The correct number of Malört shots one should consume is zero. I discovered this on a recent trip to Chicago, where I chose to get absolutely blasted on the stuff the night before a full day of driving. I spent the entire eight-hour ride back home trying not to puke and shit my pants in the car. Though successful on both fronts, there’s a Wendy’s in southern Illinois to which I can never return.
Hangovers, with all their gastro fireworks, are easy to hate. But, reader, I’m here to say that we should revere these woozy day-ruiners for the biological wonders that they are.
At the very least, hangovers warrant respect for basically being unbeatable. We’ve rid the world of polio, smallpox, and cargo shorts. And yet the hangover, in all its nauseous glory, endures. It is resistant to any combination of vitamin C and Vitamin water and to any supposed hangover cure, which are all, to put it scientifically, bullshit. I once blew $35 on a hangover-prevention pill, in hopes that it would counteract the Fireball I was about to ruin myself with. But as any sane adult knows, and as I soon discovered, the only surefire way to avoid a hangover tomorrow is not to overdo it tonight. (Admittedly, this is a near-impossible feat when it’s two-for-one margaritas and, suddenly, your body is mostly tequila.)
Hangovers also have a practical benefit, in that they afford otherwise upright adults a voucher good for one (1) self-imposed, only mildly guilt-ridden sick day. We’ll all power through a head cold on a workday while DayQuiled out of our minds. But a hangover is a sorry-can’t-I’m—gag—sick, plan-canceling ailment in which even the noblest among us can indulge. A hangover is like a friend who shows up at your house, extremely uninvited. Your initial reaction is “Why are you here?” Then they’re like, “You know what would be great right now? Garbage food and not moving.” And you’re like, “Maybe you’re not so bad.” You can then wrap yourself in a blanket and plop down on the couch for an entire day like the gross human burrito that you very much are deep down.
And should you, against all odds, muster the strength to leave the couch, hangovers are a perfect excuse to buy super-sugary sports drinks, even though you’re not playing sports, and to chug Pedialyte, for nostalgia’s sake, even though you’re not a baby. (Though, in fairness to babies, if you admitted that you spent a day eating, sleeping, pooping, and crying, a baby would be like, “Who gave you my day planner?”) Plus, when it comes to food, the only thing that tastes better than an egg-and-cheese sandwich when you’re drunk is an egg-and-cheese sandwich when you’re hungover. It’s magic.
Perhaps the hangover’s greatest asset is its sheer, immediate pain. Humans treat their bodies terribly. But if you blow off a trip or seven to the gym, your body doesn’t immediately turn to mush. If you skip fruits and veggies for three meals, your body doesn’t break out in hives that spell “Please Stop Subsisting on Chipotle.” At least when you assault your body with alcohol, hangovers remind you that you’re an idiot and warn you please, please, please not to overdo it again. Will you listen? Maybe one day. In the meantime, the hangover, terrible yet entirely deserved, will be there to tuck you in to your blanket burrito and to give you sports drinks and egg-and-cheese sandwiches.
It could be worse. With booze, you’re basically ingesting poison. Hangovers are arguably the best worst way your body could react. I’ll drink to that—provided it’s not Malört. ♦
Mia Mercado is a freelance writer based in Kansas City.
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