The real reason

The one time I really needed to be a quitter

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I was late to lunch again, big surprise. Grant and Lary always act affronted by this, as if I were applying for a job with them rather than showing up for my normal dose of denigration. They should be more like Daniel, I say, whose practice is to just go about lunch as though he didn't have a date with me at all, then when I finally do appear, he's super happy to see me. "Why can't you two blowtards be more like Daniel?" I griped as I sat down, which gave them the cue to rise as though lunch were over.

"At least you made it in time to say goodbye," Grant quipped.

"Sit down, Lord Jesus God," I hollered, and they did, but not because I begged them to. No, the real reason is there was still a drop or two left in their cocktail glasses. "I'm sorry I'm late," I sighed. "The city is laying new roads, and the asphalt is all torn up like pork chops after a pit-bull attack."

This is not the real reason, but one that will do. The real reason is that I spent the morning rummaging through my closet to find clothes to fit my big mom body, something these two sea urchins will never understand. By the time I finished wailing and got dressed, I was so late for lunch that the kitchen was closed and Lary had to begrudgingly let me nibble on his leftovers. Not that he wanted them for himself. No, the real reason is he likes to take any opportunity to point out that, unlike me, he has not gained one single pound since we met 15 years ago.

"Look, loser," I tell him, "when I want to sign up for the Lary Blodgett coffee-enema-and-Internet-amphetamine diet, I'll make sure to tell you so we can shop for matching hospital gowns. But for now I'd like to live, so fork over the tuna roll, turdball."

Lary had just come back from the Caribbean, where he'd been living under a lean-to (probably) off the coast of Turks and Caicos for a few months, threatening never to return to Atlanta. This caused me to, in turn, threaten to track him down and build my own lean-to right next to his. He returned home, he says, to save my life, because if I moved in on him he'd have to kill me. Especially since I don't drink anymore.

"Bitch, have a cocktail," Grant insisted. It's been three years since I quit drinking, but Grant acts like this is just a phase, as though it's just a matter of catching me in the right mood and I'll have my shirt open, demanding people suck body shots off my hooters like half his customers at closing time. Grant is a bartender — or, as he puts it, he's an artist, and drink-slinging is part of his "process" — and he and Lary both can't believe I gave up alcohol. I think it must be because the drinking didn't go out with a bang. There was no DUI or 12-step program or regrettable binge when I woke up in bed with three bullwhips and a colostomy bag or anything. I simply lost my taste for alcohol one day and stopped drinking it, that's all.

Of course, all that is true, but it's not the real reason. Whenever I try to explain the real reason to these guys, they wave me off like an annoying gnat. Maybe Grant does get it a little, because he's a parent, and sometimes I think maybe he understands. Because the real reason I don't drink is that I have a kid now, and I don't ever want to be like that mom on Cops who answers the door holding a beer and a cigarette in the same hand, slurring, "Thass my baby bleedin' at the bottom of the staircase."

Not that I ever was that person or was in danger of becoming that person, but I found out I don't have to actually be that person for my girl to be affected — all it takes is for people to think I am. More specifically, all it took for me was one verbally abusive parent at my daughter's preschool, armed with the new release of my latest book (which, let's face it, revels in the debauchery of my youth), and before I knew it, my girl and I were ostracized to playdate wasteland.

Now, I've always told my daughter, "Judgment is more revealing of the person passing it than the person receiving it," but that's not a lot of comfort to a kid when the other kids can't come over because their parents have been told her mom is a big boozer. Maybe none of this matters, and I suppose I could have stood on principle and continued to drink moderately like the other parents, but all I know is that my principles can't climb the monkey bars with my kid. So I wish I could give you a supercolorful reason why I don't drink, like how I woke up in jail in a puddle of some post-op tranny prostitute's vomit or something, or about how my income doubled when I gave up cocktails — which, astoundingly, it did — but that is not the real reason.

"C'mon, have a margarita," Grant joked.

"Can't. Gotta work," I said. Again, not the real reason, but one that will do.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.shockingreallife.com).

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