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While we’re on ingestibles…

June 6, 2012

Let’s talk about alcohol. I touched on the food situations I find maddening just the other day and it seems unfair to leave drinks out of the equation. I don’t drink. It’s not a one day at a time thing, I just don’t enjoy it. I must admit here that there was a time when I enjoyed it to excess but once that was out of my system and puking on my converse stopped being fun I left it.

I have no problem with other people drinking, with the exception of the wasted. That’s just ugly and annoying. But it seems that people have plenty of problems with my not drinking. What is that about? These are the most common I hear:

“I miss drinking with you.”

“You know alcohol in moderation is good for you.”

“One glass of wine won’t hurt you.”

“When I was vegan and off alcohol I gained a ton of weight and when I went back to drinking and eating meat I lost it.”

Okay, maybe the last one isn’t common but it pissed me off enough to include it. People seem unable to process the phrase, “I just don’t want to”, never mind, “no thank you”. There is so often a need to find some bigger, deeper reason. I’ve considered telling folks that I’m sober just to shut them up but then there are the weird looks I’d get with my one or two drinks a year. I have said more than once, “Alcohol and I just don’t mix” and follow it with the story of the birthday I spent throwing up in the parking lot of a total stranger’s loft downtown while simultaneously peeing my pants. That end to shut them up, unless it’s a friend who knows that it was kind of a one time deal. I never peed my pants again.

I think, as I write this, that it says more about me and my confidence in myself than it does about those other people. Why do I let outside opinions influence me so much? Why can’t I just tell them to bugger off if they don’t like it? (Yeah, okay, that verb doesn’t really work as I’m not british but I’m leaving it because I can!) Anyone else have this experience?

*I hate the word “booze”. It’s very used car salesman, Robin WIlliams in Cadillac Jack to me.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Maggie Taylor permalink
    June 6, 2012 11:30 am

    I’m only 20 years old but I had enough of the partying when I was 19. I drink once or twice a year and have one drink. People think that I’m crazy because I don’t want to drink. Instead of trying to explain it to them, I just explain that I can’t drink because of the medication I’m on. Even though that’s not even close to true, it’s the only explanation they’re satisfied with. Some people are ridiculous and don’t understand that not everyone wants to drink all the time. This topic really makes me mad.

  2. June 6, 2012 11:41 am

    I think the problem is of those who can’t respect your choices, rather than yours. Maybe you’re much more confident of those who drink alcohol, or who need alcohol to do things that they wouldn’t do if sober. And being someone who drinks, I agree on the “wasted” part, it is just annoying. I am sure there are those who can appreciate a Chai Tea in your company and have the same fun.

  3. uhhuhherfan75 Ash permalink
    June 6, 2012 11:46 am

    I used to drink, but now i am now i am on medication and cannot drink, but again people don’t understand it, one won’t hurt, yet the med’s say don’t drink alcohol with while on these med’s, or sometimes i just don’t want to drink, there is a’lot of pressure out there, most social events these days you can get alcohol, even the cinemas now provide it, its crazy, I think good for you stand up and say no, you can have a good time without it, I didn’t understand what you mean by i am not British?

  4. June 6, 2012 1:25 pm

    I’ve thought about this before, too, so please excuse me while I get on my soapbox. I don’t endorse all of these thoughts; it’s just what I’ve seen. When people make these comments, I find it’s generally 1 of 4 things:

    1) They like you, so they are genuinely interested in why you are no longer interested in drinking since they’ve known you to enjoy drinking before. Did something happen? Did you get sick of it? If you always liked milk, and suddenly started refusing milk, people would probably ask you why. It’s not that weird. These questions might not be intended to provoke. People might have good intentions.

    2) They are insecure. They fear that your decision to “not drink” is a judgment about drinking in general, and thus, that you are judging them. Therefore, they have to engage in self-talk (i.e. the drinking in moderation comment, the vegan comment) to reassure themselves that they are perfectly justified in their own decisions to drink.

    3) They are insecure about your relationships with them. They probably don’t actually miss “drinking with you.” They probably are afraid that they will no longer get to have the same type of fun that they had with you before. So, yes, they search for the deeper reason. “Does this mean you’re changing? Do you no longer want to hang out with me?” They want to be assured that your “not drinking” is just a personal decision and not a proxy for some broader change in how you will interact with your friends.

    3) They think you are hiding something or take yourself too seriously. My friend’s boyfriend says he generally doesn’t trust people that don’t drink. He knows this is an overgeneralization. His point is that when people drink, they tend to naturally lose their inhibitions. He thinks that “not drinking” can be a symbol of/associated with people who have a broader fear of letting their guard down. Subsequently, if someone is that afraid to let his/her guard down, then he figures there must be something deeper he/she is afraid to show. (Of course, you can let your guard down without drinking, but his thing is that these tendencies are often associated).

    Bottomline, most of these have to deal with the other person, not you. Just think about where these people are coming from in making their comments, and you can eliminate your own insecurity and answer their questions confidently. That said, so far you’ve said you don’t drink because “I just don’t enjoy it” and “there was a time when I enjoyed it to excess but once that was out of my system and puking on my converse stopped being fun I left it.” It seems like maybe you don’t know the exact reason why you simply don’t enjoy it (is it the taste? the feeling? the aftermath?), which is fine, but could be why these questions bother you more than you would like. Just realize the question is probably more to do with the other person’s issue than anything about you.

    • June 9, 2012 3:45 pm


      Your response was incredibly insightful. I tend to agree with the idea that, by announcing you are not drinking, the other person assumes it’s a judgment against their choices. That’s definitely a weak stance, but as Clementine’s pointed out before with other similar judgment calls, people often refocus an uncomfortable topic to reflect solely themselves.

      I’m a drummer in an all-girl rock band. We used to have a guitar player who was very critical all the time. In fact, when we recorded practice, the nicest thing I ever heard her say in a recording was, “That wasn’t all bad.” No, in fact, it was pretty freaking awesome–we made amazing music!

      As a long-time drummer, I’m incredibly confident with my ability to handle and understand and ultimately OWN the beat–it’s my job. So when she would say something to me about whatever she decided I did wrong in that last run-through, I could easily respond, “I played it right” and go right back into playing.

      But at the same time, we had a first-time lead singer, and she just didn’t have the experience to be so confident when facing such criticisms. So when the guitar player would say, “That part was wrong”–even and especially if it wasn’t–the singer would immediately assume that she’d unknowingly ruined everything.

      The fact was, this guitar player was incapable of enjoying the big picture–we’re amazing women making music as amazing as the sum of our amazing parts. She focused on little things about other people and didn’t even worry whether her assessment was accurate.

      When it comes to drinking and not drinking, I think it’s a lot like that. If a person has never seriously and honestly considered both sides of the path before, when faced with that fork, he might begin to question his choices for the first time, which can be humbling. Unfortunately, most people don’t like being humbled–especially in front of other people. So the reaction, though unfair, is natural.

      However, that reaction should fade and disappear as the person has time to process his own emotions and beliefs about the topic in general.

      If this doesn’t happen, ditch the friend. If it’s a good friend, he’ll figure it out and it won’t be a problem.


  5. Ronni permalink
    June 6, 2012 3:15 pm

    OMGeee, I couldn’t have said it better myself!! Although my defining moment was trying to be an ultra cool Mom and joining my daughter for her birthday party at LaBares (male dancers) in Dallas! The evening ended with her holding my hair as I puked my guts out in some Mexican restaurant parking lot (the quickest place to pull over) while patrons walked to their cars horrified!! Like you said once I was over it- I WAS OVER IT! Once every couple years you may find me at a restaurant with some frozen fruity drink sitting in front of me. I usually leave with over half of it melted into some nasty sea of water, alcohol & whipped cream which I’ve whipped into a frenzy with my straw while talking over dinner. I enjoy your blog, miss you on Y&R and wish you the best! God bless!

  6. Bev permalink
    June 6, 2012 6:02 pm

    I too choose not to drink (again, no deep, dark reason) and get the same questions/comments. The question I’ve heard a lot and find amazing is : “how can you enjoy yourself if you’re not drinking?”. Really?

    And I am British and I applaud your use of the phrase “bugger off” – I couldn’t have said it better myself!!!

  7. Janelle permalink
    June 8, 2012 5:02 pm

    I honestly have a hard time drinking. If I do it can’t be something that I can taste the alcohol in. I rarely drink, I just dont care to do really do. I have gotten a lot of “what you do drink” or why’s? as though some how I have missed out on life being without. I dont like beer and yet people tell me its an aquired taste and that I have to get use to it. The way I see it is why get use to something I honestly dont like the taste of. I can save the unwanted calories and the gross taste by avoiding it all together or simply declining it at outings. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. iampisspot permalink
    June 9, 2012 3:20 pm

    I’ve been thinking about cutting alcohol out of my life for quite some time. Nothing good can come from drinking alcohol, that’s what I keep saying to myself. I barely even drink, but when I do, I always wonder why I did. Why do we drink alcohol? To relax us? To have a good time? Can we not do either of these things without it?

    k nailed it in the comment above. “Just realize the question is probably more to do with the other person’s issue than anything about you”.


  9. Aussie Girl permalink
    June 21, 2012 7:06 am

    Why can’t I just tell them to bugger off if they don’t like it? (Yeah, okay, that verb doesn’t really work as I’m not british but I’m leaving it because I can!)

    I think you meant to write \’I\’m not Australian but\’ instead 

    My dad struggled with alcoholism in my early years. He has often talked about how bad it is that Australian culture has alcohol as such a staple. In Australia, alcohol has always been drunk in large amounts. This \”drinking culture\” has had a bad impact on all Australians but especially Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians had restrictions put in place by whites on alcohol up \’til the \’60s. Some research has shown that some Aboriginals now see excessive drinking as being a symbol of their culture. In those communities, it is especially hard to say no to alcohol. I have noticed that the drinking culture is different in the States. But I still understand what you mean when you talk about people always asking for an explanation as to why you don\’t want to drink.

  10. May 27, 2013 4:02 am

    (Ever) dear(est) Clementine,

    I’m not writing you to offer you a book deal (I’m sorry), but I’m writing you to ask if I can use this (or another) blog post for an exam. I’m a teacher and this semester my students and I talked, among others, about blogging, life, alcohol (they didn’t understand why I don’t drink. Their opinion is that you can’t be cool when you don’t drink.)… So one of the nice posts you write, would be ideal to give my students food for thought in a pleasant way.

    I don’t want to steal one of your posts, so I’m asking for it. Okay, a post that’s “published” in an exam is maybe not as honourable as one that’s published in a book or something, but I hope I get your permission. I would be eternally grateful to you. I even want to send you a box of real Belgian chocolates! It’s much better than alcohol, but most probably not good for the gap between the thighs. 😉 Fortunately, that’s totally unattractive.

    Thank you for considering my request!

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,

    (A bit an unfortunate name when I have to communicate with English speaking people, but it’s a real name in Belgium… Yes, it really is.)

    P.S.: Sorry, but my English is not impeccable.

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