Picture it: it’s beer o’clock and I’m trying to get the office to go out for drinks. Some people still have work to do, so will join later. OK. Some people would prefer to stay on and finish work that could be done tomorrow. UM…All right. And, some people…don’t want to go. WHAT? You don’t drink? Huh? Wait, WHAT? You don’t WANT to drink?
This was back in my early 20s. It started back then, this distrust and dislike, really, of nondrinkers. And, year after year, like chapters in a book without end, this, MY STORY, kept growing. My early 30s, graduate school, journalists who should have known that drinking was as much a part of the curriculum as First Amendment law cases: What, you’re not sticking around to drink for another three hours? It’s only midnight, bars are open until 4, dudes. And now, mid-30s: What, you have to go and grab food? What, you don’t drink at all? You have kids and a husband to go home to? Wait…What the FUCK are you doing here? Oh, it’s the company Christmas party, I suppose you were invited.
I remember being baffled, really, when coworkers, fellow students, roommates, and friends didn’t want to go out drinking. (Now I realize that maybe *I* was that annoying drunk who, even back in the day when I didn’t black out and go batshit nuts on their asses, was stupid flirtatious, ridiculous repetitive, and simply Not That Interesting.) Baffled, yes. Annoyed, too: how could they rain on MY Parade? And distrustful: don’t they realize how much FUN they’re missing? Don’t they understand that THIS is where the deals, so to speak, are made?
And, I won’t deny it: I had MUCH different relationships with coworkers, let’s say, with whom I drank after work. Of course, we became actual friends. More than that, we were able to let our hair down, get to know each other outside the cubicle. And, a lot of the time, drinking after work led to positive things, like interoffice romances (where else did you meet men if you were in your 20s in the ’90s?), business partnerships, and if anything, a lot of hilarious–and good–memories.
Would I take back all the experiences that were brought by drinkin’? Not those of my 20s, that’s for sure. My early 30s, though, at least a good portion of them. I think I did myself more harm than good by staying at the bar from 5 pm to closing at 4 am–with my fellow grad school classmates, who were, actually, judging me because every turn was really a test, not a game of who could drink the most. I lost out, for sure, when my drinking after work at one job led to me being fired for missing two entire work days because I was, um, being held in a cell with 20 other women waiting to sit before the judge on public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest charges (and worse, I’m sure; I never asked the lawyer).
A part of me now totally gets my old boss, who simply never touched alcohol. I hated her for that, but I can actually appreciate her choices now. I GET those people who declined going out in favor of going home to cook dinner and get ready for another day of work. I GET those others who came, had three beers, and left…because, um, they were drunk and it was a school night.
What I don’t get is why I feel like THEY won, and I LOST. I’m bitter, I guess, and in a way, I’m bitter a little bit toward them for NOT TELLING ME TO GET MY ASS HOME. You’re a smart girl, why are you doing this to yourself?, I wish I had heard more and louder. There must have been friends who said this to me, but for the most part, in my 20s and 30s, when I was getting worse and worse, everyone else seemed to not really care. Or, maybe they were just thinking, “I’m glad it’s her and not me.”
In any case, it’s pretty clear that I’ve lost my distrust of teetotalers now, and know the answer to the question, Why don’t you drink? What I don’t know the answer to is, What took me so long to figure it out?