Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Comfort Level

When I was a teenager, I remember the pressure to drink was kind of intense. Everyone was doing it. Personally, I hated alcohol, from the way it tasted to the way it made me feel. Sure I tried it, but I hated it. Still, I noticed people had a comfort level at parties and if they saw that YOU were not drinking, they avoided you, somehow felt you were judging them. I've never been willing to "acquire a taste" for something I don't like. Why? I don't care for coffee or scotch. I don't see that changing. I'm not sure where the line changes for people's need to have alcohol to have fun- no one suggests that a group of 8 year olds at a birthday party needs to "have a drink" so they can lighten up and have fun. I think 8 year olds have pretty much cornered the market on having fun. Yet, somewhere along the line, somewhere between say... 8 and 14, somehow it is no longer acceptable to just have fun without the addition of some sort of artificial fun stimulant. I see all kinds of facebook posts telling women to survive parenthood you need wine. I guess in the fifties wine was also valium. So, in some way we are supposed to start suppressing whatever emotion we have and then we get to a party and we need to stimulate it so we are fun. When did we lose the ability to just have fun? We need permission to "let loose"? In high school, it was easy... I noticed that if they "thought" I was drinking, that was all that mattered. So, I would casually take a beer, open it up, take a horrendous first sip and set it down next to me. I never touched it for the rest of the party. Someone would come by and ask me "hey, you need a beer?" and I would say "Thanks, I just got one." or "Whew, I need to sober up, you got any soda?" This did not get any better when I was a grown up. But I did stop faking it, because, it wasn't really MY problem if you thought I should drink. I have always known how to have a good time and I make my bad decisions sober, thank you very much. I like my wits, I've spent years with them and I like to take them out at parties and show them off, as for my sense of humor, it's just fine. I don't need to enhance it with dulling my senses or interrupt my hilarious story because I have to go puke now. I encourage teenagers to "fake it" because two things- first, you learn that it really is okay to be the sober person at the party, and second, you learn that people's perception really is a false sense of security. If they perceive you as drinking and you learn you don't need to do that to fit in, you really have an easier time figuring out who you are, absent some fake fun stimulant. Underneath that beer, that double vodka tonic... I hate to break it to you, you are still you. But all that being said, I never cared if other people drank or got drunk or made general fools of themselves. It was amusing to me. I have been drunk in my life. It takes far less for me to get drunk and it happens pretty fast. I have had the experience, and I have never much cared for it. Sometimes I will have one drink, sometimes even two. It's a rarity but a lot of times people love that I am always willing to be the designated driver. People got used to me being sober, my real friends did. Strangers and new friends still question me regularly. Why don't you drink? Is there some reason you can't drink? (That's code for 'are you an alcoholic?') What do you mean you don't like it? Well, I guess I shouldn't drink if you aren't going to. NO, please, by all means, go ahead! If I ask the waitress to hold the tomatoes on my sandwich, you do not need to hold the tomatoes on yours! It's not necessary! I tell you what, I have done more foolish things sober than I ever did while I was drinking. Maybe I just don't need my inhibitions lowered because I learned how to relax and have a good time without the additional fun stimulant. I guarantee that I was just as shy if not more shy when I started out, I was terrified to talk to people I did not know. When I was a teenager, it was really hard, sometimes it was cripplingly difficult. I know- hard to believe now but I was terrified. But I just got out there and did it to the point that eventually I was comfortable. I guess alcohol was not making it better and it might do that for some people, I have sympathy for that, I really do. It's darned hard to be terrified to talk to people at a party. I've been with alcoholics after they get sober. They are lost at a party, it's really hard for them to figure out how to socialize without the alcohol. I feel bad for them. Now they have to answer all those same questions and when or if they reveal the problem with alcohol, people get all squirrely and stupid and make them even more uncomfortable. It's ridiculous. I guess my whole point here is that-- we really should stop pressuring people about alcohol. It's your problem if you want someone else to drink to make you feel better. Get over it. I'm sorry if you perceive me as not fun because I am not drinking, that really is your problem. Yes, I like to go to bars, yes I like to go to parties, yes I like to go to concerts and yes I like to have a good time! I don't want to have to fake drink to make you more comfortable. We should be past that by now, don't you think?

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