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Grinch - Tactical Ninja

Dec. 20th, 2010

10:31 am - Grinch

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It's that time of year again. You know, the time of year when everyone's social schedule goes insane with engagements to celebrate the debatable birth date of some dude who changed history 2000 years ago?

In New Zealand, almost all social events involve alcohol.


While I have some issues with people getting drunk and belligerent, I don't generally feel the need to avoid alcohol and I'm not about to start moralising on anyone for indulging in their favourite (and most easily accessible) recreational drug. I feel a sort of envy that I don't get to indulge in mine so openly and without risking stigma or worse, actually. But anyway..

Most of my friends drink. Even pombagira had a few beers on Friday night, and got happy and it was all good. I am used to people drinking around me and my friends are used to me not drinking around them.

Which is why it came as a shock to me when on Friday night I was asked three times, by three different people, to explain why I don't drink. It's been a while since that happened. I think the best one was "Are you one of those people who doesn't drink because your parents were alcoholics?"

One of those people.

ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.

EXPLAIN YOURSELF!!

Now, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but really? Why the hell should I have to explain why I don't drink? I'm really sorry that my not going into raptures over the bottle of Jagermeister you have in the freezer is not the response you expected. I tried really hard to assure you that Yes, I'm Good, I Have A Drink, No Thanks I'm Fine, No Beer Thanks, I'm Happy With This Water, Yes I'm Driving..

.. and I didn't even pull a face when you mentioned Jagermeister. But really, I feel this is a conversation that doesn't need to happen. I don't need the attempt at hospitality to turn into a situation where I have to refuse offer after offer while trying not to say the fatal three words, but eventually I'm backed into a corner and out they come:

"I don't drink."

This is usually followed by a short silence, then a question:

"Why not?"

I am still trying to think of humourous ways to rejoin this question, that lets the person know that actually, I shouldn't have to justify my not drinking and yes I do always get asked that and I'm kind of tired of answering it and no, being a teetotaller doesn't make me a wowser, a party pooper, a moraliser, a broken person or ONE OF THOSE WEIRDOS, while still retaining levity. It's just a choice. There is not something wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with my parents either. I am not going to start bible-bashing you or reciting the twelve steps, or judging your choices. In fact, you know, before this came up we were having an enjoyable conversation. Now I feel uncomfortable as fuck and you think I'm a weirdo. Awesome. I really wish I didn't feel pressured to make excuses for why I don't drink. I just don't, ok?

Not drinking is not abnormal behaviour. Just because almost everyone does it and enjoys it does not mean that those who choose not to have something wrong with them, or should have to explain themselves. I've thought of coming back with "Why do you?" but I actually know why. It's more or less the same group of reasons that I choose to use other things. It's fun. You like it. It's easy and it makes you more sociable. etc etc. And I can't help thinking that coming back with "Why do you?" is kind of aggressive and could come across judgey.

So yeah, suggestions for a witty, deflective rejoinder for this question would be awesome.

And for the Christmas season, for those of you who like a tipple and like to also be good hosts, here's a suggestion: If you offer someone several different alcoholic drinks and they politely refuse, don't push. We're adults and capable of finding our own beverages. Also, you could go the tack of "We also have *short list of non-alcoholic beverages here*. Whatever you do, don't push the person to say the fatal words, and if they volunteer them, the appropriate response is *short list of non-alcoholic beverages* or "Cool" in an 'I get it' kind of way, and then carry on your conversation.

Never "Why not?" Seriously. Just don't do it.


This post does not apply to my friends who all know me and don't have these kinds of issues with my non-drinking.

But if you're one of those people that wonders why anyone would choose not to include alcohol as part of every social occasion, to the point where you think it's ok to press them to justify their choice, then yes, this post is aimed at you. Please don't do it. Just enjoy your beer/wine/jagerbomb and let them enjoy their water/lemonade/ginger beer, and everything will be fine.

OK?

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Comments:

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From:rivet
Date:December 19th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
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I guess saying 'because I don't want to turn into someone like you' is a bit of a conversation killer ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. And the two actual reasons (I don't like the taste, I don't enjoy the buzz) tend to lead to "I bet you'll like *insert drinker's favourite beverage here*" or "Why don't you like the buzz?" respectively.

In Africa, we ran into one of those "I bet you'll like X" people who would not take no for an answer, and I decided it wasn't worth the fight and spent an evening sampling his offerings. I didn't actually like any of them, but he was happy and I got kind of drunk and laughy. I don't want to be doing that every time someone says that though..
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From:tatjna
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)

SRS BSNS

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1 I agree with. 2 through 4 are (witty) variations on "Oh gee I really wish I could but something's stopping me, see I really am like you but I have an excuuuuuuussssee!."

Which isn't actually true. I don't really wish I could. Nothing's stopping me. I just don't want to.
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From:chickenfeet2003
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
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I really don't see that happening here. Some people drink, some don't. NBD
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From:tyellas
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
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If "here" is New Zealand, as another non-drinker, I get these queries All. The. Time. People get very weird and nosy about it, and make lots of inaccurate assumptions. Such as that, because I'm USAian, if I'm not a drinker then surely it's because I am a prim and proper evangelical Christian. Oy!

So, many thanks for this post, Tatjna, and I hope I get to drink my lime-and-seltzer in peace a bit more.

Edited at 2010-12-19 10:15 pm (UTC)
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From:chickenfeet2003
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
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By "here" I meant Toronto.
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From:tyellas
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
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Toronto! Oh, that's a great city all 'round.

It never used to happen to me when I lived in the Northeast of the USA, either. But in the US, 3 to 4 out of 10 people don't drink alcohol. In New Zealand, it's more like 1.5 out of 10.

This has more about how nondrinkers are perceived in NZ.
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From:chickenfeet2003
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
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I hang out quite a bit with kiwis so I get the point. Oddly the only person I can think of off the top of my head who doesn't drink at all is an Australian.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
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The last paragraph is interesting.

"I came because I like you, not because I like alcohol."

Nice.
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From:t_c_da
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
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I probably fall into a middle camp here...

I generally don't drink, but am known to have the occasional glass of wine with a meal in pleasant company.

In my youth, though... 6 bottles (26oz, not those piddly 330ml midgets) a night without a hangover was fairly normal.

These days the hangover isn't worth it, so I usually say something like "used to drink, just don't much these days what with getting older..." and wave my SuperGold card if they don't believe the older bit...
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From:ophe1ia_in_red
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
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I don’t drink either, and I totally sympathise because people ask me why not all the time. Pretty much everyone who finds out I don’t drink immediately wants to know why. It’s hard to find answers that don’t cause people to assume I’m judging them. ‘I don’t enjoy it’ is my preferred response but a lot of people seem to interpret that as snobbish.

I also hate the fact that politely declining alcoholic drinks isn’t enough for a lot of people. ‘Oh, go on—it’s Christmas! / —lighten up! / —just a small one!’ Eventually, as you point out, one has to say ‘I don’t drink’ and then the questions start :(

Interestingly, other people my age (early 20s) tend to be more likely to just accept my choice than people closer to my parents’ age (mid 50s). My family and my parents’ friends constantly offer me alcoholic drinks and ply me with questions about why I don’t accept them. For some reason I continue to find this surprising.
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From:victoria7
Date:December 19th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
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This makes me sad.

I've actually had the experience of offering someone a drink to which they very defensively told me that they do NOT drink and I was like, "Um... I've got soda and juice and stuff like that, too... " It was awkward, but I totally got where they were coming from. Usually when someone says, "I don't drink." I respond with "Ah" or "Cool" or "I'm drinking a Shirley Temple!"

I very often don't drink because I'm on medication or ---surprise--- I simply don't want to *right now*. I had a group of friends who would tease me for going out with them and drinking Shirley Temples (the sugar gets me totally high and ready to party!). So, one night, I let them drive and buy me drinks. I ended up totally barfing after three cocktails, pulled down my pants in the bar (more than 3 times!) to show them some horrible bruise I had on my thigh, barfed nearly the whole ride home and actually pissed in front seat of my friends Lexus SUV!

They don't tease me anymore and are happy to buy me a Shirley Temple now.

It's probably not the smartest option, but it sure worked.

And now, I'm totally giggling out loud while sitting on my porch. That was sooo funny. And they couldn't berate me for any of my crazy behavior because they had actually done sooo much work to get me to have a few cocktails... Whew.... Tears are coming from my eyes from laughing so hard.
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From:helianthas
Date:December 20th, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
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We totally need to make a hand-sign for "pissing in a Lexus".
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From:victoria7
Date:December 20th, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
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We do *not* need a hand-sign for "pissing in a Lexus" because neither of us are ever going to do that again and therefore we will never *need* a hand-sign! ;-P

However, now all of our hand-signs are running through my head and making me laugh...

"masturbating with iPhone"

Oh goodness...
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From:helianthas
Date:December 20th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
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*i'm not drinking becAuse if I do I'm going to piss your Lexus*
(more like: *no drink. Why no drink? Drink, piss Lexus.*)

See? Useful sign! :-)

Oh dear now I'm laughing!!!

Why do I think I'm actually going to try to use this excuse next time I'm on the wagon?
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From:victoria7
Date:December 21st, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
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Because it's brilliant.

and it seems that we've solved the original problem, after totally hijacking friends post.

The answer is, "If I drink I will piss in your Lexus" while giggling maniacally.
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From:pombagira
Date:December 19th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
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Beer..teheh

actually being introduced at work to a work client, as this is Polly she dosn't drink, was werid.. but then i didn't have to explain why i didn't want a beer with lunch.. hmmm...

*ponders this*...

then again when at home and i ask if someone wants a drink i am usually referring to tea or coffee.. *ponders more*

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From:ferrouswheel
Date:December 19th, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
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"I'm allergic"

"I used to be an alcoholic and all my family and previous friends disowned me" - which isn't a nice thing to lie about, but it sure as hell will shut people up.

It's funny, I used to get "Why not?" all the time about being vegetarian. Although more often it was about small talk than trying to force me to sample a piece of steak!
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From:tatjna
Date:December 19th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
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I was guilty of asking you about your vegetarianism - and while I feel a bit oops about it, I am really glad I did because your answer was a catalyst for me getting really interested in transhumanism and also the ethics of AI. ;-)

And as I recall I wasn't trying to convince you that you really should have steak at the time.
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From:hesperus
Date:December 20th, 2010 08:14 am (UTC)
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Just you wait. ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:December 21st, 2010 08:23 am (UTC)
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Lolcats are going to end up killing the internet?

O.o
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From:tatjna
Date:December 21st, 2010 08:41 am (UTC)
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Well duh. Everyone's heard of memes.

I was joking, btw. I know, it's a rare thing. Treasure it.
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From:helianthas
Date:December 20th, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)
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I've found saying has a drinking problem often invites more questions-- are you in the program? how long have you been sober? oh my it was really bad, huh? How are you comfortable coming to events like these? Is it hard for you? So you don't even want just one then? Are you still able to hve fun? You go to a lot of meetings? Etc. Usually well-meaning curiosity I'm sure,
But I've definitely experienced nosy assholes and find a vague "not tonight" "need to be up early tomorrow" "not feeling that great/don't feel that great when I drink, even a little" truthiness helps more. Often the people who are most pushy about Just Have One Omg Why Not You Are Missing So Much! may have wee little issues with drinking themselves. Or, y'know, manners.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 20th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
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And potentially they are the ones who are likely to feel judged by your polite declining too. ;-/
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From:tatjna
Date:December 20th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
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There are some people I would happily pressure to wear pants on their heads.

(i am a bad person)
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From:caycos
Date:December 20th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
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Having read the comments etc, my thought is that sometimes I ask people why they don't drink - not because I think they ought to, but because I have a genuine interest in why people make decisions about such things. I would similarly probably ask a vegetarian why they don't eat meat. I'm comfortable with people choosing to do the thing or not, but I'm fascinated by choices..
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From:tatjna
Date:December 20th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
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I imagine you're the sort of person who could enquire as to someone's non-drinking without it coming across as anything except curiosity.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:December 20th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
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I drink alcohol, but not all the time and no typically in large quantities. I've occasionally had people ask why I wasn't drinking, and I think by and large I've just got with something like "I just don't feel like it right now", and I can't recall anyone getting pushy past that.

Regarding social occasions, I quite like the way that my family still has sparkling grape juice (one red, one white) at Christmas lunch every year. Despite the fact that we all can and occasionally do drink wine. We just have a tradition of having the grape juice :-)
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From:heartofawarrior
Date:December 20th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
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As a not-very-often-and-only-a-little-most-times drinker, I get grilled about why I don't do as most of my age group does and go out and "hang out". Um, because their idea of fun is getting piss-drunk at every opportunity, and 1) I don't want to put myself in that sort of (potentially dangerous) situation by being THAT drunk in public and 2) being the only sober or mostly-sober one in the group is, well, boring and annoying, at that point. [And there's the nifty problem of transportation - if I've had ANYTHING to drink, I'm not touching my car. And I won't ride with anyone else who's had a drink, either.]

However, I will make exceptions for lame family gatherings, AT HOME. As in, it took a giant Jack & Coke to get me through having dad's gf's family over one evening on Thanksgiving weekend. It just made me goofy enough to ignore a lot of stuff, which was fantastic. I'm a total lightweight, so I have to choose WHEN I have my one or two drinks for the evening, lest I risk falling asleep in my dinner. Haven't ever gotten well and truly drunk, and don't really plan to.
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