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The Wine O’Clock Myth: An eye-opening look at women’s drinking habits

Lotta Dann, bestselling author of Mrs D is Going Without, returns with her new book The Wine O'Clock Myth. Photographer: Catherine Cattanach

The Wine O’Clock Myth: An eye-opening look at women’s drinking habits

If you’ve ever justified that 5pm wine by telling yourself it’s your “reward" and that you are "allowed to treat yourself”, you’re not alone.

The Wine O’Clock Myth: An eye-opening look at women’s drinking habits

But according to Lotta Dann, treating that drink as something we deserve isn’t doing us any favours.

Dann’s newest book, The Wine O’Clock Myth, takes an in-depth and eye-opening look at women’s drinking habits. Having embarked on a journey to sobriety at age 39, Dann writes through the lens of her own story and her work in the field of addiction and recovery. She explores the privileged position alcohol holds in New Zealand society, and the way the liquor industry targets women.

In this extract from The Wine O’Clock Myth, Dann discusses the role alcohol plays when it comes to forming and maintaining female friendships, and the problem that presents.

Bonding Agent

One of the most startling aspects of alcohol’s ubiquity in our society today is the way that it has inserted itself firmly in the middle of the glorious natural phenomenon that is female bonding. There’s a lot to love about being a woman, but one of the best things of all is that it gives you automatic entry into the girl club, a glorious place where you get to connect with and be lifted up by other women. Whether it’s the bestie you connect with almost daily, the colleague you share your lunch breaks with, the friend with whom you take weekly dog walks, your old mate back in your home town, the buddy down the street, your once-a-month book club, your Friday-night gang or those dear old friends you organise special trips away with, females rely on girlfriends to balance out and enrich our lives.

Drinking together has become one of our most common pastimes: socialising with sauvignon, bonding over bubbles or gossiping with gin. Girls’ trips are usually always planned with drinking at the centre of them—just take a good look around social media and you’ll find endless photos of women celebrating wild nights out on holiday weekends, or sipping cocktails on the beach together in exotic locations. The boozy girls’ trip is immortalised in many Hollywood movies (see Bridesmaids, Girls Trip, Rough Night, Wine Country), and speakers events for women are often planned with alcohol front and centre. Many of our more intimate clubs and groups also often seem to be centred on drinking. Writing at addiction.com, Megan Peters claims most book clubs are actually ‘midweek socializing freed from scrutiny by the pretense of an intellectual discussion that mostly never happens’, a fact that’s been backed up by more than one woman who has confided in me that their all-female book clubs are really just an excuse to get together and drink wine. 

When researching this book I heard time and again from women whose friend groups were focused almost entirely on drinking together. Single mum Grace said getting drunk with her ‘big, boozy social group’ was ‘just the lifestyle; it’s how we catch up’. The fear of losing these friends is a big reason why she’s hesitant to stop drinking. Same goes for Veronica, a woman who told me how important her boozy social group in the city was for her, after living in an isolated rural area for years. ‘I fear losing that if I’m not drinking,’ she said. 

There’s no denying that getting drunk with your friends can be an awesome, fun experience (goodness knows I did it for years before the wheels fell off my habit), and there are studies clearly showing that there are social and well-being benefits to be derived from drinking alcohol in relaxed social environments. But does alcohol need to be front and centre of every type of girly bonding experience or female gathering? Do we need alcohol to give currency to all our social catch-ups? Is wine the foundation of a deep, lasting friendship? Or is it all those other values and qualities, things like authenticity and being a good listener? Is it possible that alcohol, rather than connecting us like we think it does, actually serves to push us apart?

Extracted from The Wine O’Clock Myth by Lotta Dann, published by Allen & Unwin NZ, NZRRP $36.99

The Wine O’Clock Myth by Lotta Dann, published by Allen & Unwin NZ, NZ RRP $36.99

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