I’ve been sober for three years. At this point, I feel incredibly grounded in my sobriety. However, every now and then, something small will leave me with that annoying itch to drink again — you know the one. That sensation tends to occur when I’m sold the idea that drinking is self-care, particularly wine. Society constantly bombards me with that message, and it’s most effective when it catches me off-guard. That’s why I couldn’t help but notice the plethora of wine-related decor started popping up in my local department stores and online.
If you search “wine decor” on Wayfair.com, there are 6,072 results, including an $89.99 painting with the words “take a deep breath and enjoy life” scribbled next to three wine glasses. There’s also an end table to store wine corks for the low price of $132.99, a $308 wine pairing guide, and 8,386 results for the search “bar and wine furniture.” Mind you, that’s just one website. From Pottery Barn’s $299 wine rack to the 95,035 results for “wine decor” on Etsy — brace for impact if you stumble down that tacky rabbit hole — the consumption of wine is lauded in home decor. So, what’s the problem with a little “love, laugh, wine”? A lot.
So, what’s the problem with a little “love, laugh, wine”? A lot.
Generally speaking, wine decor is a gendered category aimed to entice women. There are sparkles, wine glasses boasting “mommy’s little helper,” and plenty of pink. Unfortunately, this coincides with another trend: More and more women are turning to the bottle.
Alcohol use disorder among women in the U.S. increased by 83.7 percent between 2002 and 2013, according to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. As reported by NPR, high-risk drinking (four or more drinks in a day on a weekly basis for women and five or more for men), rose by 29.9 percent overall. When separated by gender, however, high-risk drinking among women rose around 58 percent. From 1992 to 2007, the number of middle-aged women who checked into rehab for alcohol nearly tripled, as stated by Gabrielle Glaser in her book, Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—And How They Can Regain Control.
Plus, if you think objectively think about the notion of wine-related decor, it’s a little absurd.
While a wine country retreat is Pinterest-worthy, nobody is boasting about their crack chic loft. When it comes to substance use, the double standards abound. If someone had an end table filled with syringes instead of wine corks, they’d be 5150’d. Except for a smattering of art celebrating weed, the drug decor industry is relatively (and fortunately) nonexistent. The normalization of booze-related furnishings in our homes reflects the arbitrary standards society uses to deem what’s suitable decor for a home. Nevertheless, more people die from excessive alcohol use than opioids every year in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control.
The normalization of booze-related furnishings in our homes reflects the arbitrary standards society uses to deem what’s suitable decor for a home.
It also taps into another issue: Gendered marketing. Women are sold the idea that, with a bit of retail therapy, their issues can evaporate.
First of all, women are more than twice as anxious as men. Secondly, women are twice as likely as men to use retail therapy as a method of coping with stress, according to a 2013 survey. Companies prey upon women’s anxiety by selling the idea that, with a quick swipe of plastic, they can ease their worries.
So, what’s the scariest part of all this? Companies are grooming women to share the gospel of wine plus consumerism equals happiness. The Wine Sisterhood, which describes itself as an online community where women can “join the conversation about wine, food, travel, style and entertaining,” has an entire retail section on its website. Yes, one of those sections is labeled as “entertaining,” with merchandise including a $46 glass cutting board with words like “flirt,” “sassy,” and “gossip” framing the Wine Sisterhood logo. There are also countless Facebook groups, including Mommy Drinks Wine and Swears, where women flock to share memes, videos, and boozy photos encouraging women to self-medicate.
At this point, women are perpetuating the consumerist cycle themselves.
Women are sold the idea that, with a bit of retail therapy, their issues can evaporate.
In the grand scheme of societal issues, a “wine o’clock” clock seems relatively benign. However, the issue extends beyond decor; it’s the normalization of consumption that’s the real issue. With signs that read, “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy wine, and that’s kind of the same thing,” it’s literally telling you that you can buy happiness, then drink it straight from a bottle. Plus, when you’re literally lining your walls with these slogans, it’s a daily reminder that if you’re upset, you can ease your worries with a quick trip to the liquor store.
When I see a sign like that, it makes me wonder if wine can in fact buy happiness. Then I remember that I tried to drink my way to happiness for countless years, and it never worked. Home decor can’t buy you happiness, nor can wine. Do you know what can bring you happiness, though? Knowing you’re trying your hardest to stay awake and alive in a world that tries to prey on your identity.