Dating apps are always under scrutiny. Their place in the romance sector of our lives is not like the formal, authoritarian dating sites of yesteryear. Instead of such rigidity, apps are casual — indeed we swipe our phones like we’re playing some erotic Fruit Ninja, testing our tastes and pushing our prejudices. They’re here to stay and we must accept that. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call out their faults, nor the people who use them.
As such, I’m calling for a ban on the phrase ‘part-time alcoholic’.
You will have seen this in the personal bios sat awkwardly next to other interests. It sticks out. That word: alcoholic. It’s a jagged, unhappy word. It creates imagery of bottles in brown paper bags, strewn on a carpet floor or hidden behind a curtain. I can picture yellow-stained fingernails, skin and teeth. The smell! That generic smell of unnamed fluid, more like cleaning spray than sustenance. They sway and swing to fall through the room. Vomit and greasy hair. Drooped, dark eyes staring at you, speaking more sense than whatever garbled words they’re trying desperately to say. I’ll stop, I promise. Another spun bit of gold hiding immeasurable pain and fear.
That’s what alcoholic means.
Using ‘alcoholic’ in any circumstances other than its official intention is a questionable choice. The word has been weakened in its meaning, allowing people to employ it generously to mean ‘a person who likes a drink’ rather than ‘a person addicted to alcohol’. Lots of us like a drink, some more than most, others just a glass of wine at dinner. This doesn’t equal being an alcoholic. Suggesting you are one actively, on dating apps or otherwise, is a huge contradiction in terms. If there was an Olympic category for misused definitions, we have our gold medallist.
Alcoholism is a disease. It blights people’s lives leaving black holes where love and care should be. The demon drink drains emotions leaving a shell of what a person once was. There’s no doubt this can be reversed. Those who are strong and brave enough to do so should never be silenced, their voices forever platformed for breaking this spinning wheel. Using the term so casually demeans its serious nature. It pulls away that victory suggesting that their affliction was something to laugh at.
‘Part-time alcoholic’ is even more insidious. You can’t just slip in and out of alcoholism like putting on a work uniform. Sadly, some alcoholics burn that bridge only for it to be rebuilt in later times. That’s not a funny little comment to use on a dating app. That’s a relapse, a moment of sheer hell for those who suffer.
My mum lived for over three years as an alcoholic before she died. There was nothing amusing about it. Others will have stories and anecdotes of their loved ones who have tragically fallen to drink. The tropes of alcoholism are just as universal as those written into dating bios. But instead of dogs, travelling and pictures of that one beach in Thailand, alcoholics lie and hide and drag you down, despite your love for them.
This may get criticised as pure overreaction. It’s just a word, Dan. But you’ve heard it said repeatedly in support meetings, spat down your throat after a difficult encounter, or haunting you years after a funeral — and believe me, you’d have heard it enough.
If you are a lucky swiper, exercising your thumbs and your right to find love, but you match with a self-confessed ‘part-time alcoholic’ (or adjacent term), please educate them. It’s undoubtedly not a conscious decision made to offend those who suffer. But unless its severity is redressed, alcoholics will find themselves even more ostracised. When the very term that describes your life is adorning Tinder bios like a badge of honour, you’d be angry too.