No, my religion doesn’t forbid it. No, I don’t have to drive back home. No, I’m not pregnant, taking medication, or having health issues. No, I’m not a recovering alcoholic or into harder drugs. Yes, all of my family and friends drink. These are only a few of the answers to a question I see myself answering just as often as vegans get asked why they don’t eat meat: “So, why don’t you drink?”
Growing up in a generation that established binge drinking as a main weekend pastime, being sober has always made me the odd one out. My reasons not to drink are simple: The idea of drinking never appealed to me; I could never stand the taste of alcohol; and I never felt like I needed an extra boost to have fun — or make stupid decisions. Also, coming from someone who finds pleasure in having everything under control, the idea of not being 100 percent in control of myself is more my definition of a nightmare than having fun.
However, I never would have thought that something I personally consider an insignificant part of who I am would have such a big impact in the way people perceive me. When I tell people for the first time, the most frequent reaction is asking “Why?” and if I reply with “I just don’t like the taste,” the next sentence is likely to be “I’m sure you would like [insert name of chosen alcoholic drink].” I always wonder if they realize that, were I even slightly interested in drinking alcohol, I would have already figured out by myself what I like and don't like in my 26 years of life.
After setting the record straight that I’m not interested at all in drinking, they usually reply with “I think that's great,” but do they? The truth is that if I confess that I don’t drink when someone doesn’t know me that well, they usually assume they can automatically fit me into the stereotype of the boring Goody Two-shoes. And let me tell you something: No one wants to be best friends with the boring Goody Two-shoes.
A few months ago, I moved to London and started a new job. My colleagues were planning a night out, and one of them was nice enough to suggest that since I was new in town it would be a great chance to show me the nightlife of the big city. However, another colleague was fast to say “but she doesn’t even drink,” as if the idea of me going out without drinking was ridiculous and getting drunk was the one and only reason why someone would enjoy going out; dancing, socializing, and many of the other things that I have always loved about going out at night were overturned by the fact that I didn’t drink. This would only be an anecdote if it were an isolated case — instead, I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard things like “I would tell you to come, but you won’t have fun,” or “Yes, let’s go out, but let’s tell more people because just the two of us will be boring.”
That said, I have come to realize with the years that some people dislike the fact that I don’t drink merely because they're afraid it means I’m going to judge them if they do. When I used to go out with my ex-boyfriend, he would rarely drink alcohol, and I almost never saw him drunk during the more than two years that our relationship lasted. As a result, when we broke up, I could barely recognize that guy who would get completely wasted every time he went out with his friends.
Fortunately, being different from the majority of the population also has a brighter side, as the people who stay around long enough to discover who I truly am are normally the people who think there’s more to life than getting drunk and more to a person than what society decides. Those people know that I don’t care if they drink or not as long as I’m not the designated person to hold their hair back if they puke (but that I would do it for them if I had to); that I love going out, and I’m always the last to leave the dance floor; that when I go to concerts – and I go way too often — I’m in my element, and I jump higher and sing louder than anyone around; that they can go out just with me, be the only ones drinking, and still have fun; and that not drinking alcohol is just a life choice, not something that defines who I am.
In a society where relying on drugs and alcohol to have fun or get the courage to do things has become the norm, I surprisingly and involuntarily found myself becoming a rebel. Rebelling against society, even for an insignificant reason, made me learn a few things: It’s not worth changing the way you are for anything or anyone; the more confidence with which you speak about your choices, the less people are going to make a big deal out of them; and there are still always going to be people who will disapprove of your choices and judge you. But it’s better to be a live fish swimming against the current than a dead fish being carried with the flow.
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