I Tried Pantsdrunk, the Finnish Art of Drinking Alone at Home in Your Underwear

By Justin Caffier on July 25, 2018

With each passing day, as the world drifts further into a fascistic dystopia, the concept of self-care has never been more important. But with the average citizen working grueling hours for pay so meager that it barely covers rent and bills, decompressing with a day at the spa or a retail therapy splurge can seem hopelessly out of reach. Fortunately, a new Finnish tradition that offers an affordable, fun solution to the stresses of everyday life is gaining traction and picking up fans across the globe.

Päntsdrunk is a relaxation method that involves nothing more than sitting at home in your underwear and getting drunk. It’s alarmingly simple and yet, simultaneously, so much more complex than that. Pantsdrunk is not so much a prescribed set of rules for reaching nirvana than it is a permission slip to indulge and unwind with a method that most will find enjoyable—and one that’s been showing positive results for generations.

The origins of pantsdrunk is as old as Nordic civilization itself. While adjacent to other classic Scandinavian tenets like lagom (moderation) and hygge (ambience of leisureliness), the relatively new term kalsarikänni (pantsdrunk in its native tongue) is more an activity than a state of mind or curated atmosphere. Though a historically hardscrabble lot, the Finnish people’s tolerance of short, gloomy days and long, frigid nights can only last so long without some sort of release. This is where the ancestral roots of pantsdrunk found purchase, centuries before kalsarikänni was coined in the 2000s.

I picked up a copy of Finnish journalist Miska Rantanen’s guide to the pantsdrunk lifestyle to see what would happen when I folded the strictures into my own hectic life. If this bit of Bacchanalia micro-dosing had any part in making Finland the happiest country in the world, my sad-sack ass wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to glean some wisdom.

There are infinite permutations to the pantsdrunk formula. It’s not exactly a lifestyle for sticklers, so if your perfect panstdrunk evening involves friends there with you or doing the damn thing in a non-home setting, don’t let anyone stop you from having it your way. For my dalliance with it, however, I decided it was only right to stick to the essentials. I’d be drinking alone in my own apartment in my underwear.

My first night of pantsdrunk was easy enough to set up but harder to slip into than anticipated. Los Angeles is an expensive city to live in and, by no choice of my own, I’ve become a bit of a workaholic, often working late into the night to stay afloat here. It took some serious mental gymnastics to grant myself permission not to chip away at the stack of open Word docs on my computer and take the night off to unwind. Once it finally clicked that getting drunk and watching stuff that night was work, I was finally ready to commit to the activity guilt-free.

In preparation for my post-work relaxation, I’d purchased the most Finnish alcohol I could find at my local BevMo. I’d never heard of Finlandia vodka before, but the large bottle, low price and concerned tone from the cashier when I asked if it was in stock made me wonder if I was about to tank my nice evenings (and following mornings) with the Finnish version of Crown Russe.

I poured myself a shot, put on “Right Here in My Arms” by HIM—the only Finnish band I’m familiar with—and took off my jeans.

As I caught up on neglected Netflix shows and reached an optimal steady buzz on the not-too-awful vodka, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was doing something wrong. I was certainly enjoying myself but couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something was off. It was almost too easy. Surely there had to be more to pantsdrunk than this. Referring to the book wasn’t helping to assuage my doubts. It seems that pantsdrunk is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of self-care. There’s no wrong way to do it.

Pantsdrunk is not meant to be a nightly activity. That would just make it alcoholism. So, after two evenings off, I gave it another go. Wanting to try something new this time so as to explore the full spectrum of pantsdrunk, I read up on the “self-pity” chapter of the book.

“Pantsdrunk is first and foremost intended as a short-term therapeutic intervention to massage stress spikes into more tolerable dimensions,” the text explained. Perhaps I could use it to mine some catharsis from my night. The only problem was, I wasn’t currently going through a rough break-up, nobody had died recently, and my big life problems were all fairly chronic and/or existential. I’d have to get creative.

As I started drinking that night, I pored over old pictures and love letters from exes trying to muster up some feelings of regret or wistfulness. When that didn’t work, I read some of my own childhood writing my mom had recently emailed me. I wanted to feel some kind of kinship or pity for that bright-eyed boy thinking he had a promising future ahead of him, knowing all too well the beatings life was about to dole out to him, but I couldn’t. I like myself too much in my current state not to want those galvanizing trials and tribulations for that kid. Also, he’s not even real, merely an echo, so there was nothing for me to emotionally lock onto. With all else having failed, I busted out the big guns and put on Disney’s Coco. It would be my third time watching and tearing up to the Oscar winner, but, alas, I didn’t get the release I was looking for.

A few days later, when I tried pantsdrunk for my third and final attempt, I resolved from the outset to simply let my night unfold organically and pay little attention to whether or not I was doing things the “correct” way. As you might have already guessed, that was all it took to have a wonderful evening of decompression.

It felt like any other night of just chilling by myself at home, but this time, rather than assuming I was pantsdrunking wrong, I instead realized that I’d been unwittingly pantsdrunking right for ages. I could already attest to the morale boost of lounging around playing video games while nursing a vodka and lime La Croix spritzers. Pantsdrunk had just given my old methodology a fun new name.

If you’re already a pantsdrunk participant, keep up the good work of rewarding yourself for making it through these crazy times. And if you haven’t been doing some form of occasional solo boozing, pick out a night this week, grab your favorite bottle, and get to work on unwinding.

Photo credits: Main image by Roberto Trombetta/Flickr and inline by Justin Caffier.

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