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.