I used to like hangovers, in a way. Back when I was a carefree young buck with nobody to worry about but myself, a hangover was quite a laugh, an excuse for a bit of downtime and a lot of comfort-eating.
Now that I have a 16-month-old, it is hell on earth, sheer agony, the kind of experience that has me longing for the sweet release of death.
Can I level with you? I had quite a lot to drink on Tuesday night – I went to the pub with a couple of friends and drank a great many pints and a reasonable amount of a whisky advent calendar I was sent by a nice lady at a PR company who I now hate with every fibre of my being.
In an ideal world I’d be left alone to have a big sleep, three showers and a whole thing of chorizo before I even considered talking to another human.
Instead of that, my Wednesday began at 5:30am, when my daughter insisted I read ‘My Friend Bear’ to her. Twice. That bear is no longer my friend. Then I changed her nappy (the daughter’s not the bear’s). Now, there are a lot of things that people insist are wonderful hangover cures, but inhaling the extraordinarily robust piss of a teething toddler isn’t ever something anyone suggests.
When feeling under the weather, I want nothing more than to sit in bed and watch somewhere between one and three Jackass films. I want to laugh to the point of tears at the bit from ‘Jackass 3D’ with the giant high-five, then feel a hangover-complementing bit of sadness about the late, great Ryan Dunn.
Now that I’m a parent, that’s just not doable. There’s no such thing as a quiet day. Children need entertaining and they don’t understand things like “Daddy needs to sleep this one off. Good lord, never again. Jesus Christ. Can you just parent yourself today, darling?”
Even if you put the telly on, it’s going to be bloody CBeebies, isn’t it? And that’s likely to be, well, a bit much. You don’t want to see Mr Tumble when you’ve got a head like a graveyard or be made to feel unaccountably angry by Bing doing something stupid. And you certainly don’t need Flop parent-shaming you.
It’s hard to lead by example when you feel like a dog’s breakfast. You can’t lie on a pavement with a can of Rio in in each hand and wolf down three bags of Walkers Max when you’re trying to feed your child healthily. It’s not fair.
And at the risk of sounding a bit George Best, the best cure for a hangover is getting drunk again. If you get completely destroyed on a Saturday, for instance, and then slightly pissed on a Sunday, you get a very mild hangover on Monday from Sunday’s drinking, instead of the stinker you were due on Sunday. It’s science. But I can’t do that – I have “responsibilities”. Life is hideous.
And you worry about the optics. Do I smell? you think, looking at the other parents at nursery. If so, should I acknowledge it? Maybe if I loudly mention I went to a party last night that would be better. I want to make sure they know I’m not, like, drinking in the morning. I’m just extremely smelly and hanging.
There’s always a bit of fear with a hangover – that gloomy hour or so where you feel non-specifically afraid of everything – and that has quadrupled since becoming a father. The existential dread is compounded by the real worry that you’re a bad parent for letting yourself get to this state.
That worry is unfounded, of course. Seeing my mates was almost certainly good for me. At no point was my child endangered or neglected as a result of my all-too-rare night out. And I even managed to dress her in a way that didn’t necessarily look like a half-pissed bloke did it.
Now, where’s the rest of that advent calendar?