We All Just Want to Have Fun

If you’d asked me how much drinking liquor was tied into to my idea of having fun, I’d have said “not much.” And I’d have been wrong.

It took going all the way the United Arab Emirates to realize it.

The funny thing is, I’m mostly a wine-with-dinner kind of lady. I don’t really like bars or crowds, and I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. Yet, that little glass of something in my hand is apparently my signal to relax, because dinners in beautiful settings just didn’t feel the same without a cocktail. How funny.

I’m guessing I’m far from alone, and the UAE struggles with this fact. The country belongs to the more open-minded part of the Arab world, and it aspires to be an international playground. Tourism is an important part of its economy. The UAE wants you to visit, and wants you to have a good time while you are there.

So, although observant Muslims are expected to remain liquor-free, concessions are made. Non-Muslim locals can purchase a small amount of alcohol for personal use. Visitors can buy drinks in some hotels.

As a wine drinker, I discovered a glass of my favorite beverage was not only pricey there, it was generally mediocre at best, and stingily poured. I never bought more than one. But, I could buy it.

I did look hard at the substitutes that were provided. How do the non-drinkers remind themselves it is time for play?

Well, in the big cities of the UAE,  physical beauty abounds. From dancing fountains and light shows to magnificent architecture, Dubai practically screams at you to appreciate the visual treats in front of your eyes.

Indulgence of the taste buds is everywhere. Food is lavish and generally quite good. Options for extreme indulgence tempt even the budget traveler.

It’s only a few dollars more to get 23 Karat gold flakes added to ones cappuccino. Who can resist the idea? My travel companion and I couldn’t.

Shopping malls are more common than anywhere I’ve ever been, and many of them stay open past midnight. There are water parks and themed museums and plenty more such places to go to relax.

The thriving tourism industry offers thrills instead of drinks. Dune bashing in 4-wheel drive vehicles is popular, and if you pick the right tour, you can also get a henna tattoo. And ride a camel for a minute or too. And watch some pretty impressive fire dancing, up close and personal.

Fun. We all want to have it. Travel to a predominately Muslim country gets one to thinking about whether a drink or two always needs to be part of the recipe.

with a breath of kindness blow the rest away

New Year’s Eve plays a role in y1. Each Dec. 31 since I wrote the book, I find myself thinking of adolescent Zane throwing up on coffee liqueur as he attempts to greet the new year like an adult. Creating this scene required a better sense of balance than most. I meant to capture both the fear and joy of letting go of childhood, and in fact of letting go of anything, in such a burst of determination that it leads to inappropriate behavior. I wanted my readers to cheer on Zane as he tried to be older, in spite of their hopeful disapproval of children drinking alcohol. I wanted them to empathize with how the process of releasing the past is seldom an easy one for any of us. Metaphorically, a lot of us end up with our heads over the toilet bowl when we try to move on.

farewell 2014That is what New Year’s Eve is about, isn’t it? Drunk or sober, alone, with family or friends or surrounded by loud strangers, we each find out ways to release the joys and failures of last year as we resolve to be stronger, better, and happier during this next trip around the sun. Some of us do it from the comfort of our couches, others while setting off fireworks in our front yard. (At least if we live in the country in Texas we do.) Some will acknowledge the moment with a quick sigh as they go on about their work, keeping hospitals running, drilling rigs drilling, and streets safe for those who had the luxury of deciding what they wanted to do tonight.

New Year’s Eve is an ending and a beginning, whether we like it or not. Maybe that is why so many of us drink so much. There will be jobs, relationships, possessions and habits that won’t go with us through 2015 and we know it. Replacements and voids will be there instead when we greet 2016. They’re gone or going. Say good-bye. It’s not an easy thing to do.

A friend shared the above saying with me, and it has become my New Year’s resolution. I’m going to work a little harder to keep what matters healthy. I’m going to make a better effort to send the rest softly on its way.

Here’s a gentle kiss, 2014, with gratitude for all the good times, and for all the lessons, too. Welcome 2015. With a breath of kindness, blow the past year away.

 

 For more thoughts on letting go, check out my post Face Painting for World Peace.