Again with the Drinking

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.

9 thoughts on “Again with the Drinking

  1. Great writing Kitty. Interesting subject hitting a little close to home for me – well about 90 miles north of home on a college campus. You see, my daughter is a freshman this year and she is not interested in drinking at all. In fact, she was in tears a week ago on a friday night when the group she was with was invited into a house party. The guy on the front porch said, “Hi, come on in. Grab a beer.” That scared her to tears and luckily a few friends walked her back to her dorm and they played cards till 4am. She told us later that she's really not interested in ever drinking so much that she doesn't have control over what she does. Point well taken sweetie. {for the record, my husband and I do drink – a glass of wine with dinner, a beer on a saturday afternoon}. I've somehow raised a kid {an adult now} that, at least for now, isn't at all interested in drinking. Hmm….

  2. Thank you for the comments, my dear people.
    Julie, I somehow have a daughter who made it through college without being around a lot of drinking. It's a miracle. I think it's great your daughter had friends support her.

    Chandra, I don't remember what your reaction was either. I was too busy laughing.

  3. Once again, a great post.
    In Finland we tenmd to drink plenty. I find it both scary and interesting how not drinking is such a big deal when there´s almost always someone in a group who has a problem with alcohol and changes character after a few drinks and becomes one of those people you just don´t want to sit next to…well, no one discusses this drunk person, they discuss the person who does not drink…hmmmmm…

  4. I've decided to put some research in motion to prove my theory that candy corn is actually crack, and not sugar mushed together. I can't wait until I have proof that consuming bags of candy corn over Halloween (and, let's be honest, through the winter) is actually a drug addiction and I can't be blamed for getting hooked. . .I thought it was just candy!

    All jokes aside, this is really a great post. As someone who works in an industry where nearly everyone is drunk all the time, I witness the silent reactions to those who don't drink you're describing all the time. Someone at dinner not drinking isn't awkward. . .reacting that way to the person not drinking is awkward. Really, it's ok that people at the table are choosing not to come to work hungover in the morning.

  5. Nina, very true and thoughtful insights. Thanks for taking the time to share them. I've seen those things first hand.

    Ashley, please send me this proof as soon as you have it. Until then I'll do my part to consume more bags of candy corn to see if I can detect the crack. As for the rest of your comment: love you.

  6. Oh Grandpa! I think that must be genetic- the repeating of questions when they know the answer already… Dick offers me tobasco with just about every dinner- the answer is always no. Of course this Cuddy comparison is not nearly on the same playing field but still- interesting at that. You inspire me Kitty! Maybe one day I'll put pen to paper and actually write, like I've always dreamed I would…

  7. Crap, now I'm wondering what MY reaction was. I think it was probably, “Did you buy any olives for my beer?”
    I can't wait till you write a book. I could read and read anything you put on paper, or computer, as the case may be. Such a gift you have. I mean my friendship, not your writing skills:)
    xoxo –

  8. i didn't drink for many years because i had hep C. my brother in law is a doctor and knew my history. every year for christmas he bought me a bottle of amaretto. every year for 15 years. this isn't even freudian— the asshole just hated my guts! thanks for the great post. as always

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