06/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

In Defense of Drinking Alone

A pint of Vanilla Swiss Almond. Three episodes each of "30 Rock," "Lost," "Project Runway," "Top Chef," "Grey's Anatomy" on DVR. Pie for breakfast. Pancakes for dinner. All are respectable-enough guilty pleasures, but compared to mixing yourself a stiff cocktail on a any given weeknight, they lack a certain, well, punch. Actually, scratch that -- they're for amateurs.

For me, there's no better way to decompress after work than exactly the way the world tells you not to: drink alone. But if you take up this taboo habit, prepare for repercussions. Your GP will frown on exceeding your recommended weekly drink quota; your personal trainer will balk at the empty calories; your therapist will grill you about what's really going on; your friends will suggest AA meeting locations. This is normal.

I'm not talking Miss Lonelyhearts mired in a scotch-soaked sadness at the corner dive bar. (But hey, no judgments.) I mean me, or better yet, you, solo, free of husband, kids, work, Blackberry, and responsibilities for the evening, pouring a flute of cava (165 calories), mixing a Manhattan (185 calories), or blending a frozen margarita (250 calories), and downing as many as you damn well please while doing whatever the hell you want. Though the random mid-week cocktail pairs well with bubble baths, chick flicks, or Facebook-status-updating, it also will happily and effortlessly intoxicate you on its own, no accessories required. Remember the old General Foods International Coffees slogan? It's the same thing. I do celebrate the moments of my life -- I just spike them first.

I have a sister who has this periodic guilty pleasure: Baking a pan of brownies and essentially eating the entire thing herself within a day or two. (Her husband and kids never stand a chance.) While I find this pretty disgusting, I completely understand her motivation. I could call her a pig; she could call me a lush. We're both right. But instead of criticizing her beloved guilty pleasure because it's not the same (or as good) as mine, I applaud her for believing in it, for following through on it. (I admit that her guilty pleasure sounds extreme, but it might be okay, only because she's a serious runner.) However, sis can keep her 2,000-plus calorie tray of brownies.

I'll have another round.

Drinking alone is probably bad and wrong, but I can't really figure out why. I genuinely like alcohol. (Wine, beer, bubbly, hard stuff, amber liquors -- I don't discriminate.) And I enjoy my own company. (Solitude, as it turns out, is underrated.) Combine booze with me on a weeknight, and boom: Instant private party. Oh, and drinking alone in a bar is not only acceptable, but also encouraged. If you see me on a bar stool sipping sangria, feel free to wink or nod knowingly, but please don't sidle up next to me. I arrived alone on purpose, really!

In my experience, our society seems to think that if you drink solo, you must be depressed, lonely, pathetic, troubled, or all of the above. Oh, and also a big, fat drunk.

People can call me a raging alcoholic, but I'm not. And I'm not in denial, either. Sometimes I just really, really like to drink by myself. There's a difference.

But this judgment isn't new. In the film version of Gone With the Wind, Rhett Butler admonishes Scarlett O'Hara for drinking alone (during the day), after she tries to cover up the smell by gargling with cologne. He warns her that people always find out, and it ruins the person. (It's acceptable for men, of course, but unladylike for women.) In Scarlett's defense, her second husband had just been shot to death in the street. Okay, she stole that husband from her sister, married him for all the wrong reasons, and never really loved him, but still, Rhett, lighten up. Jeez.

So, to anyone who criticizes, judges, disparages, condemns, disapproves of, scolds, and knocks my fondness for solitary drinking, I have one thing to say:

Frankly, I don't give a damn.

When confronted, I advise you to say the same.

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