Trying to Figure Out How Much I’ve Spent on Booze in My Life Is the Stupidest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god

by Nick Leftley

My name is Nick, and I am not an alcoholic.

But I do like alcohol quite a bit. And I’ve always been aware, on some level, that I’ve probably spent a fair bit of my disposable income on it over the years. Pretty much all of it, in fact. Still, the anxiety that came with adding it all up — and the sick horror at the final tally — wasn’t something I was prepared for. Consider this a warning: If at least three of your top five hobbies involve drinking alcohol, you may not like what you’re about to find out.

Some disclaimers before we begin. First: I’m bad at math and my memory — as we will soon discover — has been pickled by years of drinking. I haven’t taken into account inflation over the 20-year span of my investigation, nor have I accounted for the differences in the U.K.-U.S. exchange rate over time. (I’m a Brit who’s lived in the U.S. since 2009.) I’m prone to both wild overestimation and underestimation. This entire piece may be bullshit. But with that out of the way, here’s my very rough estimate of the obscene amount of money I have sunk into murdering my liver.

Late Teens

The pubs in England rarely card you, so let’s assume I was out drinking once or twice a week by the age of 16. The two weekend jobs I had probably let me spend about 20 quid ($25) a week, but over the course of two years, that’s already… £2,080? Really? That’s $2,685! Before I turned 18! Throw in another $250 or so on all the plastic bottles of vodka that were taken to house parties, and we’re up to roughly $3,000. Ugh.
Total: $3,000
Shame Level: Surprisingly high this early in the game.


Student bars are dirt-cheap, but if you’re out every other night and spending 10 pounds each time, that’s $50-ish a week — which is pretty much what I did in my first year, so that’s $2,685 just for those 12 months. This went down drastically in my remaining time there, though (largely thanks to a recurring, non-booze-related illness), so let’s say the same amount in total for those years.
Total: $5,370
Shame Level: Holding steady.

Early 20s

The combination of illness and shit-paying temp jobs and bar work means my first two years after graduation weren’t flush with cash. Call it an overall average of one night out a week at about $30 a pop.
Total: $3,355
Shame Level: Manageable.


I moved to London at 24 after landing a steady writing gig. And so, I went out. A lot. In fact, the odd bottle of wine aside, I can barely remember ever buying booze to drink at home until many years later. Now, granted, on many of those nights out, someone else was picking up the tab (thank you, every PR firm in England), but London is still an expensive city to drink in. Here’s my estimate for the following five years:

  • Couple of $4 or $5 beers with lunch two or three times a week: $6,038.
  • Out somewhere I had to buy my own drinks, at least twice a week, probably around 50 bucks a pop: $26,834.
  • $12 bottle of wine or a few beers with dinner a couple nights a week, call it $25 a week: $6,709.

Total: $39,586
Shame Level: This can’t be accurate. It can’t be. It’s more than twice my pre-tax salary for the first year I was there, which makes it basically impossible. Doesn’t it? Oh God, I feel sick.

New York

I left London for New York at 29 and spent the first year floundering financially: A generous overestimate for that year would be $50 a week on booze, so $2,600 overall, maybe. Consistent work followed, though, as did pissing money down the drain once more (although, thankfully, lunchtime drinking was almost nonexistent there). The breakdown for the next five years:

  • Out somewhere I had to buy my own drinks, at least twice a week, probably around $70 on average (sometimes $30, sometimes $100+): $36,400.
  • Wine or beer with dinner a couple nights a week, call it $30 a week: $7,800.

Total: $44,200
Shame Level: Somewhere between throwing up in the middle of making out and pissing myself on public transport. I am praying, praying, that this is off by at least 50 percent.


In 2015, I relocated to New Jersey to have a baby and never went out again. A year later, I relocated yet again — this time to Los Angeles, just to make a trifecta of three of the world’s most expensive cities — to have a second baby and to somehow go out even less. If you combined all the times I’ve gone out for drinks — or had drinks with dinner — since my first child was born, I doubt it’s more than $1,300. We do still buy booze to drink at home, though, so between all the wine, beer and spirits loaded into that Costco cart, that’s about $150 a month, or $3,600 altogether.
Total: $4,900
Shame Level: Honestly, still in shock from London and New York totals. I am a monster.

And that brings us up to the present day. Which means it’s time to add all this up…

GRAND TOTAL: $103,011.

$103,011. Enough to put one of my daughters through a good chunk of college. Enough to purchase a four-bedroom house in Texas outright. Enough to buy five-and-a-half locks of David Bowie’s hair.




Okay, calm down. Calm down. Let the dry heaves pass. I’m 37 now: We’re talking about $100,000 over the course of, pretty much, 20 years. Which breaks down to an average of five grand a year. Which further breaks down to $416 a month, or about $100 a week. Which… sounds pretty normal, right? This random article I found on the internet says it’s almost sort of normal, so it must be true!

What freaks me out is that all of this is just alcohol. It’s not post-drink munchies; it’s not cabs and cigarettes; it’s not, well, y’know, other stuff. So even assuming that I’ve overestimated by 50 percent, which is entirely possible — did I mention I’m bad at math? — throw all that in and you’re still looking at six figures. Add in what my wife has spent on going out in her life, and between us, you get a figure that only wouldn’t keep me up at night because my children already have that covered.

There are two possible takeaways here. One: Use this knowledge as a long-overdue wake-up call and start accounting for alcohol when budgeting to save yourself from financial ruin. Two: Assume I’ve got the numbers completely wrong and laugh about what an idiot I am as you’re buying the next round.

For the record, I’ll be doing the latter.


What Makes Me… Funny?

According to a sitcom writer, a linguist, a sexologist and 7 other experts in their fields

In this installment of our “What Makes Me a…” column, we asked 10 people what makes them think of someone as a “real funny guy.”

Tracey Sturgal, professor in communication studies at Marquette University: As a linguist, I’ve learned there are as many perspectives on humor as there are dialectal variations of English. And even though so much of what’s considered humorous is subjective, many have tried to analyze what is funny from an objective lens. One theory is the benign violation theory. It states that if something violates how we think the world should work and isn’t threatening, people will likely find it humorous. There’s also the incongruity resolution, which states that when two things don’t go together, the brain attempts to rectify the situation. This generally leads to laughter.

For me personally, people are funny if they can tell a clever story or joke while being honest, relatable, brave and surprising. I remember reading Tina Fey’s bit in Bossypants about needing to take her pants off as soon as she gets home from work… while I was sitting on the couch after work in my underwear. To me, that hit all four — honest, brave, relatable and surprising. I also find that stories are funny when they touch on something that matters to the listener(s) and allows the audience to contemplate a potentially new angle, whether that be a current societal pulse or a nostalgic callback. Hasan Minhaj’s latest — Homecoming King — is a good example that conquers both.

Maggie Rowe, writer on Arrested Development: I think what makes someone funny is an ability to be surprising about something very obvious, evoking a response of both “So true” and “I totally wasn’t expecting that.”

Mike Sacks, author of comedy interview collections Here’s the Kicker andPoking a Dead Frog, and the new novel Stinker Lets Loose: I know a lot of people in comedy are told that they’re too “critical” or “negative.” In reality, I think most people in comedy are very decent; they’re just bothered to a greater degree by things that aren’t right. They’re unable to tune the bullshit out. So they’re not necessarily being miserable, they’re just easily annoyed.

Denise Wiesner, sexologist and founder of Natural Healing Acupuncture:The people who come into my office for help usually have serious issues that they’re addressing. So I believe what makes one a “funny” person is the ability to laugh at themselves and the absurdity of all their physical, spiritual, sexual and emotional issues.

Sarah Spiegel, singer, actress and comedy writer: Somebody who’s funny will ask the questions nobody else thinks to ask. I had someone show me an article recently about Baby Jessica, the girl who fell down that well 30 years ago. The author writes that Jessica is “so grateful to God” that He got her through this ordeal. However, my first thought was, Maybe she should’ve asked why God threw her down that well in the first place.

Allan Murray, actor and stand-up comedian: What makes people funny is their interpretation of life and how they share it with others: a funny filter. Let’s say you’re having dinner with a friend who’s a nice guy, but not known for his sense of humor. He’s asking for your advice because he had a horrible day — got a parking ticket, was late for work and almost got fired.

Imagine the same horrible day told to you by your hilarious, funny friend who cracks you up: same story, different delivery. What’s missing from the non-funny guy’s story? Undertone. The comical version doesn’t diminish your concern for your funny friend — he’s telling you about his horrible day, but there’s a funny layer that you connect to. Funny makes us feel comfortable.

Jonathan Schmock, actor, director, cartoonist and TV comedy writer:When answering the question “What makes me funny?,” you always come off like a pompous ass. So let’s get started: I guess I’m funny for the same reason a lot of people are funny — because I’m wary or terrified of practically everything. Being funny is part of that “fight-or-flight” thing, but it’s almost more interesting because it’s a little of both. It’s “I surrender” and “Fuck you” at the same time.

The first time I remember being funny was in grade school. We had to bring in a newspaper article and read it into a microphone like we were on the radio. I had picked an article about the embassy being overrun in Vietnam. I was terrified, and my hands started to shake. The kids, especially the other boys, started to giggle. So I knew my life was over… unless my hands were shaking on purpose. What could that purpose be? And then that thing happens in funny people when your brain takes over and says, “I’ve got this.”

I realized that if I pretended I was in the embassy being overrun by the Vietnamese and overdramatized it, I would be funny. It worked. All the kids laughed, and from then on, I was “the funny one.”

More largely, when you can show people we’re the same by admitting we’re different, that’s a cool thing. And all of this is why I’m a pompous ass…



A Sex Guide for People Whose Partners Won’t Go Down on Them

The latest installment of our series The ‘Normal’ Couples’ Guide to Sex

Not ecstatic about your current sex life? Don’t have hours every day attempting to decipher all the sanskrit in the Kama Sutra? Unable to bankroll a shopping spree (or a single purchase for that matter) at Jimmyjane? Here’s a sex help guide for you, fellow regular human who wants to be better in bed.

The Person

Tracy, Raleigh, North Carolina
Goal: To get her boyfriend to give her oral sex and more orgasms in general

The Sex Situation: “I’m seeing a man who’s 18 years older than me,” explains Tracy. “It’s basically a see-where-things-go relationship. We see each other at least twice a week and try to go out dancing or have dinner. He works long hours and goes to school; he’s getting his GED. Originally, he’s from Mexico, but he’s been here since he was a teenager. There are sometimes language barriers with texting, but for the most part, we understand each other fairly well. In bed, he’s very sweet and takes his time, but he needs to work on sensually exploring the body.”

The Obstacle: “He’s never gone down on a woman before,” says Tracy. “He’s open to it, but shy. I’m also hairy down there. I don’t shave because I’m sensitive, but I do trim. I’ll make an effort to shave for his first time [giving oral sex], though.”

What She’s Tried: “He seems responsive to breast play, which I love,” Tracy says. “I also like a little whipping for the sting and the soothing after so he’s started to spank me a little, gently. I’m getting him to master delicious ass grabs during sex, too. All in all, he’s tried a lot more with me than he’s ever done before.”

The Goal: “In addition to the one specific goal [of oral sex], I’d also like to come more regularly in general. I can get myself wet from stimulation, but I want longer play. When it happens, it’s been extremely hot — I like to be driven mad from teasing! But it doesn’t happen nearly enough.”

The Plan

Getting to Oral: “Because your initial question was about how to invite your partner to experience oral for the first time in his life at age 49, we thought we’d start there,” say sex experts Danielle Harel and Celeste Hirschman, the authors of Making Love Real and Cockfidence, and the creators of the experiential Somatica Method of Sex and Relationship Coaching. “You already have some good ideas, like preparing yourself so that your lickable parts are as smooth, accessible and inviting as possible. Even before that, we encourage you to have an enticing talk with him or share an erotic fantasy that includes oral sex. So often, when we think about sexual communication, we fear that it will be an awkward, dry experience. But you can communicate the specifics of your sexual desires in a very sexy way by cuddling up next to him in bed and whispering in his ear exactly what you want him to do to you.”

Teaching the Tease: “Since it sounds like a big part of what arouses you is the feeling of anticipation and teasing, this might be a great lead-up to oral sex and doesn’t actually have to take that long,” explain Harel and Hirschman. “After all, it sounds like he’s a very busy man!

“Before you teach him to how to tease, however, the first thing to do is to figure out where you like to be teased. Think of the parts of your body that respond best to light, teasing touch. Many women say that they love the back of their neck or lower back [to be touched], as well as their inner thighs and hips teased.

“That said, we’ve found the best way to teach a tease is to give a tease, so lay him down on his stomach and start gently teasing the back of his neck with your fingertips. Next, kiss the back of his neck slowly, breathing on his neck and near his ear. Then, take one good bite on his shoulder (if you want to be bitten back). Finally, kiss down to his lower back (and wherever else you like to be kissed on the back of your body).

“Once you’ve done a good, thorough job there, ask him to turn over and give him the tease on the front of his body that you’d like most. Perhaps it’s around the edges of his pecs before moving to his nipples. Maybe you’re stroking and kissing his inner thighs. There’s nothing like a little give-and-take so, if you want him to give you oral after a good tease, perhaps you can tease him with the start of a blowjob and tell him you’ll give him the rest as soon as he takes his turn teasing you.”

Using His Fingers (and a Vibe): “If you want to increase your number of orgasms as well as their intensity, his fingers on your G-spot may be the best answer,” say Harel and Hirschman. “Since many women need some kind of clitoral stimulation in order to come, we always use our vibrators when our partners have their fingers inside us. Because the most intense orgasms come from strong G-spot stimulation, it’s helpful to have equally strong clitoral stimulation — and a tongue or his other hand might not be enough and might also be difficult to coordinate…



Porn in A Place Where Sitting On Someone’s Face is Illegal

by Lynsey G

A night-vision camera blurs across a nondescript outdoor space where a car is parked, the video picking up just as the door is opened. Inside sits a young blonde woman, her lacy bra pulled down to reveal her breasts and her tight skirt hiked up to reveal similarly lacy panties. In the camera’s green glow, she lazily exits the car, showing off her body to several men who have gathered around and who are openly masturbating. One appears much older; another appears to be wearing sweat pants. The cameraman, amazed at what he’s seeing, whispers breathlessly, “She’s a real shower, this girl.” The men clumsily take turns having sex with her for the next 23 minutes — standing up beside the car, on the ground next to the car and directly on top of the hood of the car (its license plate in full view).

The video has more than a million views on PornHub, where if you type “U.K.” into the search bar, “amateur” and “dogging” are the top two autofill options. It’s a prime example of both categories, which when placed together constitute one of the most popular forms of U.K.-produced porn today.

Dogging, though not well-known in the U.S., is a subcultural sexual phenomenon throughout the U.K. It essentially consists of people gathering to have sex in or around their parked cars or outdoors in parks. It’s been a favorite pastime for exhibitionists and swingers for decades; it’s also proven popular with BBC radio announcers and at least one football star. Dogging occurs in spots well-known to dogging enthusiasts — and often, to chagrined members of their local communities — in roadside parking areas. They typically arrange encounters online beforehand, though part of the excitement of dogging is having sex with strangers, so most participants keep the pre-sex communication to a minimum. It’s always incorporated an element of voyeurism; nonparticipants are usually welcome to watch, and often to film, as a number of men engage in sex with one woman who makes herself available to them.

Its rampant popularity on PornHub is the culmination of a long history of the British porn industry making the best of a bad situation, and it speaks volumes about the current state of pornography in Great Britain. “The problem with the [British porn] industry today is that it still has this legacy of amateurism associated with it because it’s been clandestine,” says Oliver Carter, a senior lecturer in media and cultural theory at Birmingham City University. The history of sexual media in Great Britain goes back centuries, but he says, “It was illegal to distribute pornography in the U.K. — okay to make, but illegal to distribute — until the late 1990s. So you had production, but it was mainly for export.”

Specifically, non-explicit “glamour films” were produced as early as the 1940s and shipped to mainland Europe and the U.S. Hardcore material also was filmed, with notable outlaws like John Lindsay in the 1970s and Michael Freeman in the 1980s distributing their films illegally and on a small scale domestically. It wasn’t until 2000, however, that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the U.K.’s equivalent of the MPAA, updated its policies to catch up to the imported porn that was entering the country from elsewhere in the world. As such, the BBFC instituted a new classification — R18, which is roughly analogous to our X rating, with the notable difference being that while the Crown must classify every explicit film to be sold on film or DVD in the U.K., the X rating isn’t trademarked or overseen by the MPAA, so American pornographers can apply the X rating if they want, but it isn’t required…



Everyone Thinks About Other People During Sex Sometimes

But if you’re doing it all the time, there’s a problem

by Tracy Moore

The human mind is a mysterious organ that can suddenly conjure an aardvark undergoing a gynecological exam while operating a hot air balloon. So it’s difficult to know when or if we should feel too bad about anything we cook up, especially when we’re being intimate with others. Case in point: A guy writing to sex columnist Dan Savage wants to know if thinking about other women during sex with his girlfriend is grounds for shame and guilt, or if he is innocent of the sex thought crime charges levied against him.

Writer Guilty Over Nebulous Ecstasy (GONE), asks:

I’m a 32-year-old guy, my gal is 34, and we’ve been together for two years. Every time we get it on or she goes down on me (though not when I eat her out), my mind wanders to fantasies involving porno chicks, exes, or local baristas. A certain amount of this is normal, but I’m concerned that this now happens every time. When I’m about to come, I shift my mind back to my partner and we have a hot climax, but I feel guilty. Advice?

First off, we must all feel collectively uncertain about our roaming sex thoughts because some variation on this question — what do you REALLY think about during sex? — has been asked on Reddit over and over and over. Those answers range from funny to weird.

“The 1957 Milwaukee Braves starting lineup,” one commenter writes. “Can I cum in her” and “should I just cum in her,” another offers. “Dead puppies,” another says. “What can I say, it’s the only way to not let the first one off too fast.” Most of the answers center around thinking of how good it feels, to simply lasting as long as possible. “Don’t cum don’t cum don’t cum don’t cum,” is one such regular answer.

While deeply insightful, such answers don’t actually get at the letter writer’s question, which is, basically, is it okay to think about other people or not? There’s no honest way to know how often people fantasize about someone else, fictional or otherwise, while having sex. It’s unprovable, and there’s great incentive to lie. (We did conduct a private Twitter poll just out of curiosity, and as of this writing, roughly 32 percent of respondents said they do think about someone else “sometimes” during sex. No one said they always did it. About 39 percent answered “rarely”; an impressive or dishonest 29 percent said “never.”)

One online survey of 1,300 people in 2015, from a sex toy company in London, found not-too-far off results: That 46 percent of women admit they’ve thought of someone else during sex, while 42 percent of men throw some other lady into their mental rotation. Hard to say why — perhaps women are slightly less satisfied in bed and need that extra visual boost — but the people most fantasized about were close friends, colleagues and bosses, and exes. Yes, many people dipped back into memories from people they’d actually slept with. Some people went on to sleep with the people they’d admitted to fantasizing about while with others.

While that’s going to be terrifyingly gross news to some, most experts on sex or relationships maintain that imagining someone else up top while giving an entirely different person the business down below is generally normal and benign—with some caveats, of course.

One therapist writing at Psychology Today takes the angle that it’s okay every once in a while to think of someone else, but wouldn’t be cool on a regular basis to think of someone else every time you do it. Seth Meyers (presumably not that Seth Meyers) writes:

Once in a blue moon, if you find yourself in the middle of an intimate act fantasizing about another, you should not be horrified or feel guilty. If you find yourself fantasizing about someone else on a regular basis, your fantasy has become a coping mechanism to handle feelings about your relationship. You could be bored or angry at your partner, and your fantasy becomes your defense against incorporating intimacy with your partner.

In other words: I’ll give you the literal real estate of my body, but not the mental real estate in my mind! Solid move.

A therapist at says to go to town on the rich inner fantasies front:

So thinking about other men — celebrities, complete strangers, aliens, whatever! — by no means implies that you’re unhappily married or not sexually satisfied by your mate. In fact, having a variety of sexual fantasies is actually a positive thing if it helps improve your arousal when you’re with your partner.

Note: Alien erotica is real.

Two experts — psychologist and sex therapist Gail Wyatt, and gynecologist Lewis Wyatt—writing at The Root also say that the practice of calling up a virtual rolodex of other people during sex is very common. Sex with one person may become routine, and by basically inserting this other fantasy into play, they explain, you can spice up your own relationship on the sly to your partner’s benefit. They write:

Actually, the question is not who you are thinking about but for what reason. If you are using fantasy to heighten your sexual arousal and ability to experience an orgasm with your partner, that is not cheating. There is no question that fantasizing can make sex more pleasurable if your partner receives the benefits (more pleasure and perhaps an orgasm)…



Debate: Why Are So Many Men Such Terrible Dressers?

by John McDermott

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when a man wore a crisp white shirt and neatly tailored suit to the office simply to convey that he was of a certain means and self-respect.

But, oh, how fashion standards for men have fallen since those days. Many offices now allow male employees to stroll in dressed like they’re about to hit the skate park.

Which is, in some ways, a good thing. The loosening of arbitrary social norms is almost always worthwhile. But there’s also something to be said for putting time and effort into your appearance, and the confidence and respect that come with showing your best self to the world.

So why the hell don’t more guys dress better? To solve this mystery, MEL turns to its panel of a straight woman (Tracy Moore), a straight guy (John McDermott) and a gay man (C. Brian Smith), who find that men’s aversion to fashion is rooted in homophobia and laziness.

Brian: My grandfather once told me, “No one takes a man in shorts seriously.” So I never wore them to work.

John: I like the cut of your grandfather’s jib. There are like three acceptable scenarios for a man to wear shorts: beach, working out and temperatures above 85 degrees (and even then it’s debatable).

And his comment speaks to the larger issue, which is that fashion standards for men have decreased to embarrassing levels over the past few decades, and I hate it.

Tracy: I agree the standards may have decreased, but at a time when there is more advice and guidance than ever for men making an even minimal effort.

John: Most men don’t pay attention to that, though.

I don’t date or check out men, so I’m actually curious to hear how fashionable the male populace is.

Tracy: I see dapper, well-dressed men all the time

John: But you’re a coastal elite!

Tracy: I also see guys in beefy T-shirts and cargo shorts.

Brian: I tend to overdress, likely because I’m always nervous about looking too casual. It’s a horrible look for an adult man. Like, grow up, bro.

John: I’m with you there. And yet so many guys wear the basic bro uniform (ill-fitting jeans, generic button-down or T-shirt, baseball cap, sneakers over white socks).

Brian: Let’s say you’re going to a friend’s dinner party — is there a minimum requirement for a guy?

John: No, and that’s the problem.

Tracy: Yes, men have largely been given a pass (outside of formal events) to dress however they want, with no consequences. They often dress for maximum comfort and nothing else.

John: That wasn’t always the case, though. Used to be the only time you’d see a man in a T-shirt and jeans was when he was mowing the lawn. Perhaps I’m being precious, but I feel like something has been lost.

Brian: What would be a consequence (if there was one)?

Tracy: For the most part there is none. If a guy shows up to an event underdressed, some woman might privately push him toward dressing better, or his friends who are better-dressed might mock him.

A single guy who’s out on the scene and puts zero effort into his appearance might ruin his chances with more style-conscious women. But he still might get laid.

John: Doesn’t that double standard bother you?

Tracy: It bothers me enormously that men get to look how they look, and you don’t know what a woman “really” looks like unless you’re dating her.

John: What’s the lowest level of fashionability you’ll accept in a romantic partner?

Tracy: He has to have a sense of style I don’t find hideous. Cargo shorts and a beefy T-shirt is the main offender. Also, flip-flops.

Brian: I need a guy to dress like an adult.

John: What does that even mean nowadays, though? I wore jeans, a T-shirt and hoodie to the office today (and yesterday). I’m dressed like a middle-schooler. (See my point?)

Brian: Yeah, I didn’t say anything, but I noticed.

Tracy: But the clothes actually fit you. Style isn’t about the items themselves — it’s about design, fit and fabric. You have a style that isn’t off the rack of a Costco (sorry, Brian).

Brian: Kirkland-chic?

Tracy: Anything can be pulled off if it fits you and expresses some kind of cohesive style. It’s just usually men do nothing — absolutely nothing.

Brian: Define “cohesive style.”

Tracy: Style, like being cool, is just having some original way of putting things together on your body that works. Men could just buy clothes that fit and that would be a great fucking start!…