Everything we do sends signals — even something as apparently unimportant as the size of the glass out of which we choose to drink our beer.
I (Jessica) hit my teenage years during the era of the ladette when drinking beer, and especially drinking beer in pints, was a way for women to stake a claim on blokes’ territory. Big boots, no make-up, pints, swearing — don’t tell me what’s ladylike or how to behave! Up yours!
For as long as I’ve been interested in beer one of the annoying minor manifestations of sexism has been the tendency to assume I’ll want a half, or a fruit beer, or whichever of the two drinks we’ve ordered is (as decided by a whole set of complex subconscious calculations) the ‘girly’ one.
I realised a few years ago, though, that most of the time I do want to drink halves. I’m not very big; don’t have a great gut capacity; and even at the peak of my pissed fitness could only handle so much beer by volume before I made myself sick, which only seems to be getting worse as I slide into middle age.
Sometimes, though, I find myself ordering a pint because I can’t face another crappy, scratched tumbler, full to the brim with no head. Sometimes it’s because I’ve had a tough day and I know that I’d only be back at the bar after five minutes otherwise. And sometimes it’s the teenager in DMs rearing her head, making a point.
* * *
I (Ray) used to drink halves more often because there were so many exciting beers to taste and it was the only way to get through them all; and, honestly, because I was being an awkward sod in response to male friends refusing — literally refusing — to buy me halves because they thought it compromised my masculinity and, more importantly to them, theirs.
As I’ve drifted out of five status and into a comfortable seven, I’ve come back to pints. I drink a pint in about the time it takes Jess to drink a half. I like the feel of a pint glass in my hand, and the rhythm it gives to drinking.
My hangover limits are higher, my gut more elastic: my four pints to Jess’s two over the course of a session leaves us in about the same place.
But perhaps I’ve also just reverted to my deep programming: in my family, a bloke ordering a half is sending a signal that he’s not planning to stick about, or isn’t fully committed to the session.
I sometimes order a half just to remind myself I can and I always think, “I should do this more often.”
* * *
Ultimately, what we’d both like is this:
- To be able to order whichever beer we fancy in whatever volume we feel like at that particular moment without assumptions or comment, and without having to explain the reasons.
- For halves to be treated with as much reverence by pubs and bars as the sacred pint — nice glassware makes such a difference.
We were prompted to think about this by various things but most important the recent report from Dea Latis on women’s attitudes to beer. Do give it a read.