I may be the only person on the planet Earth who is thus, but I don’t drink. No, it’s not out of any religious or moral obligations. And, no, it’s not for health or safety reasons, although that’s a tributary benefit. The reason I don’t drink, as the title of this essay suggests, is simply because I don’t like the taste of alcohol.
But what does it matter? Hey, that’s what I’m asking.
It happens all the time: when I go out to a club, party, bar, or any event where alcohol is present and mention I don’t drink, people seem to take it as a challenge.
“Oh, you don’t drink,” they say. “Wait until you try this.” Smiling, they hand me a glass of some frothy amber-colored liquid. I politely take a sip and lay the glass on the table. Still smiling, they ask if I like it, as if my bitter expression hadn’t already revealed my answer.
It tastes like imported elk urine, is what I’d like to say, but I courteously respond, “I don’t like it.” The scene always plays out the same.
Believe me, I’ve tried to enjoy it, seeing as drinking alcohol seemed like the adult thing to do. In college, I tried to fit in with everyone else and drink. But I could never get over that dry taste. I kept wondering why everyone enjoyed drinking nail polish remover all the time.
One time I tried the chocolate beer at BJ’s restaurant, thinking this had to be my saving grace! Surely, I’d enjoy chocolate beer. I ordered the drink. It didn’t taste like chocolate. I ended up accidentally spilling it on my friend sitting next to me. Subsequently, the waiter came over asking him if he was okay and offered to call a taxi. What a spectacular way to punctuate my distaste for the drink!
Then I had an epiphany: why am I trying to make myself drink when I genuinely don’t like the taste? Why do I have to feel like something’s wrong with me just because I’m different? Why am I’m asking myself so many rhetorical questions?
Imagine everyone played Pokémon at bars instead of drinking there. (Timeout: Where is this place? I must go there!) When you respond that you don’t like to play Pokémon people give you weird looks and shove a 3DS in your face, saying, “Try it. Try it.” If you didn’t enjoy Pokémon then you shouldn’t feel pressured to try.
Maybe you can’t relate. That’s okay. But, I’m sure you understand a situation where everyone else likes something you don’t. At times, people can’t seem to handle any sort of Divergence. A novel by the same title attests to that fact.
People almost feel threatened by difference. Homophobia and religious intolerance are some of the most egregious manifestations of that fear. People wonder at the fact that you are different and immediately want you to assimilate. If they find out you aren’t Christian they proselytize. They convince you to join their political party. For some reason, they must have you on their team.
But things aren’t always so black and white. Sometimes, differentiation is a simple matter of preference; there’s no moral implication to one choice or the other. Some people like Pokémon X, I prefer Y, others don’t like Pokémon at all. Some are vegetarian, others are omnivores. Some like it hot.
I don’t judge people who drink. As long as you drink responsibly, do your thing. I can’t hate. I just ask you respect my decision, in turn.
Unfortunately, we, as humans, are raised in a certain culture with particular beliefs and modalities. It’s very difficult for us to validate beliefs different from our own. Wars have been waged on this very point.
In China, for instance, I’d be a social pariah because I don’t drink. Then again, I’d be a social pariah because I’m Black as well, so I’d stand no chance at any rate.
Consequently, here in the US, the onus is not on others; it’s on us. Get it? The onus is on us. You can’t change the way people think, but you can control how you respond to their ignorance. Walk with confidence in your convictions. Whether you don’t drink, don’t like HBO’s Girls, think video games are lame, disliked the film Gravity, whatever, just be sure in yourself and others will back off. Be self-assured and people will respect that.
Moral of the story: Be yourself.
So, instead of inviting me for a drink next time, how about we have ice cream donuts? Those things are delicious.
Froyo will do, too.