A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Remember how I said I was back until I went away again? Well, I have a secret. I’m actually in Mexico right now. Yes, right this moment as you read my very words! Ah, the magic of the Internet and a little bit of advance planning (just a very little).

I’ve told you all about my new personal trainer, whom I wish I’d hired more than a couple of months before my long ago planned beach vacation. So in an added effort to prepare for this trip, said trainer instructed me to cut out drinking alcohol all but one night a week for the two week push before the trip. Easy, right? No big deal. I can totally do that, for it’s a relatively unambitious goal and I am in complete control.

Good lord. What an awful experience.

When I was young, my father handed down to me an extremely valuable bit of wisdom which has stuck with me for my entire life. “Never become an alcoholic,” he said. “There’s no greater tragedy than having to quit drinking.”

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This may be one of the best pieces of parental guidance I have ever received. It’s kept me from ever truly and seriously overdosing on fun, and it remains in the back of my head during those weeks when I wind up with social calls every single night. After a couple of weeks like that, I usually try to take four or five days off. You know, just to check in and make sure that’s still not a problem and I don’t go all Daniel Radcliffe and realize that my life isn’t fun without booze. And it never is, I’m totally cool. My level of dependency usually hovers around “strong affection.” But two weeks? In the summer, no less? Hoo boy.

I honestly had no idea how unbelievably hard it is not to drink in this city! I suppose that’s because I’ve never tried for any real extended period. And I suppose that for those who have not developed a…er…fondness for the stuff, this is not the case. And I’m just a social drinker, albeit an avid one. But I fear while that’s normally a statement of relative moderation, it’s actually my problem. Because now my social life and drinking are not only not mutually exclusive, they are intrinsically linked. It’s not that my friends are all boozehounds who would shun me for forgoing an adult beverage. But really, what’s the fun in after work drinks without the drinks? All social interactions seem to involve at least one glass of something. Dinners, brunches, parties, happy hours, wine tastings, scotch tastings, beer tastings—it’s inescapable! I even tried to go shopping as an alternative activity one evening and wound up having to stare down a bottle of complementary champagne in the store. It’s like the universe was demanding that I have a drink. I’m pretty sure that’s the message I was receiving. No, I’m fairly positive. It was clear as grain liquor. Or wait, that sounds wrong. How does that one go?

Anyway, I also came to realize that there shouldn’t be anything wrong with appreciating a well-made cocktail or a nice glass of wine. If being skinny means I forgo all that, well maybe I’m okay with a few extra pounds. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I don’t ride motorcycles or go to tanning salons. A girl’s got to have one vice, right? But a challenge is a challenge, and I (sorta, kinda) rose to it. No one ever said life was easy, right? What are we worth if we don’t do things to make ourselves stronger? I departed for my vacation having earned my reward! Which is, of course, to lie in various loungers with a margarita ever at my side. Winning!


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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