Don’t run away, reader! I’m not here to gross you out. I’m simply struck by how often barfing, the act itself, has crossed my radar lately, without actually having done so myself in…well, it’s been a while.
I started limiting my drinking when hangovers progressed from a nuisance headache to a half day in bed, to a whole day in bed to a whole day in bed with one or two next-day technicolor yawns thrown in for fun. I didn’t want to find out what might come after, because I really hate to throw up. It’s one thing to be legitimately sick, but when you’re barfing because of your own bad life choices, well, that’s another thing entirely.
There’s a seasonal concert venue here in southeast Michigan, corporately branded DTE Energy Amphitheater, but before that it was known as Pine Knob, and everybody still mostly calls it that. I’ve been three times, always with my friend Dustin, who is young enough to be my son but loves — fiercely — the music of my youth. The summer-touring nostalgia acts all stop there, if they can still put that many butts in the seats, and together we’ve seen Steely Dan, Jimmy Buffet and Alice Cooper, along with multiple opening acts. None of these musicians are still putting out records, but people my age are happy to save their money for tickets, spread blankets on the grass and feel like they’re 17 again. They also drink like they’re 17, and two out of the three times I’ve been there, someone has barfed in my vicinity. (Not at the Jimmy Buffet show, in case you’re wondering — those people practice all year, and know their limits.) The first time, it was the row in front of me, and the lady didn’t even make it past the Elvis Costello opener. It smelled abominable, but a staffer came in with a cleaning kit of absorbent something-or-other and made short work of it. I got the feeling it happens a lot.
The second time was during the encore for Alice Cooper, and I stepped in it. Needless to say, this ruined the remainder of the evening for me; I considered an emergency amputation of my left foot, because of course I was wearing sandals. The cleaner didn’t arrive until the show was over. I considered throwing my sandal into the bin on my way out, but saved them with a deep clean the next day.
I recently ran across this in a local newsletter, about a downtown development — the AV is “Asian Village” — that didn’t endure:
Of course I’ve had some embarrassing barfs in my life, times when I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. (You know it’s love when your boyfriend is willing to get a mop and bucket and swab the dorm hallway of your half-digested pepperoni pizza and one million Little Kings, even though he’s pretty hammered himself.) But it hasn’t happened in a very long time, maybe not since that incident, freshman year. Of all the places I might choose in a pinch, a fountain would be my very last choice, after the floor or a potted ficus. But I’m bougie that way; I don’t like to see furnishings or atmospheric amenities like waterfalls ruined.
I sometimes wonder if people are throwing up more these days, and what might be to blame for it. (Yes, I should find better things to think about.) Four Loko, sure. Red Bull as a universal mixer? Yep. The general juice-boxification of the American intoxicants market? Oh my yes. But there’s also the general amping up of drinking in general, the puke-and-rally culture of the frat house that endures well into adulthood. A man in his 40s confessed his hangover to me a while back, blaming the shots he’d been doing the night before. Shots! No one older than 25 should ever do shots. I have been known to pour them into potted plants while everyone else’s head was thrown back. A woman I know described offloading a bellyful of vodka-and-cranberry juice in a snowdrift outside her back door, and having to explain to her daughter the next day that no, it wasn’t blood. Vodka and cranberry is a brunch drink, people. Limit two.
Of course, not all vomiting is due to overindulgence. Alan had a spell of food poisoning a few weeks back, and had to rid himself of whatever it was that caused it. It was agony, the worst, he said, since the unfortunate Reuben Sandwich Incident that put him off Reubens for nearly 20 years.
If nothing else, I have vomiting to credit for my love affair with Atul Gawande, the author and New Yorker medical writer. If you have a subscription, I highly recommend “A Queasy Feeling,” which was the first thing of his I read, and fell in love with. The throughline in that piece is hyperemesis of pregnancy, i.e., the all-day sickness that Kate Middleton has endured through three of them. This explains everything about why I do not drink gin and likely never will again:
Break a leg on a ski slope and – as bad as traumatic pain can be – once you can, you’ll ski again. After one unfortunate experience with a bottle of gin or an oyster, by contrast, people won’t go near the culprit for years.
I doubt Alan will ever eat again at the hamburger restaurant he blames for his 48 hours of misery.
And now, like a good barf, I believe I’ve said everything I ever wanted to say about throwing up, and I invite you to share your stories. Please, not too gross.