At approximately 10 a.m. EST this morning, Ina Garten—our nation’s foremost expert on home entertaining and perhaps most beloved celebrity—posted a video to Instagram of herself making a pitcher of cosmopolitans and then dumping most of the pitcher into a single martini glass almost big enough for Dita Von Teese to do a burlesque act in. “Stay safe, have a very good time, and don’t forget the cocktails,” Garten says, before using both hands to raise the giant glass and taking a swig.
It was noon in Los Angeles when I watched the video, and because I’m three hours behind my colleagues in New York, my work hours are generally 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., meaning it is still mid-afternoon when I log off. “During a crisis, a cocktail hour can be almost any hour,” Garten says as she shakes the vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry juice, and lime in full daylight. It occurred to me that she is correct. If I’m off at 3, isn’t that my 5? I have all of these ingredients in my kitchen right now. Perhaps at home, happy hour is whenever I say it is.
But immediately my grown-up brain pushed back that no, cocktail hour happens at 5 p.m., not before, or else all hell breaks loose. This response is akin to something that happened at the grocery store a few months ago when I stopped to show my boyfriend some Star Wars-themed ice cream sandwiches in a freezer case. “I’d love to try those,” I told him, wistfully. “Then just buy them and do it?” he replied, confused. He thought I was joking, but it had legitimately never occurred to me that I could buy junk food in the shape of the Millennium Falcon for no good reason. So I bought them, and I tried one. It was delicious, but eating candy just because I wanted to seemed shameful, childish. So each subsequent day, if I ate all my vegetables, wrote all my blogs, went on my hike, and took my dog for a bit of recreation, I could eat another one after dinner.
So much of being an adult is learning to be one’s own star player, coach, and cheerleader, setting arbitrary goals and then dangling rewards as motivation—using two weeks of vacation as an impetus to keep going to work, a doughnut if we make it to the gym. But the goal, right now, is to keep doing nothing—staying inside, persevering, being adults by realizing we’ve got to lock our own cage and sit tight. The reward is that we get to keep living in a society with rules and structure, which is important, but not exactly a doughnut or a trip to the beach.
There’s not very much to look forward to right now—even Garten acknowledges as much when she says “I like to make a lot of cosmos, you never know who’s going to stop by” before adding “Wait a minute, nobody’s stopping by,” with an exasperated little laugh. She says the cocktail hour is her “favorite tradition,” and if it is just an hour, maybe as adults we get to have our reward whenever we’ve decided that we have successfully made it through the day. Not everyone drinks, not everyone eats sugar or dairy, but surely each of us has some version of a happy hour we offer ourselves as a reward for slogging through the drudgery of adulthood. Ina’s right: Instead of saving that treat for dessert or post-workout or as soon as the promotion comes through, it might be a little kinder to relax the rules around what accomplishments merit a treat and let our personal happy hours happen as needed.