Someone once told me a story about Mariah Carey that goes like this: in an interview, Carey is asked to name her drink of choice. “Prosecco,” she replies, matter-of-factly. Unsatisfied with this answer (of course the glitter-loving songstress drinks wine that sparkles), the journalist pushes on. “Sure,” they say, “but what else?”
“Just prosecco,” Carey replies.
“Not even water?” They laugh, but Carey does not.
I repeat this story about three times a year, usually after someone points out that I, too, drink only prosecco – as I have done for nearly a decade – and in settings they find unusual: covered in soil after a big gardening session; after a boxing class; a “quick one” after work. “What can I say? I’m a Poundland Mariah,” I might say, happily perpetuating the myth of the great diva (despite numerous searches, I have found no evidence that Carey ever did such an interview).
So, when roughly 80% of my Christmas gifts and cards three years ago had a prosecco theme, I didn’t think anything of it. There was the mug that read “Sssh! There’s prosecco in here”; a “prosecc-sy lady” T-shirt that hurts me to write about as much as it hurts you to read it; jars and bags of prosecco-flavoured somethings (caramel, popcorn, sweets, even bath bombs) – and that was before the countless bottles of prosecco itself, big and small.
Most greetings cards in Britain have a reference to drinking too much (an improvement on the other trope: telling you that you are old and will be dead soon), so I didn’t find them, or the gifts that riffed off the sentiment, offensive. And I understood why people found my drinking habits a bit odd. Prosecco is usually a celebratory drink, not an everyday one. But I drink only socially – and time spent with people you like is always a cause for celebration, in my view.
Also, despite the mass production of such “prosecco princess” novelty items, despite them being on every supermarket shelf in the country, I still found the gifts and cards pleasing. I have a strange relationship with money, insofar as my family has very little: when you grow up needing state assistance for housing and other essentials, you are forever talking about what you need rather than what you want. There is nothing essential about a glass of prosecco; it is pure whimsy, fun and frivolity at a price that even I can’t feel guilty about. It is not that I don’t see how exclusively drinking bubbles with my pinky up might make me seem like a princess; I do. Indeed, that is precisely the fun.
But, as I would come to learn nearly a year later, prosecco is not a personality. Drinking it is not a character trait; it does not reflect my soul or my experience.
The awakening was a rude one. I mentioned in passing to a very dear friend that last Christmas everyone had bought me prosecco, forgetting that she had been one of them. She bristled: “Well, that’s what you get someone when you barely know them any more, isn’t it?” A confrontation followed. She said I had been slowly drifting away from everyone; she was sad that, as a “so-called best friend” (air quotes and everything), she knew nothing of me these days – not my interests, ambitions, fears or struggles. “All I know is you like prosecco,” she said, sighing.
And she had a point. The year of the prosecc-ho-ho Christmas had been a particularly rough one. I was struggling to balance increased caring responsibilities with a growing workload; there were constant arguments between my flatmates; and my boyfriend and I were in a vicious cycle of breakups. So, I did what I always do whenever I feel I can’t force a smile or silence the anxious voices long enough to be good company: I disappeared.
Was my festive treasure trove a sign my friends and family were playing it safe, that they had little else to say? Were the prosecco gifts a symptom of my increasing social alienation? The possibility certainly got me thinking.
I would like to say that my behaviour transformed after that, but learning to trust people enough to let them in – and let them help, in the understanding that isolation only makes things worse – would take much longer. Indeed, I am still working on it. But even though I won’t see many people this Christmas, I will make the effort to pick up the phone and try as hard as I can to open up, knowing that that is what defines a good relationship. And I will raise a glass of prosecco to the ones I love, wherever they are, with a toast: “Support bubbles for my support bubble. Merry Christmas.”