or fight response apparently turned into "flop" for me.

When I made it back over the ledge, I did the only reasonable  thing a drunk and stupid person would do to someone who had just  pushed her off a balcony. I kissed him. Did I mention "stupid" as  a factor in my action?

Let me reiterate that. Apparently the sexual tension was so  great that I wondered what it would be like to lock lips with him.  So I did. I could claim that the alcohol made me do it, but that  is not true.

This leads me to Alcohol Theory No.2: Alcohol doesn't make you do anything that isn't already floating somewhere in the back  of your head. It's just that, when you're sober, the lovely  element of tact represses these little ditties into a cranium  cubicle where they can't inflict social harm. Alcohol steals the  brain's gatekeeper key.

The result of the drunken, ill-fated kiss was this: Nada. No  chemistry. No fireworks. No tingles up the spine, goose bumps or  even a spinning head under the Italian starry sky. I didn't even  fall over on my own again.

  Wahoo! My curiosity was satisfied. I did it. I can claim a  foolish drinking night as an excuse. But I don't recommend it. I  wasn't humiliated by my boldness, nor was I rejected. At least, I  don't think I was, although alcohol may have even twisted my view  of that, too.

As a result of martial arts training, I then went for two  years without touching a drop of alcohol. It was a great  experience, one I would recommend. I wish I could say that my  choices in men greatly improved with increased sobriety. That  didn't happen, but I have since become a lot more present and  responsible for my actions.

I did start drinking socially again. Not from peer pressure,  but because I really enjoy a nice wine with a great pasta dinner  or a couple of beers and chips when watching a game. And I do  alternate with water when I prefer actual hydrating refreshment.

I've found that there are a few drinks I have to stay away  from, however. Cosmos get me in trouble. Tequila makes me ill for  days. And sloe gin helped me redecorate a bathroom one time.

A blind date who had never taken a drink once asked me if I  had been drunk. Before choking on the innocent novelty of his  question, I really wanted to say, "Well, yeah - I went to  college!" Instead, I answered politely, tactfully and truthfully.  A simple "Yes," since that night I was only drinking water.

Strangely, he didn't call me back after our date. Maybe it  was something honest I said?

Che' Rippinger is a writer, cartoonist and relationship humorist with a heart. Please e-mail questions or comments to Che@DatingAndHandGrenades.com or visit online at www.DatingAndHandGrenades.com. Questions may be selected and edited for the column.