Dear Emotional Hardbody,
Last Wednesday there was a parents' meeting at 7 p.m. at my son’s elementary school. Another mom of a child in my son’s class emailed a group of moms suggesting that we get together for dinner at Applebee’s before the meeting since we were all going to be kid-free. (The meeting was for parents only.)
Thinking this was a nice way to get to know these moms better, I went. I ended up getting to know them better, alright, but that doesn’t mean I like what I found out. Several of the moms ordered alcoholic beverages along with their meals! No one got drunk, mind you, but the fact that they were drinking before a school meeting struck me as totally inappropriate.
I mentioned this to another friend of mine who is not in that group and she thinks I’m overreacting. According to her, it’s A-OK to toss one back before heading over to your kid’s school.
My friend’s take on the matter has only made me more uneasy. I don’t know whose judgment to trust anymore — my own or my party-friendly friends. Can you help set me straight on this matter? Is it really okay to consume alcohol before a school meeting?
I have some sobering news: I cannot answer your question for you. But once I explain why, I think you might find the answer you are looking for.
Here’s the thing: Whether it’s okay to have a drink before a meeting at your kid’s school is a personal question that only you can answer for yourself, and that’s because the answer depends on your own attitude about — and relationship with — alcohol.
Here are some factors that might influence a person’s answer when it comes to the situation you described:
1. The meeting was at 7 p.m.
2. It was for parents only.
3. No one was expected to operate heavy machinery.
For the type of person whose relationship with alcohol is mainly of the “wine with dinner” varietal, a glass of vino with some pasta fazool before heading to little Tony’s school would be no big deal. But for the guy whose trustee tumbler of scotch is his ticket to trash town every Friday at quitting time, pre-gaming before little Brandy’s school meeting would be out of context — wrong place, wrong time.
In other words, the factor to focus on isn’t the alcohol — because there’s nothing inherently right or wrong about that. The thing to focus on is the person who is doing the drinking and how it’s being done.
If that mom had suggested a game of beer pong before the meeting, I would understand your crying party foul. But given that the invitation was for a visit over a bite to eat before heading to the meeting and no one over-indulged, the only person whose alcohol consumption you have any right to an opinion on is your own.
And that totally frees you up to focus on the actual inappropriate behavior in the situation you described: Going to Applebee’s. Having a drink before a school meeting isn’t necessarily wrong; but having a "meal" at Applebee’s is always a mistake.