Booze cruising

Is the ultimate social lubricant the best means for romantic success?

I’ve never been a big drinker—I’m practically a teetotaler. I refuse the chardonnay at book parties. I dance without being hopped up on vodka Red Bull. I’ve had weeklong beach vacations with nary a margarita or mojito. But when it comes to first dates, I can’t seem to stay sober.

Apparently, I’m not alone. “Alcohol is a first-date requisite,” says Patel, 24, a writer. “It’s an inherently uncomfortable situation. And if the plane goes down in flames, well, better have something to take the edge off.”

“Naturally, I need to drink,” says blogger Moe, 28. “It’s almost impolite not to! How often is it that you truly like someone enough after one date to want to suck face without alcohol—and then, how awkward to end a date without a decent, sloppy make-out session.”

 In addition to being a confidence booster, “alcohol tends to shorten the distance from the brain to the mouth,” says Claire, 34, a surgeon. “So depending on your goals, it can be helpful. If it’s meant to be a long, lingering dinner, it’ll make both of you more interesting quicker.”

But greasing the wheels of conversation can easily lead to catastrophe. “Like many people, I have trouble forming coherent sentences when I’m intoxicated, which I find makes me a less-than-captivating dinner companion,” says Lena, 19, a Harvard student living in New York for the summer. “I like being drunk. But I like getting second dates more.”

Liquid courage can bring about other unfortunate consequences, too. Like, um, vomit? Not to mention memory loss and inappropriate gymnastics—and not necessarily in the bedroom. On my first date with my ex Alex, I was so nervous I took six shots of sake and, while wearing a tube dress, straddled him before doing a cartwheel from excitement in the middle of Hiro’s dance floor.

“No one else has ever cartwheeled on a first date with me,” says Alex. “I won’t ever forget it.”

He may remember it forever, but my recollection of that evening is more than a little fuzzy. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Vaughn, 39, a hedge fund manager, avoids drinking. “Alcohol is a crutch—why would you want to impair your judgment?”

Filmmaker Richard, 27 agrees. “While it’s sooo much easier to date when you’re drunk because you’re more bold—and have a free pass with the ‘I was drunk’ excuse—you tend to do really stupid things, like have unprotected sex.” Now sober, he elaborates: “When my hookups were drunken one-night things, those girls tended to be totally crazy. I never met the nice girls until I stopped drinking.”

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