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The quote is from a conversation with an acquaintance when asking how his New Year’s Eve party went. I found it to be particularly striking given my interest in society’s hypocritical approach to alcohol. It seems, from the way he answered the question of “was it a good party?” that others’ drinking is a necessary component of a good party.

Recently, an older post of mine on the pressure to drink as an adult was published in Thought Catalog. I was interested to see the responses to it because I wanted to see how others viewed my approach to not drinking and the pressure I have felt. For those interested, this is the thought catalog piece and you can access the comments from there. Many of the comments were supportive or in agreement, by people who have had similar problems themselves or who can see the pressure to drink in our current society.

Some of the comments were a little different, expressing the view that I should not spend time in places where drinking is common if I don’t want to drink because I make those who do drink uncomfortable. I struggled to understand this at first. Why does my quiet not-drinking of alcohol (but having a drink in my hand) affect the way anyone around me feels or behaves?

Apparently the reasoning is that by not drinking I am not “letting my guard down” the same way those drinking around me are, and that it is also incredibly weird that I don’t want to drink because it is part of normal human behavior just like sex (the author of this particular comment references asexuals here as well, talking about how anyone who doesn’t partake in the “usual human experience” draws suspicion from others).

I have a lot of problems understanding the “normal human experience” thing here because it is so subjective I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I can grasp the mindset a little. It’s the same way that a lot of people are distrustful of people of different races and religions because they are “not like them”.

What interests me more is the fact that by not drinking I am making others uncomfortable because they are letting their guards down and I am not. This is actually something I have heard before from friends trying to explain why people don’t like that I don’t drink. I find this interesting for a number of reasons.

1. I don’t need to drink/be drunk to let my guard down. I can be completely sober in a bar and talk about my feelings. I don’t need to be drunk to talk about my feelings. Quite frankly, I think that if a person needs to be drunk to “open up” then they might have more problems than me, the one who doesn’t like feeling drunk.

2. I don’t let my guard down when I drink. I have drank plenty before and gotten drunk before so I know how I behave in these situations. I was never someone to sit in a bar or in the middle of a party pouring my heart out to strangers. I am actually less likely to “let my guard down” when I’ve been drinking than when I’m sober. I am not comfortable being drunk, that’s part of the reason I don’t drink.

Drinking isn’t what is necessary to let one’s guard down. It is not necessary to have a fun night. Nor is it an integral part of the human experience. I’ll admit, intoxication has been part of much human history, but that doesn’t have to be limited to alcohol intoxication. And, again, I’ll admit that for some people drinking and being drunk is fun. That’s fine, have fun; I don’t judge you. I have fun listening to music and spending time with my friends. We all have different ways to have fun.

When talking to some friends at the bar about the comments after my blog another interesting point was brought up. I mentioned that many of the people who get annoyed about my not drinking are men and – usually – strangers. My friend suggested that they were probably annoyed because they don’t want to hit on someone who is sober because in their minds that makes it harder (maybe it does, I don’t know) to achieve their objective. Furthermore, she posited that many of these guys want a women whose “guard is down” so that she’ll be more likely to hang out with them, dance with them, or go home with them.
I’m not suggesting that men want to get women intoxicated so they can persuade them to go home with them – I don’t think it’s generally malicious like that – but the fact that one of the men who sticks out the most as berating me for not drinking was also the one who got pissed off when he found out I had a boyfriend: “Why the hell was I out at a bar by myself then?”

I don’t really know. I just find it interesting that for my acquaintance mentioned at the beginning, not just his drinking but also everyone else drinking were required for a fun night. Who knows, but I just don’t think that whether other people are drinking or not should affect whether I and those around me are having a good time.

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