We sit down to dinner with friends. I’ve tossed a spinach salad with dried cherries, blue cheese and balsamic vinegar, and baked homemade rolls to go with the grilled New York strips and bittersweet chocolate mousse. We’ve already passed around champagne glasses brimming with a sparkling California ros’ while snacking on artichoke appetizers, but I smell trouble when Amy declines hers as if she’s been offered a rotting carcass by the dog instead of a 91-point bubbly brimming with strawberries and sunshine.
At the table, my husband opens a Zinfandel I brought back from a trip to Lodi, California. The wine’s deep fruitiness will, I’m sure, please even the apparently unrefined palates of our friends.
“No, thank you.” Amy turns her head again as if my husband were passing her a Playboy opened to the centerfold. He hesitates, then sets the glass down in the middle of the table, thinking she might change her mind. “I just don’t like alcohol,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “It’s just a personal preference.”
“Mom, can I try it?” One of her middle school-age boys looks hopefully at the wine.
“No.” She is adamant and horrified.
Is she worried we might think she is a bad mother if she says yes? Or is she against allowing her kids to sample alcohol?
“He’s welcome to have a sip as far as we’re concerned,” I say, playing the good hostess.
The boy brightens. “Please, mom?”
“No.” She saws at her steak with a vengeance.
I’m embarrassed, because I gave my five-year-old, Kate, a taste of my bubbly in the kitchen as Amy and I stood chatting. I wonder if Amy is thinking of going straight home and calling Social Services. We do live in the Bible Belt, after all, where the joke is that Jews don’t recognize the Messiah, Protestants don’t recognize the Pope, and Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.