In college, a lot of people choose to drink while others choose to abstain. There are a multitude of reasons one would decide not to partake in alcohol or partying — religion, taste and personal experience being a few. As someone who can’t drink due to medication I take, I fall into this category. Even if I wanted to drink, doing so would mean risking my health with possibly dire consequences. I am still friends with people who drink, and I hold nothing against them for making that decision for themselves. However, there’s always a few people who have something to say about my lack of participation.
One night, I was sitting on the floor of a friend’s room with a couple other people I consider myself close to. They were sipping white wine out of small plastic cups while I sat and drank water from my HydroFlask, perfectly content with the situation. I didn’t feel excluded or alienated. That was until one guy told me I couldn’t “hang” because I don’t drink. First of all, no one uses the term “hang” anymore. It’s not 2013. Secondly, what?
I looked at him in disbelief. Having friends who drank in high school, I was used to being the butt of jokes and relied upon as the sober mom-friend. But being told I couldn’t be around them because I don’t want to and honestly can’t drink due to a medical condition? Well, I really was not having that. After I aggressively said, “Excuse me?” he quickly backtracked his words, claiming that some people who are sober among intoxicated people act as though they have the moral high ground. He then said I don’t seem to be “one of those people.” The ironic part of it all is that if I was that kind of person, I probably wouldn’t want to be around people drinking anyway. It would make me overtly uncomfortable and make building friendships from situations involving alcohol difficult. The more ironic part is that his words had those exact effects, making me outwardly uncomfortable and creating a riff in my mind between myself and everyone else in that room.
On a separate occasion, I was with a similar group of people and mentioned the fact I don’t drink. One guy, a different one, asked why. I understand it may just be curiosity, but I am a little tired of feeling like I have to justify such a personal decision. When I told him I can’t because of meds I take, he then proceeded to ask what meds I am on. I told him that was personal information and rude of him to ask, to which he responded with an annoyed look. It’s one thing to demand a reason for not drinking, but to be questioned even further about such a personal matter is infuriating and alienating.
I really don’t care if other people drink. In fact, I’ve been there to aid countless friends when they’ve had a few too many. I care about them, and even though I don’t make the same decisions they do, I still want them to be safe and happy. I would really just appreciate being afforded the same courtesy.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.