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Saturday, August 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Intoxicating encounters
Why does my co-worker only pay attention to me after he's had a few?

I'm sure you followed the recent news about Mel Gibson's arrest for speeding and driving under the influence. I don't usually pay attention to celebrity meltdowns, but this one struck a nerve because of a man I work with. It's a large company, so I don't think I'll be blowing his cover, and I don't really care what he thinks about me anymore, so here's the scoop: During Happy Hour, after a couple of drinks, he tends to gravitate toward me and shower me with affection. Neither of us is married, so there's no real harm in it. And I must confess that I've kind of liked it in the past. Under different circumstances, I might have been attracted to him, but it's hard to ignore the fact that he only seems interested in me when he's had something to drink.

My question: Can I trust the feelings he expresses under the influence? I should tell you that, on the rare occasions when I run into him at work, he's friendly but not especially warm. Also, he's never asked me out, even while inebriated. I'm hardly stupid enough to actually invest emotion in this man, but I can't help but wonder what exactly's going on. What do you think?

Straight, No Chaser

Straight, No Chaser: Actually, I didn't follow the news about Mel Gibson as it unfolded. I was on vacation at the time, unable to suckle at the media teat, and when I got back I learned that Mel, assisted by a bottle of tequila, had discovered the origins of war. Carl von Clausewitz, eat your heart out! Of course, upon further reflection, not to mention a dunk in the drunk tank, Mel refined his theory: Jews weren't responsible for all the wars in the world, just the media war being waged against him. Oh, and that female cop he'd referred to as "Sugar Tits"? Turned out her bosom wasn't quite as sweet as he'd initially imagined. Must have been the booze talking.

People, booze can't talk. You can spend the whole day sitting next to a bottle of it, and unless you're an alcoholic with an advanced case of delirium tremens, it won't say a thing. Or, as Gary L. Malone, the chief of psychiatry at the Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, so eloquently put it, "You can't pour vodka on a turnip and have it say anti-Semitic remarks." What you can do is pour vodka on a turnip and have it say turnip-like remarks ' "Well, at least I'm not a kumquat," that sort of thing. And in my opinion, that's what Mel was saying that night. "I may be a drunk who can't find his way home without a map, but at least I'm not a kumquat."

Do our true feelings come out when we've been drinking? The Romans certainly thought so, hence the phrase "in vino veritas" ' in wine, truth. And many people who should know better have held the belief, over the centuries, that alcohol serves as a truth serum, dulling that part of the brain responsible for higher thought, thereby rendering us incapable of lying. But if that were true, 1) alcoholics would always say "yes" when asked whether they've been drinking, and 2) judges would require witnesses to down a few shots before testifying in court. Let's face it, neither of those is likely to happen anytime soon. Yes, we may blurt out the truth while drinking, but it's all mixed up with the other stuff we're blurting out. Mostly, we're just blurting.

So, I wouldn't put much stock in the sweet nothings your co-worker's whispering in your ear, Straight. They're sweet, but they're nothing.

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