Why Don't You Drink?
I stopped drinking when I was 18 after watching my friends destroy themselves one weekend in Byron Bay. It's been so long since I drank alcohol that the question "Why don't you drink?" sounds absurd. You might as well be asking me "Why don't you smash a pizza into your face?".
Sometimes I forget that alcohol use is considered normal, social, and even a bonding experience. People take it personally if you don't imbibe with them. They feel rejected, or worse, that you are looking down on them for using alcohol.
Let's get that straight to begin with. I don't care if you drink alcohol or not. I don't care if you smoke weed or not, I don't care if you launder money, have same sex relationships, call your mum every Sunday, fuck hookers, go to church, lie to your boss or ... not. I don't care because it's your life and it's your choice. It's when you make a fuss about my choices that I get annoyed.
There is a very simple reason why I don't drink alcohol.
I don't like it.
Really, that's all there is to it. You would think that this explanation would be sufficient, but more often than not it just triggers an even worse conversation chain:
"Why don't you like it? Have you tried <blah blah>? What about <blah>?"
For fuck's sake people.
So I've been working on a solution to this problem. People get upset that I don't drink. They either take it personally and feel rejected or think it's going to make for a great conversation to psychoanalyse my aversion to alcohol.
When I meet new people my goal is to get through the facades, the rhetoric and the nonversations as quickly as possible. I want to know what they live for, what they fear and how their relationships and experiences have made them the person they are today. And most importantly, I don't want to get stuck in yet another boring conversation.
Here are a few of the canned responses I've collected to avoid the train wreck set in motion by "Why don't you drink?". The most effective offer a whole new set of doors for people to open instead of blindly murdering the conversation.
Okay, here goes.. "Why don't you drink?"
"It's not my thing."
This is now my defacto response. It is subtley different to "I don't like it" which forces you into a defensive conversation. "It's not my thing" seeds people's curiosity in a more positive way. You can't help but wondering: so what is his thing? and that's a conversation I can take in almost any direction (music is a good one).
"I only drink Jello Shots"
It's a non-sequitir, an invitation for a creative response and subcommunicates that you'll accept any conversation other than a boring one. Nonsense conversations are an order of magnitidue better than predictable ones.
Same as above.
"I only drink with my brother. It's our pact."
I'm experimenting with this at the moment. It definitely diverts the conversation to another topic, which is my family and our relationships. That is very easy to talk about and it's such a deep rabbit hole people forget their original question anyway.
For me that's more than enough canned responses. If one fails and people persist you can cycle through them. I guess there will always be the occasional person who just won't let it go. For them you might just have to bail on the conversation entirely. Usually if you just look around and spot someone else to talk to (or pretend) they will pick up the body language and let you leave.
If you're looking for some more ideas, try this thread on ask.metafilter.com.Why Don't You Drink?
Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. Since he left Australia in 2009, he has been living as a digital nomad in over 40 different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, and finding good food.