Everybody has their limit.
I’ve never been much of a drinker. When I was 19 I understood this made me some kind of social pariah, so I’d indulge in the occasional Smirnoff Ice at parties but I never really got into the spirit of the thing. As time went on, the best way to describe my relationship with alcohol was that I aged out of it – which isn’t to say drinking makes you inherently juvenile or is something everyone should eventually outgrow, but as someone who was mostly doing it to fit in, I grew out of the urge to do it.
I eventually also grew out of wanting to go to parties and nights out that would involve heavy drinking, and if you’ve ever been the only sober person at a party, you know why. Being the only sober person is boring, man. It’s funny for the first half an hour, but then you realize you’re the only responsible adult left in the room. Suddenly your fun night out becomes a babysitting gig as you try to pry your cell phone from your friend’s hand while they stammer about how important it is that they drunk dial their ex right now.
So my current relationship with alcohol could be summed up as “straight but supportive”. I support my friends’ rights to have their good time, I just refuse to have mine ruined by it, you know? We all get to go home (or stay home) happy.
This isn’t typically a problem with friends – boundaries are important in any relationship. I give them a heads-up I’m not interested in being invited to any event where this is going to be a thing, they respect me enough not to invite me, and we go get pizza or something later. Much to my relief, even most people I’ve dated have been like this – with one exception, because there always has to be an exception, doesn’t there?
I honestly should have known better than to accept a second date after the first one. At the end, as she walked me to my car, she told me jovially that I wasn’t as ugly as she expected from our phone chats. My only defence is that I was in a pretty low place when it came to my self-esteem and I was just glad someone wanted to see me a second time at all.
On our first date she’d had a beer with her dinner, which was fine. On our second date she invited me to a local lesbian bar, and while I’m not usually a fan of bars, I was familiar enough with this one to know it had quiet spots and didn’t smell like a 50-year-old ash tray. She already had a drink in her hand when I got there, and she kept refilling it throughout the night. I’d had one hard cider I nursed throughout the entire evening, and once she was about six drinks in and getting a little obnoxious, I called it a night. Spoiler alert: If you want to make a good impression, don’t spend the night flirting with other girls and ignoring the one you originally went out with.
I went about a week without hearing back from her, and when I did she was full of apologies. “I just had a really bad day,” I could practically hear her rubbing her temples from the other side of the phone. “I’m really sorry for the way the night went.”
You can probably see where this is going. Foolish early-twenties Natalie gave her another shot, and another, and another. Every time we hung out she had to involve alcohol. It was like she literally couldn’t have fun and unwind without it. Any time I asked her to go without it for an evening, she acted like I was telling her to walk around on hot tar without her shoes on. I remember one time we’d planned on going to a party together and I’d asked her if she was willing to stay sober with me for the night to keep me company. She laughed a little because she thought I was joking, and when she saw I was serious she just looked at me and said, “But it’s a party”.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I don’t understand this at all. Why does alcohol have to be involved for a night out to be a good time? Or a night in, for that matter. Why is it that every party involving young adults has to involve intoxication? It makes me feel as though I’m missing some crucial human chip that everyone else seems to have had installed during puberty.
It’s not just limited to the young-adult crowd, either. I’ve been to plenty of work mixers and holiday functions that are all surrounded by alcohol. Queer networking events over glasses of wine, a team outing to a bar for a round of drinks, my boss ordering beers in because of a big sports match. It probably doesn’t feel like it’s everywhere unless you’re one of the few who never partake in this part of social culture, but man it sure does feel like it is. It’s gotten to the point where I actually get anxious about large social occasions because I don’t want to have to deal with being the team mom again.
We eventually broke up, and it specifically came down to the alcohol issue. As someone who is made physically nauseous by alcohol consumption, if you can’t get through a date with me without drinking, this just isn’t gonna work out in the long run. Almost 10 years have gone by, and even though most of my friends have moved past the party days of college, I still don’t understand our obsession with booze. Why is it that even historically alcohol seems to be such a necessity before someone can cut loose and relax? Why is it so hard to have fun without getting drunk?
Comment: Do you think we’ve become bigger drinkers over the years, or have we actually become more tame?