Drinking and Midlife

A Delicate Balance

Lisa Renee


The Hangover, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1887–1889

This may turn into a love letter to booze, so let’s just start here: I’ve never been a heavy drinker. Addiction and recovery is not, thankfully, part of my story. I’ve always been a lightweight, a cheap date (maybe it’s time to retire that phrase), and have practiced moderation. I was a teen idiot, like most of you (admit it) — piss beer in red solo cups, underage candy girl cocktails (remember Sombreros, Brandy Alexanders, pastel potions with umbrellas?). But I had kids young and hit the brakes early.

In my thirties, I settled into a fairly reasonable and comfortable routine of occasional wine with dinner, a cocktail at a party. Then I got older and wine with dinner was a nearly nightly habit. Then, I got even older, and my body did what aging bodies do — it rewrote all the rules.

Anecdotal info (because we never get research) suggests a dip in tolerance for women in the middle. Midlife and menopause changed my relationship with alcohol and I’m not happy about it. There’s a newly installed warning system, sensitive to anything fun. Alarms are going off constantly:

Too many onions! Too much garlic! Gluten is bad now! Put down the wine! No more salt! All of this is subject to change!

I have many friends who are questioning their midlife drinking, feeling like shit and adjusting habits. The older we get, the harder it is to ignore the body. Insomnia, heartburn, aching joints, spinning rooms. The messages get louder as the middle starts to whisper about the end.

I wish I could be one of those ladies who drinks without consequence. Do they exist?


I love a drink. A cocktail, a goblet of wine. A few fingers of amber warmth, or a coupe of bittered bubbles. A spritz on a hot day, gin and tonic at the beach. I still think about that French 75 on Christmas Eve. I’m in love with the ritual and the throwback sophistication of a cocktail, or a glass of good wine with dinner. It’s punctuation in a day, a welcome gear shift.

A lifetime of low tolerance keeps my consumption down and I’m picky. Beer is not my thing and I don’t like the boxes of red that Steven brings home. A cocktail is a rare treat. I don’t drink to get drunk (fitful sleep and deep regret happens long…