I’m a CSW. There, I’ve said it. Certified Specialist of Wine. I am a member of a group that represents the most knowledgeable among us when it comes to wine. This isn’t bragging, mind you, this is simple fact. I took a test. My answers were found to be correct no less than 75% of the time. I have letters after my name now, and the great responsibility that comes with them. Let me repeat, 75% of the time I selected the proper answer to a question about wine given four answers from which to choose. Knowledge is power. And I’m running at a guaranteed 75%. I’m a wine specialist. Certified.
I didn’t choose to be a CSW. Come on, use your head. In this culture, given the way CSWs are treated, how we’re taunted and stereotyped, if given a choice, would you be a CSW? Of course not. The CSW chose me. I was born this way, though I spent most of my formative years denying it. Other kids were sneaking beer at the school parties, or smoking crack, or taking Mentos as a suppository. I was quietly sipping a Chenin Blanc, and one under 13% ABV! I was ashamed. More than once, I wanted to die. Yes, I’m not afraid to admit it. Before I knew what a CSW was, I hated myself. I thought about taking my own life, or joining “The Wall Street Journal” Wine Club, which isn’t much different. I had feelings that I didn’t understand. Feelings society says are wrong. I was in love with wine, with the very fundamentals of how wine is made. I was a Leesbian, though I didn’t know the word for it then. I could hide from my desires, but I couldn’t deny them. It’s horrible what this country does to a CSW. The scorn, the knowing smirk when reading the “CSW” after our names, the ultimate look of disgust. You think we don’t see that? We’re drunk, not blind!
CSW saved my life. My feelings of worthlessness vanished the day I was 75% right. Now I’m part of something so much larger than myself, and if you saw me, you’d know how large that is. Most of you reading this have no idea what it’s like to be a CSW. There may even be a CSW in your life and you’re unaware of her. We learn how to appear “normal.” We just want to go to work, do our jobs, earn enough money to enjoy our lifestyle, and not have to answer questions from “normal” people all day. To you, perhaps these questions seem harmless, idle curiosity. But to a CSW, a question like, “Can you recommend a good Pinot Noir under twenty dollars?” is like a slap in the face. You don’t understand wine like we do. You didn’t study for hours and hours to understand that Pinot Noir is the red grape of Burgundy. You don’t know enough to tell me what goddam clone of Pinot Noir you prefer, yet you expect me, because I’m a CSW, to just hand out names of Pinot Noirs under twenty dollars. Just like that. Like I took that exam that damn near killed me, got 75% of the answers right, just so I could look you in the eye and say, “Have you tried the Castle Rock?” What kind of a monster are you?
And now, after all that we’ve been through as CSWs, the online courses, the humiliation, the tear gassing at TexSomm, now comes the ultimate indignity—a President of the United States who doesn’t drink. After years and years of hiding in the shadows, knowing that we’re CSWs but unable to confess it to our parents, in many cases, or our peers, we finally come out of the wine closet and this happens. The entire country turns against us. Our new President doesn’t even admit that our lives have any meaning. We’re suddenly invisible again, another group marginalized, our love denied. We’re still CSWs. We have the letters after our name if anyone cares to look. We’re people just like you and just like the President. We drink our Champagne out of white wine glasses, not flutes, but, still, we’re just people. With letters after our name. Don’t judge us. We were born this way. We just want to be accepted, even loved. Have you ever loved a CSW? No. I didn’t think so. Very few have.
I’d been planning to tell my parents that I’m a CSW, but now I don’t know what to do. I don’t think my mother will accept it. I can hear her now. “A CSW? No! I refuse to believe it. I know you, I raised you. You’re NOT a CSW! Don’t tell me you are. How am I supposed to go to my club and tell the other mothers that my daughter is a Certified Specialist of Wine? What do you think they’re going to do? I’ll tell you what they’re going to do, they’re going to LAUGH! ‘A CSW?,’ they’re going to say, ‘Is that like a CPA, or an RN, or a DDS? Or is it more a WTF?’ I didn’t raise you, Honey, to be a CSW. Now you just march your Certified ass upstairs, young lady, and amputate those three letters. Or you’ll never be welcome in my house.”
“Those three letters,” Mom, are who I am. I don’t care if it’s a horrible way to live, I don’t have a choice anymore. And it is horrible. CWEs making fun of us, calling us “filthy little Specs.” WSETs looking down their noses at us because they have four letters instead of only three. And I don’t even want to talk about MSs. They won’t even speak to us. They walk among us as the Greek gods walked among ordinary mortals. Often they appear to us, those of us who one day dream of our own little MS pin, in animal form, and always an animal with horns. We are their playthings, mere mortals they can tease, torture, torment or seduce. Their immortality makes them shameless. They treat us like their possessions. And so we dream of being one of them, at least until we are broken, without money or pride left, one exam away from immortality… An exam we never pass, because they don’t really want us among them. We’re not really MS material. We never were. We should have known. The gods always recognize other gods, then screw with the mortals who want to be like them. And when they’re finished, our CSW seems so worthless. Like it was just a simple test. Like passing the test for your driver’s license, only it costs 50 times more. Like any dummy can get one. Like the letters are just that. Only letters. Like people who mistake letters for accomplishment are like people who mistake numbers for wisdom. Like wine is about letters and numbers… It is, isn’t it?
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