Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Masked Drinker's Guide to Benders

In drinking, like all things, moderation is the key. What some people never tell you about that guide is that “all things” includes moderation, so one must moderate in moderation as well. And there sometimes—not too often—comes a time in someone’s life when it’s time to go a little off the deep end. A good bender can be a damn fine thing, but you really have to do it right. I’ve done it wrong in the past and learned from my mistakes. I just got back to work after a week and a half off and I quite explicitly decided to make it a bender. So I’d like to now share what I’ve learned about this noble and horrible experience.

First off, make sure you have ample time to be to yourself. You’re going to need anywhere from a weekend to two weeks (longer than that I really highly don’t recommend) where you are pretty much free from normal human responsibilities like family, work, and hygiene. (Just kidding.) (Kind of.) Point being if you need to check in on Granny every now and then or work with children or make spreadsheets to keep yourself employed, don’t go on a bender then. Self-destruct in moderation! I’ve often used spring break, but it’s very vital not to do it in the way low folks like Floridians would. A bender is not an excuse to yell lewd things at impressionable girls. A bender is a hedonistic self-exploration.

It often helps to have something of an impetus for the bender. It can be something as simple as “I have time off” to something rather more serious like, “Holy shit, my marriage just ended.” Sad-started benders need to be monitored more carefully than others, as the point is to come out a little better than you started, not way more depressed. I’d say stick to a good reason at least your first time. No bender is trickier than the barely-avoiding-depression bender.

I should add that you should let people know what you’re about to do; at least the ones that won’t give you hell about it. I, uh, in particular mean people that you share some sort of activity or some such with. Like, uh, a blog. I’d like to publicly apologize right here for not sending anything in last week. Sorry, theoretical adoring fans, arch enemies, and lovely crushes. Also, sorry Colonel Harmon. Really should have kept you of all people in the loop on that one.

Mostly go to bars where they know you. Now, don’t only go there, as they’ll get really tired of you. A bender’s a nice time to explore joints randomly. Remember, though, not everyone’s on a bender so don’t be an asshole, at least not more than you usually are. Respect the rules of trying out new bars, just do so within a week-long stint of drinking.

Remember to eat. Some nights you’re going to be stuck with the dregs: a friend’s leftover sandwich, microwave bar food. That’s unavoidable. But make sure you eat normal food too. Pasta keeps your stomach from completely revolting and just leaving by way of the first orifice it can find. At times when you’re just starting for the day or nicely buzzed, eat something really good and tasty. You’ll appreciate it whilst swimming in your debauchery.

Speaking of food and digestion, be prepared to not digest too well for the entire time. We’ve all had beer shits before, but understand that a real bender’s gonna involve beer shits pretty much every day. Stock up on TP and the stomach placebo of your choice and just roll with it. You get used to it, anyway.

You’re going to be tempted to bathe less. This is not a great idea. Everybody skips a day every now and then but if you skip more than one, you’d better have a major excuse, and it has to involve either an explosion or sleeping with someone ridiculously hot. Otherwise, for Christ’s sake, nobody needs to smell your drunk ass. If you must, buy some cheap beers to drink in the shower for motivation. That’s actually really fun.

Bender friends help. They’re not always available and do make sure they’re good bender friends. Bad ones quickly lead you down paths that not even you want. But someone who shares your break or purpose and can actually hang with your drinking style is pretty awesome. Nothing’s worse, though, than a lightweight bender friend. Can I call them frienders? When you’re out and ready for a multi-hour stretch and he or she is hiccupping after one beer, problems arise.

It also helps to have a non-bender friend, someone who’s generally staying sober, or at least normal. This has to be a close friend you trust and who is not judgmental. You need someone watching out if you’re about to step over a line, like drinking a fifth of whiskey near some cops or hitting on someone you really shouldn’t hit on. REALLY SHOULDN’T. But if you’ve got a judger, they’re just going to be on your case about everything so you never know what to take seriously. A cool non-bending friend can be a real ballast making sure you don’t go about this all wrong.

Keep some sort of record of what you’re doing. I don’t mean some weird OCD list of every drink you have. But a journal or something. Personally, I like to keep my camera around. Benders often lead to amazing, unexpected times. It’d be a shame if you couldn’t remember them. So make sure there’s something that will keep these good times around even after you clean up.

Lastly, when it’s time to rein it in, do so. When you’ve set yourself a time limit, never extend it, not even for a day. You’ll feel terrible for a day or so but, man, you will feel great once you’ve worked it through. Elongating a bender is the surest way to wreck it. There’ll be another time. Besides, it’s time for moderation in your excess.

Photos by the Masked Drinker


  1. Apology accepted, young fellow. Next time, you must invite me. A true bender, it's been some time but I think I could use one.

  2. wow...
    All I can say is wow....

  3. There’s one category of bender that hasn’t been touched upon (maybe due to lack of experience?): namely, the functional business-travel bender. This generally starts the night before travel, continues in the airport bar with drinks for hangover and nerves, and heavy drinking the evening before the business portion begins. It continues the moment business hours are done, and necessitates a remarkable lack of sleep. It’s tricky because one must be attentive, lively, productive and well-groomed during business hours without alerting your colleagues to the actual undercurrent of dehydration, exhaustion, digestive ruin, and shame (potentially). It ends much like it began with heavy drinking the night before travel, then in the airport for nerves and hangover, drinks to celebrate reuniting with your loved ones after you land, and potentially also the next evening depending on the day of the week you return home.