In seventh grade, I had a massive crush on Rob. He had short, thick, black hair and a goofy sideways smile that caused a commotion in my head. He sat behind me in Mr. Taylor’s English class and would tug at the ends of my hair until I whipped around and growled, “Stop it!” I tried to hide my affection for him and pretend to be mad but as soon as I saw his white teeth start to peek out from underneath the round of his pillowy lips and the corners of his mouth start to curve into a smile, my cheeks would grow hot pink and I would melt in a blaze of embarrassment. When Rob wasn’t teasing me about how flat my chest looked in a t-shirt or how my long black hair made me look like a witch, we’d fantasize about what life would be like when we were older—how many kids we’d have, the mansion we’d own and the color of our matching Lamborghinis.
In my mind, the imaginary world Rob and I were building, in the back of Mr. Taylor’s English class, was getting serious and there was just one thing I needed to clear up with him before we made things official. So one day I turned to him and with a straight face I said, “I hope you know that in my house, beer will not be permitted. Ever.”
He jerked his head back and crumpled up his face in disbelief. “What?” he asked.
I sat up a little bit straighter and opened my eyes wider. “You heard me, no beer in my house.”
Rob started to laugh. “You’re crazy,” he said. “Beer is cool.” Rob had no idea that my parents were alcoholics and that I’d been hanging out in bars with them since I was five years old. He also had no idea how quickly the sight of a Budweiser beer can could send me spiraling back into a world where drinking beer was never done in moderation and only ever led to violence and chaos. I thought the only way to keep addiction out of my adult world once I got there was to forbid all alcohol, especially beer, from my home.
Alas, my no beer rule was an absolute deal breaker for him. I was devastated when I realized our fantasy had fizzled. And I was heartbroken over how quickly Rob moved on and started snapping the bra-strap of another girl in our class. Still, I was stubbornly unwilling to compromise my decision to ban beer from my future life—that is, until I met my husband, Ryan, a long 20 years later.
When I first met Ryan, he wasn’t crazy about beer. Sure, he drank it when we went out and would always haul a six-pack of something to holiday parties and summer picnics but it wasn’t, at that point, a major part of his life. Even after a couple of years of dating, when we made the decision to move in together, beer still wasn’t a big deal and we only had it in our apartment when we had people over and I was fine with that. I had loosened up quite a bit since seventh grade but the mere thought of keeping beer in the house on a regular basis, chilling right there next to the gallon of milk, could thrust memories of my chaotic childhood right into my present and it scared the shit out of me. A 24-pack of Budweiser came in a large red box. Splashed across the front of the box in loud, white, cursive letters, was the word Budweiser and underneath that in small capital letters it said KING OF BEERS. I know this because there was always a stack of them in our kitchen right next to the door that led to the basement. I can remember my stepfather hobbling through our front door sideways with stacks of those boxes pressed hard against his belly and the bottom of his chin. His hands would be clenching the end sides of the boxes, his upper body hunched over and his shoulders smashed against his ears, as he carried his haul through the living room and into the kitchen. The metal cans rattled and clinked against each other and I hated that beer and that sound more than anything.
I hated the way the beer smelled like rotten rain water and how it would stick to the coffee table after it spilled and was left to spoil over night. Sometimes the beer would get splashed against the walls of the living room and drip down towards the carpet where it would seep into the floor and leave long yellow track marks on the bare walls. When my mom was drunk, she would launch unopened Budweiser cans at me and then become enraged when I managed to dodge them. When she wasn’t looking, I would pick the flying cans up off the floor and dump them in the trash, figuring that would be one less beer she’d be able to drink and she’d be that much closer to sobriety. My tactics never worked as they were hardly sustainable. And soon I realized that no matter how many cans of Budweiser I threw away, there would always be another case of it coming through the door and the stack of red-and-white boxes next to the basement door would continue to grow.
Soon after we married in 2011, Ryan fell hopelessly in love with beer and started collecting it until aging it as well as brewing it became his full-time hobby. His collection started out as a small, quiet pile in a dusty corner of our apartment. But as his enthusiasm for beer grew so did his pile until it spilled over into our living room—eventually taking over both the shelf and the floor of our tiny bedroom closet. Although he wasn’t collecting anything remotely close to Budweiser and he wasn’t getting wasted and hurling full beer bottles at my head, his new hobby made me angry. With every new shipment of beer that flew in from Belgium and with every trip he made to our neighborhood beer shop, the tension between the beer and me grew. I’d fantasize about pouring full bottles of it down the kitchen sink, dumping unopened bottles in the trash and even refusing to sign for his beer shipments when FedEx showed up at our door. I’d become dangerously obsessed with his hobby and it was for all the wrong reasons. Once I realized how insane I’d become and how my misplaced anger was taking all of the joy out of something that Ryan responsibly enjoyed, I eased up, backed off and calmed down. After all, it wasn’t fair for me to punish Ryan for the missteps of my parents and the traumas of my chaotic childhood. It was time for me to grow up and move on.
Ever since, I’ve become more relaxed about having closets and barrels full of beer in the apartment. And I’ve actually learned a few interesting things. Worlds beyond the traditional and ever popular beers such as Amstel and Sam Adams are tart sour beers that taste of cherries and wet leather, smoky beers that coat the tongue with flavors of pepperoni and sausage and rich and creamy stout varieties that can be as sweet as dark chocolate or as spicy as cinnamon. There’s even a lambic variety of beer that tastes like Band-Aids and farm animals that, for reasons I will never understand, beer enthusiasts love and will travel the world for.
So, as it turns out, there’s more to beer than Budweiser and if anything, my seventh grade crush was right about two things: at times I can be crazy and if it’s shared with the right person, beer can actually be amazingly cool.
This post and the accompanying image originally appeared on After Party Chat