Forget discussions about refugees, carbon tax and paid maternity leave, the real controversy in Australian society these days comes from the person who chooses not to drink, especially if you work in any kind of corporate or creative environment.
I must admit I was quite a drinker in my younger years. I blamed my Scottish heritage, which practically demands a tipple every now and yes please. But I think my Asian genes have slowly taken over and I subsequently cannot drink like I used to. I get drunk quickly. I go red. My body passes out or I get violently ill, which is no fun at all, not to mention how punishing hangovers have become.
At first I found it awfully disheartening. If you order a glass of lemonade at the pub, people instantly assume you’re the designated driver, sick or raising money for charity. It could never be a matter of choice.
I remember dating a former alcoholic, years ago. He’s a brilliant and kind hearted man that I still adore. We ironically met in a bar. He was fine with me drinking, he’d carry me home if need be, but you’d never find him drinking anything but Diet Coke. He never proactively spoke of his preferences. He never tried to enforce his choices onto others, it never stopped him from going out, but I remember the times when he would call almost in tears. It was a real eye opener. Whole dinner tables would turn against him. People were dumb-founded. They would offer him schooner of beer after glass of wine after shot of tequila. It became a challenge. They mocked him. They took it so personally. They had no idea.
I remember feeling furious and shocked at the time, but it also realised he was the only person I knew back then who didn’t drink.
In my more recent states of sobriety I’ve realised how challenging it must be for folk who don’t drink at all. Conversations can become heavier to support. I find myself taking more of a back seat and watching situations (and people) unfold around me. I get bored. And that makes me wonder whether I drank because I was unhappy or angry, because I found it hard to relax or because I was plain restless or reckless.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against drinking at all and still occasionally indulge. I guess I’m wondering why it’s not ok with everyone else to not drink.
You always remember those who don’t drink and I thought of a gorgeous friend while writing this post. For around six years now she hasn’t consumed alcohol, so I called to quiz her on the subject.
“It’s weird. People are always shocked that I’m just drinking coke and always offer me a ‘proper’ drink. For six years now it’s always been the same reaction. I had this conversation just last night. ‘Why? Why not? I don’t get it…’ They always want to know how I have fun and get loose and if I take drugs and it’s worse when they realise I don’t take drugs either. I always admit it’s harder. I have to be in the right mood and around people I like and am comfortable with.
“I don’t get why it troubles people, and it always does. Even if they’re ok with it in the end, they’re always confused and want to know why first. It really baffles people.”
I’m noticing a shift though, especially amongst different groups of friends. I find small random groups splitting from the intoxicated ones, going off in search of Korean hot pot or a good night’s rest… I guess these days some of us would rather have a hearty conversation, read or watch a band.
Or perhaps my boredom is getting the better of me.