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Monday, December 8, 2008

There's Something About A Woman That Knows How To Drink

Give me a woman that I can drink with.

I've always found that a woman who is happy having a nice glass of red wine or a 5th of Wild Turkey Honey has this undescribable aura of sexuality that radiates from her.

But, where would this woman be?

For years, research—and conventional wisdom—has told us that in the decades since World War II, everyone was drinking more. The observation that women were contributing disproportionately to this trend was made by Dr. Richard Grucza, an epidemiologist who spends his time in the near-oxymoronic pursuit of thinking about drinking. As a young, up-and-coming professor (he’s 42) at Washington University School of Medicine and a drinker—“I rather enjoy it, actually; I’m not a prohibitionist by any stretch of the imagination”—Grucza questioned how the major national drinking surveys had been conducted, relying as they did on people’s reported dependence on drinking at past stages of their lives rather than their current dependence.

“We were skeptical because people of different ages may have different perspectives of their history,” he says. “Younger people may overreport their problems, and older people may forget.” In order to correct for this, Grucza and his team looked at surveys conducted in 1991 to 1992 and in 2001 to 2002, which allowed them to compare how same-age groups responded ten years apart. Their results, published in August in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, revealed something peculiar: The American attraction to alcohol is growing more potent—but primarily in one gender. “By putting the two surveys together, we found that for men, this epidemic, the tendency for young people to have higher levels of alcohol dependence, disappeared.”

For the bulk of history, women have skewed toward the teetotaler end of the spectrum; not until the middle of the last century did a burgeoning relationship with alcohol coincide with Second Wave feminism and a general impulse to close the gender gap across the board. “As women ‘immigrated’ into the culture that was once unique to men,” says Grucza, “they picked up a lot of the same mores and attitudes and behaviors and ideas about what is socially acceptable that men had previously held. We call this acculturation—people adopt the drinking attitude and behaviors of the dominant culture.”

More from NEW YORK magazine.

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