Girl Talk: Don’t Judge Me For Not Drinking

by The Frisky

I ran with a pretty tame crowd as a high schooler. We considered it a wild night if  we’d wrapped a musical theater production and all piled into someone’s basement to watch the entire Star Wars trilogy on VHS and surreptitiously make out with each other. I liked it that way, and never sought out anything more raucous, so the first time anyone actually offered me a drink was in college. And when I say, “offered,” I mean, “forced me to consume through endless, irritating cajoling.” My housemates heard that I’d never been drunk and insisted that we do a shot together. It was some vile concoction called Black Haus, and knocking it back nearly made me gag. They pushed for another shot, but I stood my ground. I loved them, but I wasn’t going to guzzle a substance that tasted like blackberry-flavored cough syrup to prove it.

Several other friends and acquaintances pushed drinks at me over the years, and I sipped a few of them gamely. A hard cider here, an amaretto sour there. But in the end, I returned to my teetotaling ways for two important reasons: Addiction runs pretty strongly in my family, and alcohol tastes AWFUL to me. I have a big, stiff, girly drink on my birthday every year with my husband — who is endlessly amused by my giggly post-drink antics — and he takes a commemorative photo of me looking bleary. And that’s it. It means I’m a cheap date, it means I can always drive myself home … and it means that, on occasion, my presence makes recreational drinkers uncomfortable.

To their credit, my close friends couldn’t care less. They know I don’t drink, and they know I don’t care if they DO drink. But occasionally the issue will come up with coworkers or friends of friends, and someone will get huffy. I get sidelong glances, whining and prodding, eye-rolling, and the occasional affronted comment about being a party-pooper. Once in a while my disinterest in alcohol hits someone the wrong way, and a non-issue becomes an issue.

Now, I virtually never tell a stranger, hostess, or relatively unknown person, “Thanks, but I don’t drink. At all. Ever.” It’s much easier to just request a Coke instead of a beer. But it’s amazing how prevalent is the belief that a non-drinking adult woman must be pregnant, amazing how curious people become at my refusal to imbibe. So it comes up and it comes out, and once in a while someone decides that my choice to not-drink is some sort of general commentary on drinking. And drinkers.

It’s not.

I don’t play poker or skydive or participate in threesomes. I don’t care if others do, and don’t feel that my decision to abstain from those activities indicates any level of judgment. Opting out of an activity, choice, or experience certainly can be borne of disdain or discomfort, but to infer that such emotions are the sole motivators is to take a pretty big, assumptive leap. A drinker who instantly concludes that a non-drinker is a superior, judgy stick-in-the-mud may be projecting her/his fears about drinking itself onto the non-drinker, may have been or felt judged in the past, or may just dislike non-conformists. But unless that specific non-drinker has said aloud, “I don’t drink because drinking is bad and drinkers are morons,” it is unfair to assume that said non-drinker is thinking anything of the sort.

My choice to avoid drinking is a very important and deeply personal one. But it has nothing to do with anyone but myself, and I’m always perplexed when folks assume that it somehow involves them. My only guess is that this assumption of judgment may be borne of a culture in which certain opt-out groups get a bit preachy around those who opt in. As in all cases, it’s wrong to presuppose that someone who doesn’t eat meat or doesn’t drive a car feels superior to those who do, or has any desire to convert them to a meat – or car-free lifestyle. But it can’t be denied that SOME members of these groups do reach out to folks on the other side. Perhaps wine lovers and beer aficionados worry that I’m going to try to  separate them from their hard-won knowledge and passion.

And perhaps it would benefit us all to remember that, in most cases, the choices that others make have no bearing on our own lives. That relatively few people walk through the world seeking lost souls to save, misguided people to convert. That a non-drinker may have dozens of reasons to opt out, and none of them have anything to do with you.

But if you’re nice, that non-drinker will probably let you have a sip of her Coke.



  • Pseudonym

    I’ve taken to driving a lot more, so now I am more likely to order a Coke with lemon at a bar than an alcoholic beverage. I’ve had no problems. Actually, I’m delighted to learn that most bars will give you soft drinks for free! (A friend of mine said it’s b/c they assume you’re the designated driver for a group and are giving you a pat on the back of sorts.)

    The only time I’ve gotten a “face” is from guys trying to get me liquored up (and probably sexually uninhibited- I’m not much the random hookup type) and I just mime “I’m driving” and that’s usually the end of it.

  • MimiLuvs

    I can soooo relate to the author of this post!
    Similar to the author, I do not have a strong tolerance to alcohol. I am a light weight too. An extreme light weight, who cannot drink a sugary-fruity-frozen drink without passing out and sleeping it off for the next 10-14 hours. So, knowing this tidbit about me, I refuse to drink alcoholic beverages, which rubs certain people the wrong way. I don’t know why, but it does.

  • EST. 1986

    There are times when the smell of alcohol alone makes me want to heave.

    One time I went out with a co-worker who brought along two of her friends to TGIFridays and when I ordered my drink, I asked for the bartender to lessen the amount of alcohol. Well, what do you know? The co-worker made a comment the next day at work about how I didn’t really drink when we went out as if she was bothered by it or something.

    Drinking isn’t even all that great. I don’t see what the appeal is.

  • C

    All know is that it is no fun being the only sober person in a group of drunk people. Nothing they find funny is really funny, and it is like being the only mentally healthy person in a psych ward.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    i don’t know/understand why it should bother people either. How does you/me not drinking get in the way of their good time? =/ If they want to get falling-down drunk, think of us non-drinkers as less competition.

  • Erin

    Friends that don’t drink or don’t drink that much are great friends to have! They usually look after the rest of the group and make sure everyone gets home safely. Over the years, I’ve slowed down on my drinking… only drinking on special occasions for the most part, or one drink and that’s it for an evening. Most of the people I know have said that the older you get, and the more you drink, the sicker you feel. I’ve never drank enough to get sick the next day and I know my limits… others need to learn as well.

  • Rah

    I don’t trust people who don’t drink

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Huh? I don’t follow. How does Drinking = Trustworthiness?

  • Gigi Young

    Yep, this is me. The taste of alcohol is not good, and I’ve never understood why getting trashed and vomiting all over the place was a symbol of “fun”.

  • Sammie

    I have a friend that does not drink. When its just me and her hanging out, I don’t mind. The issue comes up when we both hang out with my friends who do drink. I drink with them and we tend to act silly or goofy. I wouldn’t mind except that she feels excluded and then starts acting as if we’re doing something wrong. That makes me feel uncomfotable because I feel she is judging us and then she says that her feelings are hurt because we aren’t too busy having fun to pay attention to her. That is what I don’t like. I have no not drinking, but it just make situations slightly awkward at times.

  • nettie

    This -> “…for two important reasons: Addiction runs pretty strongly in my family, and alcohol tastes AWFUL to me.” Add a +1 for me.

    I don’t get the side eye from most people, though. They are curious, but not affronted. I have four children. I need all of my wits about me at all times, lol.

  • E.M.S.

    I don’t drink either. Nothing about alcohol is appealing to me, and I refuse to let anyone pressure me into changing that. I couldn’t care less if someone looks at me funny, my liver is gonna thank me later!

  • Oversseas_Honeybee

    @Gigi Young. Ditto. I never understood it either. Not to mention I’ve had to help clean up enough “guts and vomit” from friends and family (ewww! You better be glad I love u) to last a lifetime.
    If you want to drink please don’t let me stop you. I still have fun but I made that choice a long time ago to do it without alcohol (or drugs). Also major issues with alcohol run in my family.

  • C

    I’m not a big drinker, but I have been drunk a couple of times in the past, and for me it is fun only because everything is hilarious, it makes me feel so much more philosophical (lol), and none of my problems matter. And I actually like the taste of some alcohol. But I don’t drink a lot because I know I’ll look like a fool when I’m drunk, and it makes me feel horrible the next day. So I usually drink one drink–just enough to feel relaxed, and stop. I’ll usually just have a glass of wine. Just because there’s alcohol present doesn’t mean you have to get drunk.

  • Starla

    @Pseudonym thanks for the tip. Now I know how to get free drinks at the bar…lol

    I drink quite often, but have never questioned why someone else doesn’t drink. To me drinking doesn’t equate to drunk, I have self-control. The best combination in life is a great wine and some good chocolates, or scrumptious dessert..simply heaven.

    I get questioned all the time though about never
    trying weed. Folks think I am stone crazy for having lived this long and “never done it”.

  • eclecticspectrum

    I don’t drink ever. I didn’t grow up around alcohol. My eldest bro was in a frat and he doesn’t drink. I’ve never cared for alcohol so I’ve never had any. This really bothers folks in a college setting. I’ve had folks call me a nun and I’m like no stupid I’m an atheist. I don’t make other people’s perceptions my problem. They better get over it.

  • Kay

    I don’t drink either. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually been tipsy or drunk in my entire life. I don’t like the taste of alcohol but am fine if others want to drink. It’s made me the “DD” of our group. LOL.

  • B.Payne

    As a drinker, I love having trustworthy people like you around.
    You keep the bad men away and get me home safely, LOL!

    I’ve slowed down over the years since I’ve overcome most of my issues (yep, I admit it!) but my teetotaling friends love that I never judged them because I don’t believe in peer pressure.

    What I drink, don’t make you piss so do you! Cheers!

  • Jennel

    I don’t drink either and it’s made me stop hanging out with some people. I don’t have an issue with people who drink but with people who think they NEED to get drunk to have fun, like they need to turn into someone else to actually enjoy themselves.

  • binks

    I grew up in the Big Easy where it seems like alcohol is the state beverage, however I am not a big drinker and when I do drink I don’t drink to get drunk (I never understood that concept, maybe I like self-control too much) so you will never catch me overdoing it. But I never understood why someone who doesn’t drink at all makes people uncomfortable there is no rule that states that you have to ingest alcohol to be sociable. I rather hang out with people who doesn’t/seldom drink than people who seem to rely on it as a way for a good time.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    ITA Binks!
    I’d much rather hang out with folk that know a good time sober, than people that have to be plastered to have fun. A slight buzz is enough, like 2 drinks max. Hangovers, vomiting, falling down drunk in public, etc is so not the bizzness nor is it cute esp on a woman. Drinking to access can also potentially put one in danger even among those we think we know and trust. Moderation is the key.

  • Rue

    I drink, but in moderation. Never enough to get plastered. The thing to take away from this article is to choose friends who will have your back in a healthy and positive way. If someone doesn’t want a drink, offer a coke and STFU. Similarly, I hate teetotalers who try to shove tee totaling down my throat. I normally quote Abe Lincoln:”A man who has no vices has no virtues”, or if I’m feeling snarky, Frank Sinatra: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day”. Also, I refuse to clean up anyone’s drunk vomit, especially if someone warned you off the bottle. Have a rag, please!

  • Lisss

    Truth is, we have become a society of such indulgence and conformity that when any individual decides to practice abstinence in anything, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, sex or even going to the club, he/she gets the eternal side-eye. As for myself, i find other ways (and other people) to have a good time and keep it moving. I have neither the time nor the interest in explaining my choices to everyTom, Dick and Harry (especially if they’re drunk).

  • Ericka

    Thank you for writing this. How ironic that I’m reading this an hour after I get home from a client function where my non-drinking is never a non-issue. I’m NEVER uncomfortable around a crowd that drinks even though I don’t but it makes so many acquaintances and colleagues uncomfortable. Really appreciate you sharing…you’re not alone!

  • Crystal

    “My choice to avoid drinking is a very important and deeply personal one. But it has nothing to do with anyone but myself, and I’m always perplexed when folks assume that it somehow involves them.” ****THIS****

    In the past, family members and friends would make comments about me not drinking but they have just come to know I refrain. Recently, I’ve been on a few dates where the guy was surprised I didn’t drink. Some were like okay and kept it moving while some were a little weird about it. One guy even tried to get the bartender’s attention to put vodka in the cranberry juice I ordered.

    Like the author, I don’t drink because of the strong addiction problems in my family. I had a bout with alcohol addiction as a teenager. My choice to not drink has nothing to do with others and I can be the life of the party without a single drop of alcohol. I found me and I come straight no chasers needed lol.

  • Kaya

    I don’t drink much either. I can sip the same drink all night long. Especially if its dark liquor. The smell of liquor is gross to me. To be honest, I think I am allergic to liquor because if I have more than one drink my lips and tongue start to numb. It’s crazy.

  • Velma

    Apparently not drinking is a big deal. I drank once when I was 20 and didn’t do it again, because I don’t like the taste of liquor. Now I am 50 and people really “trip” on this. I don’t get it, and don’t care. If you enjoy drinking, great; but let me do me and not.

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