Want to mess with someone at a party? Just whip out those six little words. It is almost comical to see how many people are derailed by that statement. I say “almost comical” because it can also be a real pain in the ass.
When we are young, we are taught about the dangers of peer pressure. By the time I started high school, I was thoroughly convinced that shady characters would be lurking around every corner just waiting to mock me if I didn’t take their proffered drugs and alcohol. The one thing I have learned in my twenty years as a non-drinker is that teenagers have nothing on adults when it comes to peer pressure. Alcohol is a precious commodity to a teenager. You typically have to scrimp and scrape together the funds to buy booze. Not only that, you also have to find an adult who will either sell you liquor or buy it for you. If someone at a party says, “No thanks,” you don’t waste time making fun of them; you move on before they change their minds, thinking, “More for me.”
Adults, on the other hand, seem to have a hard time with the concept of a non-drinker. I suppose it would help if I had a reason for my non-drinking, but I don’t. I don’t really fit into any of the accepted non-drinker molds. Is is a religious thing? Nope, I don’t go to church. Did you have a bad experience with alcohol? Not really, some craziness in high school but nothing traumatic. Ooooh, are you an alcoholic? Nope. I drank some in high school, but I stopped before I graduated. These days I usually have two drinks a year (that’s why I say I don’t “really” drink). I like a glass of champagne on New Years Eve and about once every summer I get the urge to have a beer at a barbecue. More than that is extremely rare. In the last twenty years, I have been honest-to-god drunk three times. I’m pretty sure I’m not an alcoholic.
I don’t mind answering questions about why I don’t drink. I understand that it isn’t terribly common, especially with the people I know. What I do mind are the people who won’t let it go – the ones that assume I would love drinking just as much as they do if only I tried it. I have tried it. I don’t love it. Let it go. I went out for my birthday one year with a group of friends who had a tradition of buying birthday shots. After spending half an hour convincing my friends that I really truly wasn’t going to do a shot just because they wanted me to, a friend of a friend, whom I had never met before, said, “Oh! You can do a lemondrop, they’re easy,” at which point something snapped. I believe all I said out loud was, “It’s not a question of ‘easy,’ I just don’t drink,” accompanied by a frosty-cold death stare (imagine Julia Sugarbaker, from Designing Women). My inner monologue was yelling something more like “Are you fucking kidding me? I was drinking whiskey straight from the bottle when you were still in grade school, you stupid, patronizing little _______.” Since it was only in my head, I didn’t have to come up with an adjective that encompassed my condescension, feel free to fill in the blank yourself.
The other frustrating thing is that if I do have a drink it is a really big deal to some people. I can deal with the teasing – “Oh my god, does SaraB have a beer?!? What is the world coming to?” but I don’t particularly like the people who watch me the whole time I’m drinking said beer. It’s like they think I’m going to take one sip and start dancing on the table with my top off. Those people creep me out.
Thankfully, these days I have friends who have known me long enough that they are no longer fazed by my little quirk. When we arrive at a party, Mr.B gets pointed to the alcohol and I get pointed to the sodas. If it is one of the rare occasions when I have a drink, nobody says much, although sometimes I still feel like people are watching me to see if I will go nuts.
Vodkadew photo by AscendedAnathema, via Wikimedia Commons