I drank a lot when I was younger. Too much, I guess. I enjoyed the consciousness-altering aspect of booze, and for a while, there was a novelty to getting fucked-up. When, as is the nature of novelty, it wore off, I found I didn’t drink so much anymore.
Some years later, it turned out that a co-worker of mine, John, was acquainted with some of my old college friends. My college friends regaled John with only the most debauched and asinine of my collegiate exploits. It was a somewhat incomplete picture of the person I had been as a youngster, and about a million miles from the reality of my life at that moment. Based largely on this erroneous image, John challenged me to a drinking contest at an upcoming office party.
A drinking contest? The idea was a loser from the get-go. I had largely put my boozing behind me, but John had kept himself in fighting trim. This was a bet I was almost certain to lose.
Faced with this challenge today, I would have no problem begging off, using my lameness and general decrepitude as an excuse. But at twenty-five or so, I was still very much in the throes of a delayed adolescence, and my carefully crafted self-image would not allow me to ignore this challenge from a younger, stronger, faster predator. Moreover, I would have to go beyond merely showing up for John’s challenge; I could not simply shuffle complacently to my own ass-whipping. Not only did I have no choice but to accept, I had to win.
To assist me in this endeavor, I had a card up my sleeve worth a dozen battle-hardened livers, an advantage so pronounced as to change the course of battle even before the sound of the first shot: my exemplary cunning. John believed that the drinking contest would begin–and thus be won or lost–when we first took up our glasses. He was wrong.
“All right,” I said, showing him my game face, “Let’s do it. But I don’t want to pussy around, dude–if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it right: we’ll drink Jäger.”
For those unfamiliar with the cough syrup-meets-black licorice charm of Jägermeister, the iconic kraut tipple is made from a variety of spices and despite being only 70 proof, has fostered a reputation for fucking your shit up. People spoke of Jäger in the breathless, quasi-mystic tones normally reserved for absinthe and peyote. Some people said it contained traces of deer blood, others opium. For whatever reason, I’ve never had a problem with Jäger, and consider its fearsome reputation to be entirely overblown.
But that reputation had precisely the effect I’d intended. Having proposed the wager, John could hardly refuse. He agreed, but with markedly less enthusiasm than when he first suggested it. Jägermeister it would be.
The party was at a co-worker’s house, and being a work-related party, both John and I agreed not to start our competition until later in the evening when the more reputable guests had left. John and I went to the keg together and filled our cups. Although John and I both returned to the keg several times that evening, I was nursing my beer and “filling” it when it was already nearly full. John, however, appeared to be drinking with abandon.
When it was time to throw down in our liquor-based contest of manhood—well, I guess you already know that I kicked his ass. It wasn’t even close. When I left the party, John was on hands & knees in the front lawn, heaving a black and hideous mess into the grass. I gave his shoulder a squeeze and said some comforting but ultimately condescending words as I passed. I kept my dignity all the while, and waited at least until I was in the car before I began convulsively to spew, coating the door and good portion of the seat. Happily for everyone, it was my girlfriend’s car.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.