Do you need booze to flirt?

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 05:12 30/11/2013
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DUTCH COURAGE: Revellers partying in Ibiza get through the sangria.

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It's that time of year.

The bars are filling. People are swilling. Cheer is spilling out from every glass. Girls look across the room at boys, boys return glances. No one wants to be alone at Christmas. But what's to be done?

Drink more, and have a crack. Still too nervous? Still not drunk enough. Keep guzzling grog until you're game enough to approach. Dutch courage, that's the trick. Sobriety breeds awkwardness, and alcohol is the best remedy.

Don't you agree?

Some people can't face flirtation without a bit of booze. More than a bit, actually. I was reminded of this while watching The Big Bang Theory recently. Particle astrophysicist Rajesh Ramayan "Raj" Koothrappali was unable to talk to women apart from his mother and sister for the first six seasons of the show unless he had something to drink, or swallow. He may be a TV character, but is his experience so far from reality?

"All my recent relationships began at the bar, yeah," one friend reports.

"You could say they all began with a fair bit of booze. In fact, with my last girlfriend, I don't think I was free from liquor until about our fifth date. And we'd slept together a few times before then."

Date, in this scenario, involved dinner and shebang - more than just a casual catch-up (read: drink), or casual sex for that matter. Meaning this man had spent a lot of time with another woman while not completely himself. Solid foundation for a relationship? Methinks not.

But true love, forever wasn't really his point.

"Maybe now I'd like to settle down. But then, all I was looking for was fun. It didn't matter I was drinking a lot. So long as there was a bit of sex and a bit of banter - what did it matter?"

Fair point?

My other mate also drinks, but in slightly different circumstances. Perhaps she's a little closer to Raj in her disposition. Men aren't scary, per say, but they can be confronting, especially for a single-mother ''getting amongst'' this online dating business.

"I don't think I could go on a date without something to settle my nerves first," she says.

"I feel embarrassed enough as it is. I figure I'll probably embarrass myself anyway. May as well grease the wheels enough that I won't feel so embarrassed as I would on a dry wagon.

"Plus, men like women who are, you know, 'available'. I don't think I'd make myself as available as I do if I hadn't washed down my dignity with a drink, or five."

She says this jokingly. But I can't help but hear a note of truth. Maybe not my friend, but I know there are some women who get drunk and really do lose it. Sometimes, it really doesn't end so very well at all. It doesn't end so for both parties. Sometimes.

Yet we do it - we drink. We drink and drink and drink and do things that we wouldn't do otherwise. We drink to let go, get loose, get it on. We drink because everyone else is. We drink because we can, and it's fun, and we work too damned hard. We drink because we don't know what the hell to do otherwise.

Are we drinking because we don't know how to date? Is the incapability of a sitcom character to be sexually social manifest in our culture?

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When it comes to courtship, do we drink because we stink?

Clearly, there's nothing wrong with a tipple. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with enjoying an entire bottle of fine Champagne, by yourself, over a matter of hours, with fine cheese, in the sun, every once in a while, if the mood strikes you: don't-judge-me-I-like-bubbles.

But there is something wrong with a culture that prefers personal encounters to proliferate in public bars. We do have a problem if we're only capable of striking up a conversation only if we've well and truly wet our whistle first. It's a problem because it's immature.

People who are infirm use crutches. So I wonder, if piss is your protection, what is your ailment?

And I believe that until you can answer that question, there's no way you're going to find love. Not the real stuff that lasts longer than a hangover anyway.

Do you?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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