Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why aren't you drinking?!?!

I was watching the George Lopez show last night...he was demonstrating to his wife how people from his family deal with issues, which in this case, was by taking two shots of tequila. Both times, the audience hooted and clapped. My first thought was, Really? That's what we're clapping for now? The consumption of alcohol? Something that happens every day, in every city and has been for thousands of years? 

Yes. Yes it is what we're clapping for now. It truly baffles me how American society today seems to see alcohol consumption as expected, yet simultaneously worthy of praise. If you've ever been to a networking event, dinner meeting, meet and greet or even just out with coworkers after work, there's no doubt you've been confronted with this issue, most likely quite directly. Most Christians I know are teetotalers, some even refraining from food cooked with alcohol (or so they think), so I know this has to be a problem a lot of us run into. 

Personally, I don't take issue with alcohol consumption. I love the culinary arts and keep 10-15 bottles of wine, sake and various beers on hand at a time for cooking and will occasionally have a glass with dinner when out. Though I don't like hard liquor, I come from a family that doesn't drink, but that does believe in grapefruit toddies when ill...and I just finished making a bourbon chess pie. So basically I believe in the Ephesians 5:18 take on alcohol:

Ephesians 5:18 

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

Basically it falls into the same category as money...not inherently wrong, but the issue is the overuse/abuse.

I've dealt with it this problem for years, but lately people seem to be getting more direct. The conversation usually goes like this:

You're not having anything to drink?
Not tonight
Why not??
I'm not a big drinker.
I bet you are! 
I'm really not.

And don't think having a glass of wine in your hand will stave off the questions...

You're only having one?
Yeah. I'm not a big drinker.
Why not? I'm going to get you another drink.
No thanks.
No really, I'm fine with this. 

Now...I know these conversations aren't generally meant with any ill will. People usually just want you to join in the party because, for some odd reason, they feel that if everyone isn't participating, drinking isn't quite as enjoyable. If I had to take a guess though, I think there's something pretty sad going on. I think a large number of people need alcohol to deal with their true feelings and desires. Many people say they need alcohol to dance or perform, and I've even heard the statement that people who don't drink can't be trusted because they are hiding something and are scared it will slip out if they get drunk. In an age of supposed enlightenment and more focus on self, I'm really not sure how that came about.

But general policy on confrontation? Don't back down. I've got a decent amount of mass on me, so it takes a few glasses of wine to even get me tipsy, but I know my limits. I get my one glass that I sip VERY slowly (people do notice, despite what you may read in magazines and online). I may do a second, but regardless of who's offering, I turn down anything after I start to feel the effects. I once had to turn down our senior VP who insisted on getting me more drinks. Not gonna lie...he didn't like it.

I am looked upon strangely and people do remember. Some people have even taken it as a game to get me to drink more than I want. I've never gotten angry or offended, but have instead just maintained an even, light tone when turning people down, because honestly, a large number of people will take your limitations on drinking as you judging their personal behavior.


  1. Sometimes I don't have the compassion to be concerned with whether or not someone sees me turning down their drinks as judging their behavior. In fact, because of the constant bullying that surrounds alcohol consumption, I somewhat want them to feel offended. Perhaps that discomfort can provide them some insight on the discomfort I feel when badgered to consume alcohol.

    I find it ludicrous that such demands are even made outside of perhaps the stereotypical undergraduate aged situation. It bothers me that consuming alcohol is seen as an activity of depth and the only way to "have fun" by so many people. I've honestly structured my social situations around ways to avoid people who cannot accept my personal choices that don't involve heavy alcohol consumption, or at times, any alcohol consumption at all.

    However, like some of the examples you pointed out, it is not always avoidable. In those cases I am firm about my position. I've long ago accepted that alcohol is sadly seen as some sort of bonding thing as well, so by not behaving in the accepted norm, it will further alienate me from people, especially those in the dominant culture. (Honestly, most of the demands for alcohol consumption in my life has been by middle class White Americans in social situations for leisure or past jobs). Because I am a minority, it's almost expected that I concede to whatever the dominant culture dictates, even in social situations. I think all of my cultural differences get heightened when I reject alcohol because in social situations like this, it's just one more thing that makes me different.

    Good post, was great to read.

  2. Funny you mention undergrad. I was reading about the issue of undergraduate social practices seeping into the professional world (you'd think the opposite should happen) and this, among some other branks, was one of the examples. I think there are one of two things happening here.

    When it comes from a superior, it's a test of loyalty. Rejection signals you're not willing to say "how high" and a person will likely pay a price in their work life

    If it's someone on the same level or below, it's the fun/party issue.

  3. Can this be equated at all with the use of vulgar language at work? I had an executive drop the f bomb during a conference call and I remained silent. I really thought it was expected of me to laugh, or say it was OK, but it wasn't funny and it wasn't OK to me. The others on the call seemed to find some bonding in the whole slip of language, after all it was 8:00 or so on the East Coast, well after business hours, so maybe a bit more casual would be allowed?

    I am sure I didn't fit in at that moment.

  4. Hi Jules,

    When I first started reading your comment, I thought "no, they aren't quite the same" since participation in the use of profanity isn't usually expected from other employees. But in the example you used, it does seem similar. I'm sure everyone's heard someone curse before so they couldn't have been that shocked or amused.

    I do think both can be used as tests of group loyalty and a bonding activity...both can be a form of "letting loose" together and a method of weeding out those that don't want to participate.