When people first learn that I don't drink alcohol, they often request an explanation. Mine is rarely consistent. Sometimes I say I don't like the taste. Sometimes I say I'm Muslim. Sometimes I say I have a medical condition.
All are true, but none in isolation contains a full explanation.
For one, I've tasted only a couple varieties of alcohol (once mistaking vodka for water and another time feeling pressured to drink wine during an interview for a waitressing position in high school), so I can't be sure that I dislike them all -- though admittedly, the smell of no alcoholic beverage has ever appealed to me.
Furthermore, I know plenty of Muslims who drink and still manage to be highly spiritually enlightened -- not to mention plenty of self-righteous teetotal Muslims who are downright morally reprehensible.
Lastly, my medical condition -- a quirky pancreas with a history of turning on itself -- doesn't command abstinence as much as moderation. Then again, if you've ever experienced acute pancreatitis, you too might choose not to risk it.
So goes my long, complicated explanation for abstaining from alcohol. Does it make my sobriety any more socially acceptable? Should it really matter whether I'm Muslim or Mormon or Seventh-day Adventist or pregnant or a recovering alcoholic or just hate the taste? Shouldn't I be able to decline a drink, or two, or twelve, without having to explain myself? I would hope so.
Still, if history serves, that's unlikely to happen any time soon, particularly with the holidays upon us, so in the spirit of the season, I've decided to provide some friendly suggestions for curious drinkers and party hosts when faced with sober guests.
- If you can contain your curiosity, do it. Unless we've asked you to explain your drinking, there's no reason for you to expect us to explain our abstinence.
- If you can't contain your curiosity (and I get it, this is a drinking culture; we're aberrations), then accept our first answer, and don't be shocked when we seem annoyed if you don't.
- Don't worry about us judging you. If we are, then we're jerks, and you ought to avoid us anyway. If we're not, then there's no need to ask if we mind if you drink in front of us. (Special exceptions to be made here of course for alcoholics early in recovery, but even then, it's up to them, not you, to set those boundaries.) Basically, unless otherwise notified, just carry on as you normally would. There's absolutely no reason for us all to be drinking Orangina.
- Still, it doesn't hurt to keep some delicious non-alcoholic beverages on hand, or if you're so moved, to make your own. Fruit sodas, juices, tea, cider, coffee, and hot chocolate are all delightful options. (Eggnog is gross. Please do your part to make it stop.)
- Remember and appreciate all the precious things that we teetotalers have to offer. For starters, we're cheap dates; we'll drive you home safely, and we're unlikely to throw up on anything.
So why not raise your glass to that? Why not let the inquisition go?