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The Etiquette of Vomiting

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The Etiquette of VomittingVomiting is one of those subjects people often try to graze over when discussing drinking.

They prefer to center on the glamorous aspects of drinking, the cerebral impairment, the fights and mishaps, the staggering around blindly and the cool hangover cures.

But let’s face up to reality: while many a boozer likes to brag he never or rarely reverses the flow of alcohol, truth be known, even the most accomplished drinker finds occasion to vomit. Even if it’s just to make room for more booze or to impress fellow imbibers with the distance he can launch the meat loaf he had for lunch.

Personally, I believe every aspect of alcohol should be celebrated and elevated, the good and the bad, the pleasure and the pain, the hooching and, yes, the hurling. And if you’re going to do something, even something that may ostracize you from polite society, you should do it right.


Never Retreat, Never Surrender

First off, public puking is something you should never do halfway. It’s very bad form to bolt out of a room, hand clasped over your mouth, chunks of half-digested Dinty Moore frothing between your fingers. This behavior is akin to a barely wounded soldier fleeing the battlefield in disgrace.

If you have sufficient warning, tell your companions: “Do excuse me, but I must vomit,” and stroll casually to the restroom to relieve yourself. That is not retreating, that is merely retiring to the rear to refit and regroup, so you may later return to the front and continue the gallant struggle.

If you cannot exit with that bare minimum of dignity, however, you must stand in place like a soldier chained to a machine gun and let them have it.

Ralphing the O’Maolain Way
Once you have decided that, yes, you are going to hurl, and no, you’re not going to make it to the restroom in a respectable fashion, try your best to refrain from spewing in a haphazard and sloppy manner. No matter how drunk you are, it is never cool having food and stomach acid jet out of your nostrils.

One of the biggest mistakes a vomiter can make is bending over. This puts pressure on your diaphragm and makes the act of expulsion much more difficult and painful. Hanging your head at that angle is not only unflattering, it virtually guarantees a nose full of something you don’t want. Stand up, tall and proud (yet leaning slightly forward so you don’t get any on yourself). After all, you should be proud. You just drank enough booze to make even an experienced drinker as yourself regurgitate. And while you’re standing there, upright and dignified, realize that where you aim that puke is of vital strategic importance.

 

Select Your Target Carefully
One of the greatest afflictions of the novice drinker is a hair-trigger vomit reflex. One minute you’re humping the bejesus out of a Tijuana hooker, the next you’re hosing her down with recycled Herradura.

So you have to be ready at all times. You must precondition yourself so your target selection will be a thoughtless, instinctual act. And I do mean target, because once you pick a direction to let loose, you gotta stick with it. If you start puking on something (your girlfriend’s shoes, say), then try to redirect the stream somewhere less likely to earn you a knee to the groin, you will most likely inflict collateral damage on a wide assortment of targets. Each of which may earn you an additional knee to the groin, not to mention punches to the head. So take aim and get your money’s worth. Hold down the trigger and empty the magazine because, after all, there’s no such thing as half a knee to the groin.

Try to avoid white and unwashable fabrics. The same goes for valuable and sentimental objects owned by people who give you booze, money, or sex. Aim for porcelain or tile, point the stream at hard, smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. Hurl the bile at enclosures, such as planted pots and empty pitchers, even a pint glass will reduce collateral damage and, more importantly, will signal to observers that you are an experience puker.

If you do have to target something valuable or unsalvageable, don’t be to hard on yourself. Any place who lets humans drink more than a normal ration of alcohol has to accept the possibility of intestinal retribution. It’s practically a law. A fine example is what occurred at an infamous 1976 New Years Eve party at the parents of a high-school pal of mine. The parents thought themselves fiendishly clever by stocking their home with eye-poppingly white couches, chairs, and carpets, thinking it would surely prevent teenagers from making Purple Jesus Punch (with extra Everclear, because we were teenagers). Well, it didn’t, and when the inevitable vomiting started it was like Barney the Dinosaur had lost an argument with a propeller blade. Who’s fault was this? The teenagers? No. The kid who threw the party? No. The parents? Check. They knew that kid was going to mutate into a teenager when they had him.

 

When People Puke on People
It happens. You find yourself in a tight crowd and no matter which direction you turn, there’s some poor sap standing there, gaping at you when he should be leaping out of the way. Start bulging your cheeks at me and I’m already halfway across the room, smoking a cigarette.

I can remember just one occasion in which that fine instinct failed me. I was standing with friends in a tightly packed bar and suddenly a friend starting making with the bullfrog impression. While everyone else stood there, gawking in terror and thus deserving a good drenching, I lunged gracefully backwards into the crowd. Seeing an open corridor, my friend followed, hosing me down as he went. Like a faithful puking dog, he followed me across the entire length of the room, spraying me with vomit like it was not only his job, but a job he took extremely seriously.

I forgave my friend, even hours later when I was still finding vomit in different pockets, but not everyone is as laissez-faire about it. When you realize you must vomit on a fellow human being, you must immediately choose between friends and strangers. The decision rests entirely upon how good a fighter you think you are. A friend is more likely to forgive you, but he is also likely to stop buying you drinks. If you must choose between a man and a woman, go for the man. He may clobber you, but if you puke on a woman, first she’ll knee you, then her boyfriend will clobber you.

If you’re the self-sacrificing type, you may gallantly leap upon the grenade you’re about to drop and puke on your own chest. I’ve seen it done, but I don’t recommend it. While it may seem noble and save you from a punch, a vomit stain down the front of your shirt is as the mark of Cain. Bartenders will not serve you. Girls will not wish to make out with you. Friends will mock you. For you, the party is over.


The Aftermath

When it comes time to clean up the mess, a word of advice: don’t. That’s what dogs are for. You’d probably just grind it deeper into the carpet anyhow. Behave as if it’s no big deal. Apologizing profusely may spare you a thrashing, but your dignity as a drunk will suffer a graver injury. There is nothing more pathetic than a man who has just puked crawling around in a puddle of vomit with a paper towel in his hand, trying to make amends. You are a sick man, after all, and sick men shouldn’t be subjected to such humiliation and cruelty.

Do not feel guilty for puking. Stand up for your rights. If pushed, ask them if they really wanted you to keep that (make a subtle gesture towards the ejecta) inside of you.

Or you can brazen it out. Act unabashedly proud and point out interesting food chunks while hoping the hosts have servants who are even now approaching with hot water and disinfectants. If caught red-handed, I always opt for this bold approach. Sometimes, if the room is drunk enough, I try to really brazen it out, insisting that I did not just vomit, that it was (insert the name of likely scapegoat here) who did it, then demand an apology. On some groups it works. The upper-crust British, for example, are such slaves of etiquette you can vomit on half of Burke’s Peerage and get away with it by employing this method.

If you puked on someone and they possess the ill manners to remain standing, perhaps even seething, before you, say, “Terribly bad form, I regret it deeply.” Then wipe the puke from your lips with the nearest available absorbent material (resist the urge to use your victim’s tie) and always remember to smile. Too many people don’t smile enough, and the world would be a better place if we smiled more. Make the most of this opportunity, let the warmth of your smile increase the human bond between you. Offer him an Altoids, even before you eat one. Then gracefully stroll away, as if on the way to an important, but not pressing, engagement.

If this bold approach is not your style, you can either pretend to pass out (the Possum Gambit) or make a face like you might do it again and make haste for the front door (the Rattlesnake Ruse). By the time you come back (in twenty minutes or twenty years, depending on severity of the episode), it’ll be all cleaned up and you can plead drunken forgetfulness of the whole affair.

Of course, there a limits to what lengths you may go to save face. To venture beyond those limits is to risk severely damaging the minds of those unfortunate enough to witness your misguided efforts to mask your misstep. To illustrate the point; I offer this disturbing personal experience:

While attending a party, I watched a foreign exchange student chug an entire pitcher of Coors. No big deal, we were young and did crazy things back in the day (the Coors part, not the chugging of pitchers). Shortly thereafter, he got the “Oh shit, I have to barf” look. He goggled at the throng of people between him and the restroom, his eyes darting back and forth for a solution. Suddenly, quietly, he puked into the empty pitcher. I think he was one of those British-educated exchange students, for he did it neatly, silently, and didn’t spill a drop. So far, so good. He glanced around furtively, thinking no one had noticed. He was in the clear. He’d pulled it off! Then, suddenly, inexplicably, unbelievably, he drank the pitcher again, in an attempt to conceal the evidence.

Our eyes bugged with disbelief. Even more incredible was the fact he didn’t regurgitate again. But we did.

Like an insanely polite man attempting to hide an unfashionably hissing stick of dynamite, he set off a chain-reaction, Monty-Pythonesque, mass-pukathon that haunts me to this day.


The Astonishing Comeback

I’m ashamed to say that some drunks I know think vomiting sounds just like last call, when it should sound like the bar’s door being unlocked. You just made a whole bunch of room for more booze! I’m not saying you should go shake hands with the liquid fiend that made you puke in the first place (probably tequila), I’m saying you should ease into a nice stomach-soothing pint of Guinness. Maybe a nice White Russian to replace your stomach lining.

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Special Bonus Section: The Secrets of Projectile Vomiting
Any high school punk with a belly full of Purple Jesus Punch can puke on his neighbor’s shoes. It takes a real drunk to nail a moving target from halfway across the room. Why would you wish to do such a terrible thing? Perhaps you don’t care for the quality of your company. Perhaps you’ve been informed your highly-prized keg privileges have been revoked. Maybe you just spotted your girlfriend making out with your best friend and can’t think of a better way of informing them of your outrage.

In the face of these circumstances, the projectile vomit is the ultimate weapon: it will clear a crowded room, it will demoralize the most upbeat bash, it will steal the desire to make out from even the most wanton of ex-girlfriends. Here’s how you do it:

At the first sign of trouble, stand up straight. Use good posture, you will find it much easier to direct your flow. I gleaned this lesson from opera singers, who know the value of being able to project.

Keep your mouth shut. Let it well up deep inside you, building the force and power necessary to clear the safety zone that may well be forming around you. Hold it as long as you can, let the power grow. When you can’t hold it any longer, open your mouth wide and let fly. Keep that posture intact, act as if you’re hitting an A note at The Met. You may arch your neck and head forward to give that extra little push, and make sure you use your lips to funnel the tail end of the comet well away from you.

For additional effect, aim the stream at a ceiling fan in hopes of initiating an unforgettable barf-fest of Stephen King proportions. It’s that easy.

Marc O’Maolain