Drinking in college has become a staple of the coming-of-age experience in America. Films, books, television, even most internet sources glorify the drinking scene as something that is a fun time that all people must experience before they enter the real world and have to deal with responsibilities. In this atmosphere, those people who don't drink with all the rest can seem like outsiders. Due to this apparent dichotomy of "drinker" and "non-drinker," misunderstandings can arise between the two. As the "outsiders" who aren't represented much in the media, here's a few things non-drinkers would like their drinking compatriots to know.
1. We Have our Reasons and We Don't Have to Justify Them
Imagine if every time you picked up a beer, your friends gave you a weird look and asked "Oh. Why do you drink?" It would get annoying, right? The same goes for non-drinkers. We have reasons, and we may not want to share them with you. It could be something as simple as "I don't like alcohol," or "I'm the designated driver tonight," but it could also be something more personal, something that maybe we wouldn't want to share with another until we know them pretty well. If we tell you we don't drink, don't push - just let us have our sodas in peace.
2. Don't Try to Talk Us Into It
Because we have our reasons, trying to talk us into it either won't work, or it will and we won't appreciate it later. This isn't just trying to get us to have a good time, this is peer pressure, something we get plenty of from societal norms and expectations already. If you try to talk a non-drinker into drinking, with good intentions of showing them how fun it will be, they may instead get upset or defensive, which will make the whole party a lot less fun for everyone. Consider giving us a dollar for the vending machines instead.
3. We Aren't Judging You
We have our reasons for not drinking - that doesn't mean we're going to impose our reasons onto you. We respect your choices and how you have fun, and understand that just because those choices and ways are different from yours, one is not necessarily better or worse. Though we do reserve the right to playfully make fun of you when you do silly drunk things.
4. We Don't Want to Be Left Out
Sometimes a party will be held at which there will be drinks and non-drinkers will be systematically left out. This is often done with good intentions - trying not to make us uncomfortable, or put us in a position where we feel trapped. But it's not impossible to have fun at a party where there are drinks without drinking. We like watching you be silly and have fun, and we like to be silly and have fun with you, alcohol or no. And yes, maybe there will be some parties where we feel like we don't want to be there, but saying no or leaving early are things that are easy enough to do when you're sober. Just be up front about the presence of alcohol (surprises aren't fun) and ask nicely, in a way that makes it clear that a "no" is okay.
5. We're Actually Probably the MVP of the Night
Five shots in, Jim realizes he doesn't have a ride home and can't let his parents/roommate/RA/etc. know he's been drinking, and has no cash. Who's going to drive him? The non-drinkers. We are the best designated drivers, the best watchdogs for who probably shouldn't have any more, the best people to pick up the phone and make that 911 call if somebody wasn't being careful enough. We can go and get more snacks, more booze (if we're old enough - most non-drinkers won't have fake IDs or connections), can be impartial and completely sober judges to your games of beer pong or drunk Cards Against Humanity. We're pretty much the best, to be perfectly honest.
6. If We Do One Day Drink, Don't Make a Big Deal About It
Right now we don't drink, and in everyone's mind, we're filed under that category : "Non-Drinker." When people change categories in your mind, it can be a big deal, we know that as well as you do. Sometimes, however, we actually avoid drinking longer because we're worried that everyone will suddenly feel the need to make a snide or sarcastic comment if they see us drinking. It's understandable that there might be some sort of remark - we know you're probably surprised, so we don't mind a little comment to that effect (ex. "Oh wow, I didn't know you drink now.") too much - but don't shout it from the rooftops (literally or metaphorically), don't tease us for changing our minds or throw our previous reasons back in our faces. As much as we had reasons for not drinking before, we have good reasons for wanting to now. Don't make us feel unreasonably uncomfortable about it - if we haven't had much to drink in the past, we're probably being made plenty uncomfortable by the burn of alcohol in our throats anyways.
The basic message is this: we like having fun just like you do. Whether we choose to drink or not is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor decision which doesn't speak to our personalities or minds. We want to interact with you the same way you would with any of your other friends, even if you're talking about or currently consuming alcohol. We want to laugh with you and dance with you and be there for you. We respect you and your choices - if you do the same, there's really no difference between us at all.
Lead Image Credits: Pexels