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The Space Between

"You're a palsycorn, a unicorn is too general."

March 18th, 2014

Tales of a Sober Girl: Stop sober-shaming. @ 08:13 pm

Current Mood: anxious anxious
Listening To: King of Anything by Sara Bareilles

I often forget that I'm not the only one who rarely drinks.  Our culture - particularly the culture of my age group, the twenty-somethings - is SO alcohol dominated.  I can maybe, possibly go one day without hearing or seeing something related to alcohol, whether that's something on Facebook, a beer commercial, or beer cans strewn all over the Long Island Railroad.  And that's if I'm lucky.

I try to be cavalier about it, I really do.  I pretend that I've gotten over my alcohol issues.  I laugh when someone makes a booze joke and hope they don't realize that it's not sincere.  I eagerly nod when someone brings up alcohol when planning an event, an event that I thought was just going to be good, sober fun and try to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach, the feeling that says "Alcohol has shoved its way into a fun event.  AGAIN.".

When did we get the idea that we have to have alcohol in order to be social, in order to have any fun?  Is alcohol really that magical, really that wonderful, that a) people can't wait until 21 to have some and not only frequently break the law and underage drink, but expect other people to break the law as well, and b) alcohol must be present at any worthy event, ever?

Alcohol is not sophisticated.  It's not cool.  We've all had fun without alcohol in our younger years.  What magically changes when we hit 21 (or in some cases, even younger) that alcohol is now the key to having a good time?

I'm lucky that my immediate, closest group of friends isn't into alcohol.  When we hang out, alcohol isn't even on our radar, even though three out of the four of us are over 21.  Instead, we all know each other's soft drink and fattening snack preferences.  We settle down with some music or a movie have a good time.  Without alcohol.  Amazing, isn't it?

I was never into alcohol.  I was into it even less when one of my best friends had her family torn apart by alcoholism while we were in high school.  Watching a family you have known for a decade plus fall apart because of alcohol tends to put a damper on things.  I know what alcohol can do to people.  After I saw what happened to her family, what little enthusiasm I may have had for alcohol flickered and died.

And yet when I tell people that I rarely drink and have only had one drink since I turned 21 in June, the reaction is usually disbelief mixed with a certain kind of suspicion.  The most common reaction is a smug, self-satisfied "I'm gonna get you smashed." (replace smashed with hammered, etc.), as if the person in question wants to go down in history as the hero who got the sober girl drunk.  It doesn't matter whether or not I want to get smashed (hint:  I don't).  In the mind of the person I'm conversing with, it will happen, whether I like it or not.  I've had people stare at me in complete shock when I tell them I don't drink, as if I just admitted to murdering someone.  "What, you've only had one drink??  Not even before you were 21???" they demand, as if they think I'm holding back the juicy details.  To them, this is a serious flaw in my lifestyle.  Because no one can be a "real adult", let alone a "real college student" if they don't drink.  This is a problem, to them, that must be rectified immediately.

I'm sick of the sober-shaming.  I'm tired of being made to feel like I'm some sort of strange anomaly just because I prefer to not drink.  I'm not telling anyone else what to do - if you want a glass of wine with dinner or if you want to go out to the bar and get hammered, that's your choice.  It doesn't happen to be a choice I agree very much with, but it's still your choice and it's not my place to judge.  But if I don't judge you for drinking, what gives you the right to judge me for not drinking?  If I'd rather stay in with a good book than go to a keg party, what business is that of yours?

If you want to force me to drink, if you think it'll be funny to see the little sober crippled girl drunk, you can get out of my life right now.  But if you want me to come to your parties, your events, stop with the sober-shaming.  Have a variety of soft drinks available, not just a bottle of Coke that's only there to make rum and Cokes.  (I don't drink caffeine either.  The reactions to that one are even harder to bear.)  If you really want me there, buy a bottle of caffeine-free Coke for me - not as an afterthought, not to make rum and Cokes, but for me.  And the people who really care, who really want me there, who want to make sure that I feel safe - they do that.  That's the mark of a true friend.

Sober-shaming isn't funny, nor is it cool.  When you sober-shame, you contribute to the culture of alcohol, the notion that the only acceptable way to have fun is with a ton of booze.  And you hurt people and make them feel unsafe.

I'm the sober girl you're hurting.  I hope you think about that next time.
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[User Picture Icon]
From:Oscar M Ortega
Date:March 19th, 2014 01:19 am (UTC)
It's not at all weird that u have had only one drink there's many other weirder things bout u but they make u awesome
[User Picture Icon]
Date:April 5th, 2014 02:38 pm (UTC)
One of these days I need to LJ about the way my medical school normalized drunkenesss while othering disability. And the deeper implications thereof.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:April 7th, 2014 07:45 pm (UTC)
Slightly rambling, forgive me.

I've never been a drinker. I don't like the taste of most alcoholic beverages. I have never been drunk. I'm not proud of it any more than I'm proud of the fact I've never been to Hawaii or have never dyed my hair blond or have never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. It's just a thing I haven't done, that -- like those other things -- I have no interest in doing. Not opposed! Just . . . not interested.

So yeah, I've experienced exactly what you're talking about. There are ways to get around some of it -- oddly, I have found "I don't want to drink it, but can I smell yours?" to be nearly 100% effective, though I hasten to say that I genuinely do sniff as many different things as I can for purposes of writing, so I'm doing something I would have liked to do anyway.

The idea that declining means I am THE FUN CRUSHER is ludicrous. If your idea of fun is being around drunk people who didn't want to be drunk in the first place, sincerely, you WORRY ME.

Anyway, all this falls square in the lap of "consent culture", a thing I am seeing talked about more and more. Cliff at The Pervocracy talks about it at that link. (I don't think it needs a trigger warning, but it's a discussion about what consent actually looks like and how to respect people's boundaries, so rape is talked about.) That conversation does revolve primarily around sex-related consent, but this gets thrown out there right at the start:

"I don't want to limit it to sex. A consent culture is one in which mutual consent is part of social life as well. Don't want to talk to someone? You don't have to. Don't want a hug? That's okay, no hug then. Don't want to try the fish? That's fine. (As someone with weird food aversions, I have a special hatred for "just taste a little!") Don't want to be tickled or noogied? Then it's not funny to chase you down and do it anyway."

I read that when the post first went up and it made such a huge impression on me I remembered the passage as being much longer.

Saying you don't like a thing or don't want to do a thing is seen by some people as a challenge. "I WILL GET YOU TO LIKE THE THING." And I have so many problems with that. Same with confessing a weakness. SOME people, not all, but enough that it is of genuine concern, take that as license to abuse a person's trust in a way that is "funny." I'm ticklish. I can turn it off for short periods of time if I am expecting it, but if I am not, I'm just super-ticklish. And while some really ticklish people still like being tickled, I REALLY DO NOT. So when someone asks me if I'm ticklish, I answer "Ehh. A little." The most boring possible answer. Because "Yes, please don't!" is like a matador's cape, and "No, not at all!" is taken an invitation to try it and see. (Or I'm honest and say "Yes, very. Please don't tickle me. If you try it I will both scream very loudly and kick/punch the shit out of you, and I mean that.") Same experience a lot of people have with phobias. People will prank you. I don't have phobias people can just randomly prank me with, so I'm good there, but it's still a thing that makes me SOOOOOOOOO ANGRY to read about.

I hate being pressured once I've said "No." to a thing. A host's "Are you SURE I can't offer you some of this cake/wine/etc.?" is sort of exempt (maybe that's a Southern thing, but it's just sort of . . . expected here), but badgering is just not okay! I grew up in a family that was AWFUL about this.

Hate being pestered to stay in a place when I want to leave. Hate being pestered to visit more often. (I, uhh, I do as much as I can, folks. Spooooons.)

Most of my friends are AMAZING about not doing this crap, thankfully, so the time I spend having to deal with it is minimal.

The Space Between

"You're a palsycorn, a unicorn is too general."