Thursday, March 4, 2010
On Being a 20-Something Non-Drinker
When I met slam poet Jared Paul last weekend, I noticed a single patch on his jacket that said the following: "IT'S OKAY NOT TO DRINK."
I never drank in high school. My friends and I weren't "cool" by any stretch of the imagination-- with me being particularly nerdy-- so we never had party invitations rolling in. I can't speak for them, but I was never interested in alcohol or drugs. I was very focused on school, and I was very sure about what constituted a good time. I enjoyed watching movies, baking, going to the mall, reading, and creating fake poetry/jazz nightclubs at sleepovers (this is not a joke-- my best friend and I are weird). I was content with my party-free life.
At the tail end of year 16, I met my first boyfriend, who was big into pot-- and other drugs on occasion-- and alcohol. In my head, I knew better than to get involved with him, but once he told me he loved me, I was hooked on him. I asked him to stop doing drugs, and as far as I know, he did. However, he still smoked cigarettes and got drunk on a daily basis. Half the time I saw him, he was drunk, and when he was drunk, our interactions could go any number of ways: several times he broke up with me and then apologized later, he'd be incredibly hostile, he would be so loving that I forgave all the shitty things he'd do to me and the way his lifestyle made me sick. For the first time in my life, I was the girl hanging out late at night in the woods by the train tracks and trying to look tough in alleyways. The way First Boyfriend lived was intriguing, because I'd never been so close to drugs and alcohol and general debauchery. Still, I didn't really want to be a part of it.
The first time I tried alcohol, I was 17. I hated it and didn't get the appeal.
When I was 18, I finally cut off my toxic relationship and started dating my current boyfriend, who's never touched drugs or alcohol. He's a much better fit for me for many reasons, but his abstinence from substances is definitely a plus.
Of course, when I was 18, I went to college. I went to some parties, where I would take a red cup of something in order to fit in, but usually wouldn't drink it. I felt cool enough being included, even though parties made me nervous and uncomfortable. After awhile, I stopped feeling included and started feeling frustrated that in a room full of trashed people, I related to no one. Many of my close friends from home who never had to drink to have fun started drinking and trying drugs. My freshman-year roommate and her friends, all previously non-drinkers, started partying. I felt completely isolated.
I still feel completely isolated. I am 21 now, and the whole drinking thing is still as unappealing as it was back in elementary school or whenever we started being told drugs and alcohol are bad. I go out and drink maybe twice a year, one drink per occasion. I have never been drunk, and have no desire to experience it. That makes me feel like some sort of alien.
For me, not drinking makes sense. My father has an alcohol problem, First Boyfriend has an alcohol problem, my current boyfriend's adoptive father has a major alcohol problem. I don't enjoy the taste of alcohol or the idea of being drunk-- I would rather have a good time while sober, even though it seems that most of my peers aren't into that sort've thing. I know people who get drunk and hook up and make fools of themselves when they deserve so much more respect.
Binge-drinking is terribly destructive for the mind and body. I worry about the kind of people my generation will grow up to be-- will the party ever end for them, and how will it? The whole idea of drinking for fun--and to adhere to social norms-- is incredibly immature. That I think this makes me very different from 99% of the young people I encounter. I feel like an old lady.
My best friend moved to Texas and got into drugs and alcohol for awhile. When she decided to stop, she realized how much she missed the days when we had sleepovers and baked brownies and watched Monty Python and said ridiculous things until late, late at night. She said she'd never be able to find a relationship like ours again, because no one she knows would do any of those things sober. She said how you always see photos on Facebook of people doing funny things captioned "and I wasn't even drunk yet!" and that she wishes she knew more people like us that wanted to be playful and silly just because, without needing an excuse. The things that make our friendship the dearest thing in our hearts seems to exist in a bubble, ours alone.
The fact that I don't see drinking the same way as many of the people I know makes me feel proud of myself, but it's also incredibly saddening. Sometimes I get this sense that I'll never have the memories my friends will have, the wild stories, and that somehow that makes me very uncool. My boyfriend summed it up pretty well one Friday night after we'd played video games, had sex, and watched some ridiculous show on Spike TV: "do you ever feel like we're missing out on something?"
The more I think about it, though, the more I really don't think I am.