The Alcohol Assessment

I don’t drink alcohol. If this statement is news to you, you’ve obviously never spent much time with me. No, I’m not a friend of Bill nor do I have any moral reservations about consuming alcohol (religious or otherwise). I just don’t like the taste. And while that’s all true, that’s not the entirety of the story.

Most of my peers acquired a taste for alcohol in the state-sanctioned pocket of hell called high school. I didn’t do so at that time for two reasons: 1) my personality quirk that explicitly wants to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and 2) I hadn’t come out yet – to myself or anyone else. I was uber-paranoid that should I imbibe I’d out myself and that wasn’t something I was willing to take a risk on. When I finally came out after college the risk of outing myself went away (particularly if you’re drinking in a gay bar!) but by then the fact that I didn’t drink became almost a badge of uniqueness. That coupled with the aforementioned personality quirk didn’t lend itself to picking up the habit.

Over the years I’ve sampled many different alcoholic drinks, from beers to wines to mixed drinks. (The only time I ever recall drinking an entire alcoholic beverage was some fruity drink with Scott Gaydos at Bahama Breeze in Austin around 10 years ago. I can’t for the life of me recall why I picked that particular moment to have one, perhaps Scott can enlighten us if he remembers.) Numerous times I’ve had people say “try this, you can’t taste the alcohol in it”. More often than not I can not only taste it, but can smell it before it even gets to my mouth. I’m uncertain if I’m just sensitive to it or what, but very few alcoholic beverages make it past my nose undetected. Those that do often taste good, but no different than a similarly-flavored virgin drink. That always brings up the point: if the alcohol doesn’t improve the flavor of the beverage, why use the alcohol at all? Most people when queried bring up the physiological effects of alcohol, which really doesn’t interest me all that much. In many ways I’m a control freak and the thought of relaxing some of that control over my own person holds no interest to me. What seldom comes up as a response, but yet I think is a bigger reason in many circles, is the social aspect.

Which brings me, finally, around to the point: drinking alcohol is very much a social activity and at times I find myself frustrated that I sit outside of it. While I have no problem whatsoever with people drinking around me, I’ve had many people abstain in my presence because they “didn’t want to be the only one drinking” (this philosophy makes absolutely no sense to me, but it seems prevalent).

Internally I struggle with the implicit peer pressure of drinking alcohol as a social skill vs the desire to hang on to my quirkiness. Given that I really don’t like the smell/taste of alcohol and my intractable desire to never be less than fully in control of my facilities still has me firmly in the “not drinking” camp. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the desire to join in the millenia-old human social tradition of sharing an adult beverage.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

6 thoughts on “The Alcohol Assessment”

  1. Relationships…

    This is when it can be helpful to establish a relationship with a bartender.

    In the case where I feel like I’ve had enough to drink, but I want to have another one for the social aspect (or to keep up with Joe!), there are a couple of bartenders at Flex who know that when I say, “Fix me a placebo, please,” that it means I want just a Diet Coke, but instead of putting it in that big red plastic Solo cup that they use like a beacon for “virgin” drinks, I want it in the regular clear plastic cups that they serve my bourbon and diet in.

    9 times out of 10 they don’t even charge me for the soft drink, and I just give them a $1 tip, just like I do when I get my mixed drink. I think the bartenders are happy to do that, as they recognize that you are self-regulating.

    I know this doesn’t translate exactly, because in your case you’re drinking soft drinks all night long. But I guess it’s one way that you could feel less ostracized, if they do serve virgin drinks in different vessels than they serve the alcoholic drinks.

    This is also problematic if you buy each other drinks, but with me I just suck it up and drink the alcoholic one when someone else is buying, and then go back to my placebo on the next drink I buy myself. :-) Worst case, I’m drinking only half as much as I would be if I wasn’t slipping placebos in. :-)


  2. I’ll say to both and what people keep saying to me about mustard, “It’s an acquired taste.” (Which was definitely the case for me with bourbon, and coffee, truthfully. I used to think both of them were quite gross.)

    With that said, I still don’t like mustard, and I have tried it often, even as an adult. :-)


  3. As you know, I agreed completely with you up until a few years ago. In fact, I remember us talking about all of this on the trails one visit of yours. But then RG got sick and the doctor’s visits kept coming and job security got questionable and bills got tighter … life changed and my perception of life changed.

    Suddenly, I realized that having a drink with friends was more than just social – it was therapeutic because of being with friends with relaxing just a touch. It was something different than “getting drunk” like at earlier stages in life.

    I still don’t like most wine. Most mixed drinks taste like medicine to me. Beer is just gross. But. There are a few drinks that I like. I’ve just tasted sips of other people’s drinks until I’ve found some that I like. Of course, the more expensive alcohol is a lot smoother!

    All this to say, I completely agreed with all of your points, but you might at some point discover that you do like alcohol occasionally. Did I mention I drink coffee now, too?? I know. The world is turning upside down!


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