Every now and then I ask people what they’d like to see me cover on the blog. I did that recently and a friend of mine asked me to write about the pressure to drink alcohol at Christmas time, particularly at work related events. And I’ll be completely honest, it’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now anyway. And since I’ve written before about how to survive a booze free weekend, and some the best hangover cures, this felt like a perfect topic for me to cover.
It’s no secret that I love a glass of wine at the weekend and know for a fact that held up against NHS recommended standards, I often if not always, go over my weekly units. So I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m all sanctimonious and tell you not to drink, when I indulge far too much on a regular basis.
I feel like for this I need to take a step back first. I read a newspaper article years ago, written by a guy about his relationship with alcohol (I wish I could find it because it would help loads) but the crux of it was this; he was a social drinker. He never pre-loaded, he never drank with the intention of getting wasted. He just liked the taste of alcohol and like the way it made him feel. It made social situations better, and it was a good way of distinguishing between the working week and the weekend.
This is exactly how I feel about alcohol. I just like it.
The problem is, in the UK we have such a drinking culture that the rest of the world (besides perhaps Australia) don’t quite understand. I have American friends, to whom the idea of going to the pub as it’s own event is alien to them. Whereas Dave and I will often go to our local pub for a few drinks when we feel we haven’t been out the house much. Literally just for something to do. Across the pond, the friends I have drink very rarely; when there’s an occasion like a hen or stag do, or a work thing, or it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving. Not because it’s Friday. So there’s that.
The friend who asked me to write this was telling me that she once took a bottle of non alcoholic gin, disguised in a normal gin bottled, because she didn’t want to drink that night, but also didn’t want the fuss of being cajoled into having a drink when she didn’t want one. That’s not right isn’t it? And it made me wonder whether I do that too, even subconsciously? I hope not.
That’s the problem isn’t it? Drinking culture is so engrained in our lives that people who don’t drink, for whatever reason, are somehow labelled as boring or no fun. I’ve joked about it before; ‘I never trust a vegan or a teetotal-er’. In reality though, I think I’m just jealous that they can have fun without a drink.
Now, the work thing is a different story for me altogether. The older I get, the more I prefer not to drink too much, if at all on work nights out. I’ve learnt the hard way that after a few drinks, lips get loose and no matter what anyone says, nothing is ever ‘off the record’. So I’d rather take the car and keep a clear head these days. Unless of course I’m with colleagues I’m mates with outside of work, that’s a little different.
I guess the point of all of this is to say, if you don’t feel comfortable drinking at any event then you absolutely shouldn’t feel pressured to do so, and my friend mentioning this to me has really made me aware of how it might come across to people when you have the ‘oh go on, just have a couple’ attitude. So that’s something I’m going to be more conscious of going forward.
It’s like that quote from Mean Girls isn’t it? ‘Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier’, someone deciding to not have a drink doesn’t mean you can’t. And this Christmas more than ever, after what we’ve all had to endure, we should all be looking after ourselves in whatever way possible. And that includes respecting people’s new boundaries.