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who am i sober?
an indie rock show + a hot bath in paris is a good start.
I love playing the game “If someone would have told me that…(fill in improbable scenario here)…I would have probably (fill in expressive emotion here.)” That’s exactly how I felt last week when I went to see one of my favorite ‘90s indie rock bands Yo La Tengo last week here in Paris.
The last time I saw them I had braces, so here it is: “If someone would have told me that the next time I would see this band perform live, I’d be someone’s mom, living in France and staying in a hotel after with a bathtub at the end of the bed and penis motif rugs, and you’d be counting sober days in A.A., I’d probably go whaaaaaat.” (Teenage me would then get very concerned because weren’t we already straight-edge? And not in a DC Hardcore punk Ian MacKaye kind of way but that we just didn’t do any of that stuff? What happened to us??)
Oh, teenage me, it’s been an interesting twenty-plus years.
I’ll start with “hot take": This year I decided to get sober. Sober as in sober sober kicking it like my old teenage self. The main reason being that my mental health was getting the shit beaten out of it and I needed to experiment with change. Since, it’s been a domino effect of advantages that have been working for me. In short: I love it. But saying that, I have spent 2023 so far getting to know myself again, which has been both scary and exciting. Scary because what the fuck do I do at a party if I’m not drinking? Oh right, talk to people and not embarrass myself. Quel concept. And exciting because who knows where this will take me. My expectations are reasonable (I haven’t magically dropped weight or now run a Fortune 500 company) but this Substack is a direct result of the lifestyle change.
When I saw that Yo La Tengo was coming to La Cigale, I jumped at the opportunity to take a night off. Not a night off of sobriety but a night off from having to compare myself now to my old drinking self. I didn’t have to rewire my thinking like I have to for most things like going out to eat or having friends over (these two…) because I already knew what to do. The last time I saw them I didn’t know the difference between a Chardonnay and a Pinot Grigio and beer was for keg parties I didn’t go to. But because sobriety really is such a heady journey, on the metro ride to the the 9th arrondissement, I reminded myself of who I was the last time I saw Yo La Tengo. I was someone who carried a backpack. I laughed sober at dorky (dirty?) jokes. I enjoyed a hot bath after the show (this never changed, I just don’t have a tub in my house). I liked checking out the merch table and not drunkenly buying things I couldn’t afford. Oh, and I really liked Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea. I smiled thinking of this girl I want to be. She’s not an Instagram influencer, a poreless skin popstar, a best-selling novelist who writes prose I could only dream of. She’s not even my inner child but rather my inner nerd….my inner teen? And I happen to think she’s pretty fucking cool. (And smarter than the 41-year-old hag writing this.)
To celebrate time passing (also our ten-year is coming up), my husband and I decided to book a room at the nearby Hotel Amour and despite the sort of cheesy name, it really is one of my favorite spots in the city to have lunch or get a coffee on their main-floor café. The decor is decontracté with rows of paperbacks on the shelves, peppermint pink wrought-iron Barbie chairs, overgrown flora and vintage light fixtures and mirrors.
At the hotel check-in, when I asked the receptionist if our room had a bathtub, she laughed.
And then….when I asked if the hallway carpets had penis and vulva motifs, she laughed again.
I’m kidding. I didn’t ask about this although this did get a genuine snorty nose laugh.
It was the second concert I have seen as a sober adult (the first was Father John Misty back in March) and so much of the experience remained intact like the band was as tight as they were back in ‘96…I still had on my backpack…got excited at the merch table and coherently bought a t-shirt for my son that he loves. Of course, there were small differences like my legs got tired. I texted my friend a video clip of the show. I checked my phone often to see if my son’s grandfather had called. Oh, and the the band looked much older. But then again so do I. (Because chasing your inner teen really is more of interior process.)
I ended the night soaking in the hotel bath with their Negroni-scented soap (if you can’t laugh at the irony…) and feeling good having been given yet another opportunity to flex my sobriety muscle even if I did cheat a little. Now just waiting on that Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea…
Happy Cinco de Mayo from my kitchen table in France (my cat is sleeping on my desk chair upstairs and I don’t have the heart to move the little guy.)
ps: This was my first full post “coming out” as a sober person. It’s a vulnerable space but I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t constantly putting myself in uncomfortable situations where there is always an opportunity to grow.
Thank you for reading.
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