A few nights ago I sat at a long table in my favorite restaurant with a bunch of friends. As the waitress goes down the row, everyone ordered something from the wine list, except me.
When it was my turn and I ordered a water, I could almost hear the music stop playing and felt everyone’s gaze on me.
“Why aren’t you drinking?” A woman I’ve only met a few times asked me.
“Just have one!” The woman across from me says. But it’s not the point, I’m just not interested in having a drink anymore. And I’m kind of over explaining myself for it, so I stopped.
While I’ve never been a heavy drinker (we aren’t counting college, right?), there was a time when I liked relaxing with a glass of wine or two. Usually, it was with friends during a night out. I love the taste if Rose and Moscato.
But something started happening; I didn’t sleep well and hated the way I felt the next day. It was as if I was hungover without getting drunk the night before. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or I’m suddenly allergic to fermented fruit, I’ve no idea. But whatever is happening, it’s not worth it to me to sip from a pretty glass just because everyone else is.
I noticed after a night of enjoying some vino, my skin didn’t look so good. It wasn’t worth it to me to throw down an $8 glass of “you are going to sleep horribly, and feel like shit tomorrow, but enjoy.”
So I stopped, having no idea I’d have to explain myself every time I went out and decided not to drink.
They say peer pressure is strong when you are in high school or college. Well, I can attest to the fact those years have nothing on being a woman in her 30s or 40s with kids, especially if you don’t drink on girls’ night out.
I’ve heard it all how I need to let loose, have more fun. How one won’t hurt me, and this is my time to celebrate how I want.
But that’s what I’m doing and I’m sick of saying it. Do I feel judged because I don’t drink? I certainly do, more so than when I decided not to send my kids to daycare when everyone else was.
I get more looks and questions about not drinking anymore than I do about any other choices I’m making these days.
Honestly, I hate the attention it’s stirred up. I’m not sober because I had a problem (but if I did, it shouldn’t matter whatsoever), I’m just not into it. And I’m not sure why the fact I don’t need to see a wine list makes everyone think they have the right to chime in, or put the pressure on, or tell me I’d have more fun if I had some alcohol.
I know what’s more fun; to go out with my friends, go home and get a good night’s sleep and not feel like shit the next day.
It’s funny how people who barely know you, overhear you ordering a glass of water or Diet Coke and think it’s fine to ask you why you aren’t drinking. Kind of the same way people think it’s their right to know if you’re only going to have one child, ever get married, or question you about your choice to bottle feed.
I have lots of good friends who don’t pepper me with questions about any of my life choices. And I have friends who use drinking as “a coping mechanism for their anxiety”– their words, not mine. And I’ve never once asked them to explain themselves or tried to convince them to go out one night and try not to have any alcohol.
I’d just like the same respect back. Choosing not to have a drink does not mean your decision is open for conversation or you’d like to be questioned about it. Have a glass of wine with your friends – or don’t. Who cares.
But please don’t think it’s okay to pressure an adult woman, or make her feel like she isn’t fun if she doesn’t want to have a drink.