My husband’s late father, may he rest in peace, offered me a drink every single time I was at his house in the ten years I knew him. At first my husband would say, “Dad, she doesn’t drink.” His dad would laugh and move on. As if that was just silly. After a while my husband didn’t say anything, and I’d just say, “No thanks.”
I figured, if you lived to be 93 like him, not drinking probably did seem silly. What the hell difference does it make by then? Have a cig too while you’re at it, old timer. Cripes. You’ve made it this far; go nuts, babe.
So I wrote this guest blog for the Drinking Diaries, right? The reactions to it, or lack thereof, from people, made me decide to do a postscript to it, about the reactions, or lack thereof from people, when I tell them I don’t drink.
Let’s start with the lack thereof variety. My father-in-law’s stands alone in its own category we might call “la-dee-dah.” So we’ll move on to the silent kind.
This reaction is characterized by a look, accompanied by silence. The look is usually one of surprise. I always imagine the person thinking, “Holy shit, what must she have done?” Or, “WHOA. PROBLEM DRINKER. Thank god that’s not me.” Followed by a deep slug of beer.
Another look, the look of fear, has a sort of silent thought tapestry attached to it.
“Is she judging me now?” (No. Well maybe. Depends.)
“Wonder if I should quit drinking too?” (How should I know? I was practically the last to know when it was my turn.)
“How did I find myself in the company of this fun-hater? What the hell’s she doing here?” (Good question, actually.)
“Is she one of those AA people?” (No.)
“If I drink in front of her, will she want one?” (No. You have no idea how much NO.)
A non-silent reaction is the kind from people who don’t really think you’re serious. “Oh, on the wagon?” When you say, yeah, for the past nine years, they might say something like, “Interesting. My uncle didn’t drink for 15 years, then one night he just had a beer. He’s a better drinker now.” Good to know.
Even more curious is the person who tells you that now that you’ve “gotten things under control” maybe you can drink a bit from time to time. I always want to suggest they find the nearest AA meeting, float that theory and see how that goes.
Some people think you’re embarrassed to say you don’t drink. “Oh, sorry! Didn’t mean to go there.” Where? To my new life? To my hangover-free world? It’s not so bad, it’s ok to go there. I go there all the time, in fact.
Honest, I’ve never ONCE been embarrassed about not drinking. Never. Not even when “friends” say, “Oh that’s right, you’re a teetotaler! I forgot! Ha haha.” Remind me to google that right after we’re done here, I’ve never quite known what that is; just that it breeds sneers.
“You’re so brave. Wow.” Brave? I don’t get that one either. Unless brave means giving up the thing that’s making you sick; if that’s the case, I’m not so brave when it comes to candy corn.
Seriously, my next to favorite reaction is the one that goes like this. “Really? Wow, congratulations, and good for you. Way to go. I support that. “ Followed sometimes by some questions about the why and how. I love that. I love it when people treat it just like a broken leg. A ‘when did you fall off that ten story building and break your brain?’ sort of thing.
I won’t lie, though, my very favorite -- and most rare -- reaction is this one. “Hey, me too. How long for you?” We exchange time frames, possibly a fist bump, and move on.
Let’s summarize. Let’s be clear. Not drinking doesn’t define me; it’s a small piece of my puzzle. It’s not nearly as interesting or mysterious as all these reactions warrant.
But don’t worry, I got this.