6 things non-drinkers wish drinkers understood
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We talk a lot about drinking rules, but we rarely talk about how to behave with non-drinkers.
Well, non-drinkers have feelings too, and they want to be heard. We asked our non-drinking readers on Facebook what they want drinkers to know about them. That’s what they said.
1. Check splitting is rarely fair to non-drinkers
Americans spent an estimated $799 billion on restaurants nationwide last year. Most restaurants aim to make around 30% of their revenue from alcohol, so these drinks can make up a significant portion of the tab. Who hasn’t been in a big group and when the check came, someone suggested, “How about we split it?”
Few people want to be the only ones to gently raise their hand in protest.
“I feel extremely uncomfortable and I find it unfair [that] I have to pay for the portion of someone else’s expensive booze,” said Leila Mostafavi. “I feel it creates a quiet tension and I’m judged for not wanting to pay more. Is it fair that I pay more when I drink a $3 soda?”
It was a common refrain: if alcohol raises the bill by about 30%, why should someone who hasn’t had alcohol cover it? At any group meal, some people order appetizers, desserts, coffee, or a more expensive entree, and sometimes the check just about balances. But when one friend orders a salad and drinks tap water and another orders the 40-ounce rib eye and a bottle of wine, that’s not a check that should be shared equally, said non-drinkers.
If the drinkers in the group don’t step in and insist that the non-drinker pay less when everyone has had three rounds of $15 cocktails, then it’s perfectly normal for a non-drinker to stand up and asks, “Would anyone mind if I put on for what I ordered?” There’s no need to explain why, according to the label column Manner Matters.
Reader Sheri Rego noted that while it might “sound petty,” she sometimes orders dessert or an appetizer just to even the score when dating people who drink alcohol.
“But they all expect me to share this with them,” she wrote. “They didn’t share their expensive cocktail with me!!”
Several non-drinking readers said they stayed back and waited for others to order first. If everyone orders alcoholic drinks, they ask the server for a separate check when it’s their turn.
2. Non-drinkers need support too
Many people recovering from alcoholism or participating in Dry January or Sober October don’t appreciate having their abstinence turned into a “thing.” A little sensitivity would be nice, they said.
Diane Williams McMullen, who has been sober for more than 32 years, said she shouldn’t have to explain why she’s not drinking. However, it is regularly requested. When pressed, she tries to use humor and says she is “allergic to alcohol – I got drunk”.
David Lawrence also tries to make a joke of it. “I just tell people that I haven’t been arrested in 30 years and I would like to keep this streak alive. It usually silences anyone who expects me to participate,” he said.
Not everyone who doesn’t drink is recovering or needs to be. Yagana Shah, former editor of HuffPost, pointed out that she doesn’t drink because her faith forbids it. Jeff Perlman said he quit drinking after college for health reasons. Some non-drinkers try to lose weight; others are trying to save money. Many others simply don’t care about the taste or effects of alcohol.
According to a 2014 study from North Carolina State University, nondrinkers felt they needed to use a variety of strategies to attend social events without making themselves, their co-workers, or their customers uncomfortable. Some study participants said they stopped short of lying about not drinking, as if not drinking alcohol was something to be ashamed of. Instead they would tell people “I’m not drinking tonight” or “I have an early morning”.
Other study participants said they would buy an alcoholic beverage, but not drink it, in order to fit in. Some said they were afraid of being seen as judgmental or “holier than you.” A woman, who was not drinking because she was taking prescription medication for a mental health condition, told colleagues that alcohol gave her migraines.
3. They don’t appreciate you pestering them to drink.
“People who drink are obsessed with the habits of non-drinkers; it becomes the focus of at least some of the night’s conversation,” said Reem Baroody, an IRL friend. “At some point someone is sure to imply that I don’t drink is kind of judgmental about them and their choice to drink. It says a lot more about them and their insecurities than it does about my Coke without ice.
And yes, there is pressure on non-drinkers to drink.
Amy Flynn Eldridge, who founded the charity Love Without Boundaries, said her least favorite line is, “Come on… just have one. Relax a bit. As if I couldn’t have a perfectly sober good time yet.
Thomas Pease said people told him, “Sure, you won’t be killed.” He responds, “Well, no, technically it won’t. [kill me], but I still don’t want it.
Julie Wallach, who hasn’t had a drink in 30 years, says she’s lost count of how many times people have said to her, “Oh, you can have a drink now!” It’s been long enough!” She told HuffPost, “Hmmm, okay… When I drink, I pass out, get violent, and cry uncontrollably to Bread songs. Trust me, you don’t want me to be drunk.
Nikki DiFrancesco is not a heavy drinker. “That said,” she commented, “it’s deeply annoying when people try to pressure me to drink with them. If you don’t want me to start controlling you to STOP drinking , I don’t want to be controlled to begin with.
Elliott Almond said that when he’s dating “guys” they “everytime try to force drinks on me like I’m a member of their teenage sports team.”
“It’s embarrassing and disrespectful,” he added. “I can’t drink alcohol because I’m on a strong drug that could damage my kidneys by mixing the two together.”
4. Non-drinkers aren’t there to take care of you.
While most non-drinkers would certainly try to make sure an intoxicated friend gets home safely, drinkers shouldn’t take responsibility for their safety while intoxicated. inebriation falls on the nearest non-drinker.
Janet Paul Eiser said nondrinkers are often treated like babysitters. And several readers said that while they’re happy to be the designated driver, they’re less happy to see the party drag on into the morning hours as they sit around waiting to play taxi driver. .
Vassi Bieber recalled how years ago she agreed to be a designated driver. She was pregnant at the time and made it clear that she had to be home no later than 11 p.m.
“Midnight came and went and I kept begging and begging and begging [my friend] go with me, and [she] always refused,” she said. Bieber ended up arranging another ride for her friend.
Maureen Fay Topper said: “There’s nothing fun about being stuck at a table with a bunch of drunk people, especially if you’ve somehow been tricked into being the designated driver. Because then you can’t just leave when they start to get obnoxious – you have to spend even more time with them because you have to take them home.
5. Non-drinkers need better alternatives to alcohol at restaurants and parties
Several readers urged restaurants to offer non-alcoholic options beyond soda, iced tea, coffee or water. Can’t food be paired with something more complementary than Diet Coke? Why would staying sober mean your only option is to drink an overpriced bottle of sparkling water all night?
Although there are “temperance agreements” in some high-end restaurants, it’s far from a drastic trend. Still, soft drink pairings, as they’re also commonly called, aren’t new; chef Thomas Keller has been offering them at his famous Per Se and French Laundry restaurants for more than a decade. But when it comes to the spot around the corner from the office where the gang congregates after work? Not really.
Non-drinkers would not be bothered by an increased awareness that they too desire drinks at restaurants, parties and dinners.
Annelies de Bruijn has been to house parties where she was offered a drink and all options were booze. “I ended up with tap water and a confused host,” she said.
But at least she’s still invited to parties.
“I know that I get excluded from some invites because I don’t drink and somehow that makes other people feel uncomfortable,” Lori Turner said.
6. Being surrounded by drunks isn’t all it’s supposed to be
Non-drinkers say drinkers should sometimes hold up a mirror and decide if they like who they see.
Eden Darigan Almog has a few friends who don’t hold their alcohol well. “We apologize and say ‘I’m sorry’ about 50 times a minute,” she said. Another, who has since quit drinking, is said to have become “angry and violent”.
“It can be hard to watch people make decisions or say things they would never say/do sober. It’s one thing when they have a glass of wine or two, but when they get drunk it’s a little awkward to watch,” said Almog, who chose to quit drinking after years of working as a paramedic. and seeing too many drunk driving accidents.
Tonnie Katz has observed that when people have had a lot to drink, “they think their conversation makes sense, when… [it] is often quite the opposite.
Micah Smith said a surprising number of his friends were getting “very sentimental” and would start telling “anyone who will listen how proud they are of our friendship or what they love about me”.
While the chatter starts off as sweet and flattering, friends often ignore their filters and “give away too much information,” he added.
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