*Due to internet connection problems, this post is a day late. It is technically the post for Monday 1 October*
I have never been drunk in my life.
I have tasted alcohol: some I have tolerated, most I have actively disliked.
I have never felt the need to drink to “loosen up” or “relax”; although I have on many occasions felt like a bit of an outsider or a square for not doing so. I have sometimes taken a drink in celebration – at a wedding, or party etc. There was also one time in Scotland I had to skull a beer and a schnapps to win a trivia game (and nobody beats me at trivia). But while I could claim a few occasions where I might be classified as “a bit tipsy”, I have never been 100 per cent shitfaced, rat-arsed, pissed, boss-eyed, muntered, blind, smashed, blotto, wasted, hammered or trollied.
As I approach another birthday - which will no doubt be spent alcohol-free, despite also being the night of my high-school reunion – I wonder why that could be?
Possibility A: Religious reasons
Fuck no. My memories of a Catholic youth included a heavy emphasis on throwing wine down my gullet. Come communion, I used to take the bread and move on. I never remember meeting any teetotal religious folk – Irish and Polish Catholics are well known for their love of a drop – nor do I ever recall Father Ron promising to fire and brimstone my ass during Sunday school if I partook of the demon drink. And besides, since when did I ever listen to religion about anything?
Possibility B: Poor parental role models
My parents love a drop. They often love a whole bottle. I grew up with them enjoying wine with meals, or the odd beer over a BBQ. My Dad would occasionally have a whiskey, my Mum’s spirit of choice was brandy and Coke. Hardly Eastenders around our neck of the woods. From about age 12, my parents would offer me a shandy or some other watered-down girly drink to try. They believed it was important to learn to drink alcohol responsibly, and to enjoy it with meals. I never felt alchol was forbidden to me; perhaps that meant I didn’t desire it much?
Possibility C: Control issues
I’m not afraid to admit I’m a bit afraid to get drunk. I’m not entirely sure I want to deal with the consequences – be they bad behaviour during, or physical illness afterwards. I certainly can be a bit uptight; and I’ve had problems with some people because they perceive non-drinking with a self-inflated sense of worth – that I’m better than them for not drinking. And that’s partly true, I guess – I am proud to say I can go to a party and have a good time without alcohol. I wish more people felt like that too – we wouldn’t have some of the problems we have. As a teenager, I can remember thinking of all the dangerous positions I could get into if I got drunk and lost responsibility for my own choices and actions. In senior year, getting and keeping a drivers’ licence was more important than getting slammed on weekends. But after all, I was a geek. Who needs alcohol when you can watch Blackadder, listen to taped episodes of Martin/Molloy, or dance about in your bedroom to the Spice Girls? I remained, for the most part, blissfully unaware of what some of my classmates were getting up to, and when I did encounter their drunk selves, I felt no desire to lose control of myself like that.
Possibility D: Taste and expense
I really, truly, don’t like the taste of many alcohols. The ones I have enjoyed are creamy liqueurs or cocktails that hide the taste of the alcohol. Perhaps I shall try more as my palette matures with age. Another major factor is the tremendous amount of money one can spend on booze. If I’m anything at all in this world, I am a filthy cheapskate. If I don’t like the taste and don’t really feel the need to experience its effect, why should I spend good money on drinks when I could spend that on chocolate and DVDs? I used to pride myself that if I timed a night out well, all I’d have to pay for, if anything, would be parking. I know it’s about the good times, the experiences, the joy, the being with friends that is “worth” the money. I try to remember to buy rounds sometimes to be included in that spirit. But I’ll probably never really “get it”.
So after all that, it appears the second two possibilities are the main reasons behind my continuing abstinence. I’d like to point out that it’s not an easy life. Drinking is so ingrained into virtually every culture in the world, it’s an oddity when you don’t partake, and generally you have to spend a few minutes explaining yourself when you’re first offered a drink. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase “What, not at all?” – well, I’d have somewhere between $200 and $400. That’s a lot of DVDs. And many people get paranoid that I’m sitting in judgement on them, that I’ll remember every “bad” thing they did during the evening and rub their nose in it next time I see them. Yes, I’ll probably remember the evening better than you. But I also have a lousy memory, and will forget within a few days.
And while I do get upset at some of the behaviour that is sometimes a consequence of heavy drinking (rudeness, violence), I really don’t mind other people drinking. If it’s your choice, it makes you happy, and you do it responsibly – go for it.
So go easy on an old teetotaler. After all, you never know when you’ll need me to drive you home.