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Take a Banana for a Walk

Recently, I was having a conversation with a stranger. This seems to happen more and more in sobriety (maybe it’s the new-found confidence, or maybe it's just realising you don’t have to be pissed to make friends).

He was a very nice French man who had recently quit working for a very large technology company (which I won’t name) to work to help small businesses.

He was an interesting guy; I enjoyed chatting to him in the empty coffee shop. He happened to mention he was feeling quite hungover. Ha! I thought, another chance to talk about being alcohol-free! (Half-joking by the way… but not really).

As the conversation went on, he asked me,

‘How do you let your hair down without alcohol?’

This is something that many of my friends have asked me over the last 18 months.

How do you cut loose? Have fun? Be silly? Dance around and giggle like an idiot?

There isn’t one right answer to this, but I think it’s possible, it just takes a bit of training.

Think back to being a child. Many children run around, jump on furniture, act strange, say silly things, play games, sing, dance, and so on. Children cut loose all the time.

Somewhere along the teenage to adult path, we seem to learn that this type of behaviour is only acceptable under certain circumstances:

When you are drinking!

So, some of us, we repress that child-like silly part of ourselves, and reserve it for when we are boozing. We might have the luxury of living with or being very close to people we feel comfortable acting goofy around. But many wouldn’t dream of getting in a silly goofy mood outside these circumstances.

I replied to the nice stranger,

‘It’s taken me some time, but I think I can do it now. I’ve learned to let my guard down and care less about what people will think of me. But to be honest, when I cut loose and act silly, people seem to like it. Sometimes, they even join in.’

He paused for a moment.

‘That’s interesting,’ he said, ‘I have a friend who once told me a story. I can’t remember if it was a true story or just an idea, but I’ll think you’ll like it.’

He paused again to take a sip of his coffee and I could tell he was doing his best to hold together his hungover head when trying to remember,

‘My friend told me that if you took a banana for a walk – ‘

‘Sorry, what?’ I interjected.

‘Like, if you literally tie a banana to the end of a piece of rope or put a collar around it and walk around the street with it on a lead, most people will think you are strange and won’t want to come near you.’

I thought about this for a moment, and wondered if he was going to try and say you shouldn’t act like a weirdo in public because people will assume the worst. But I carried on listening.

‘So, when you see someone taking a banana for a walk, you probably will assume there’s something off about them. But if you see a group of people – say, three or four people, walking a banana, you might think you’re the one missing out on the joke. Or, if you see one person walking a banana, another walking an apple, and another walking an orange, then you feel like the outsider. Like they’re in on a joke that you aren’t.’

‘So how does this relate to letting your hair down when you’re alcohol-free?’ I asked.

‘Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is that the more people do it, the more normal it becomes. By being one of the people who acts strange and fun in circumstances where others aren’t, you are opening up that opportunity to others. People might conform. Have you noticed that?’

‘The truth is, I haven't thought about it in that way until now. But I guess when I get in a silly goofy mood with people, they tend to follow suit. Huh. Maybe that’s what we need, more sober weirdos!’

‘Exactly, that’s what I mean. Maybe I wouldn’t be so hungover right now had my friends encouraged me to cut loose sober. I don’t know, it’s something to think about, anyway.'

He asked for the bill and after paying got up to leave.

‘Nice to meet you, maybe we’ll cross paths again one day,’ he said.

After he left the coffee shop, I was left with a smile on my face. One, I wasn’t hungover, and this guy was. Okay, maybe that’s a bit mean and sadistic, but it’s hard to not feel at least a teeny bit smug in those situations (if you know, you know).

But also, the conversation gave me hope. It gave me more reason to believe that the more we learn to cut loose, the more we normalise it, and teach others to do the same.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us take a banana for a walk every now and then, it might catch on.

Do you struggle to cut loose since giving up drinking? Have you mastered it? Leave your thoughts and tips in the comments below!

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Jun 26, 2022

I love this Charlie. I’m nearly 9 months AF and am starting to feel more confident in having fun with friends without alcohol plus I feel I’m starting to be my normal self. I’m actually quite quiet, who knew! My daughter commented on how much I chat to random strangers in shops or queues etc and apparently is a sign that you’ll live longer…. I’m not sure how that works but I’ll take that any day 😉 it’s my new found confident AF self and not giving a shit x

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