Question of the Week: May 3rd, 2016

Tell us your experiences with tee-totaling!

Do you surround yourself with other people who don’t drink, or are you often the odd one out in your group?  Is it a hard and fast rule for you, or not?  If you have any particular motivations, what are they?

This question of the week is inspired by “Asexuality as a Spectrum: A National Probability Sample Comparison to the Sexual Community in the UK“, a Master’s thesis by Caroline McClave.  As described in the abstract, asexuals and gray sexuals are far more likely to be non-drinkers.

I drink, so this question isn’t for me.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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25 Responses to Question of the Week: May 3rd, 2016

  1. Alex S. says:

    Not sure if this counts, but over here [not in the uk], I’m usualy the only person not wasted when I go out with folk. It turned to ridicule on my Finalist Trip to Barcelona, when I had to single-personly steer a group of 31 drunks, teachers included, though Barcelona’s metro/subway network at 1 AM.

  2. Brin says:

    “Surrounding myself with” implies effort. I happen to have a life where drinking events don’t really feature, through no particular effort on my part.

    The one time I tried to drink a significant quantity of alcohol, I metabolised it as fast as I could choke it down. (To be fair, I had a cold at the time, so subtle effects like warmth may have simply blended into the background of illness. It doesn’t make much difference: I’m not forcing down five ounces of needles for something subtle enough to be that easily missed.) I pretty much gave up after that.

    Also, getting high feels like something private to me, so even if I managed to get drinking to work I wouldn’t do it socially.

    • Elizabeth says:

      “Surrounding myself with” implies effort. I happen to have a life where drinking events don’t really feature, through no particular effort on my part.

      Pretty much this. It was more of a thing during my college years. I only get into situations where people might encourage me to drink maybe once every two or three years now. I am not strictly a teetotaler though, I might have a sip very very rarely, mostly to placate people who absolutely insist I try it. I’m more inclined to call myself a non-drinker than a teetotaler, since the latter implies stronger feelings about it and more effort/dedication to abstaining.

  3. I’ve never really tried drinking at all. Based on how strongly I tend to be affected by medications like Benadryl or cough medicine that causes drowsiness, and based on the very low tolerance for alcohol that my sister, my mom, and basically all the women in my mom’s family have, I’ve always figured drinking wouldn’t go well for me and it never seemed worth experimenting.

    I prefer not to be around people who are drinking a lot, and I don’t like to go to bars or parties so I’ve arranged my life to avoid that as much as possible.

    Ironically, the few times that I’ve been unable to avoid it were all related to work. I work from home with an all-remote team so usually it’s not an issue. However, in the past we would go in to the corporate office once a year for a week or so and this would always involve at least one social event we were expected to attend where there would be a lot of drinking, either a company party or a team dinner.

    As an introvert, I hate mandatory socializing, and as a teetotal introvert, I hate mandatory socializing where drinking is involved. I wish this wasn’t something that was expected in a work environment. I’ve been lucky that the last four years we haven’t had to do this and I hope this trend continues.

  4. “Have you tried it? Maybe you’ll like it!”
    “We’re gonna get you drunk!”
    “You just haven’t had the right drink.”
    “Are you religious? Do you have something against alcohol?”
    “I didn’t think I liked it at first, either. I had to keep trying. You’ll develop a taste for it.”
    “Are you afraid of what it will do?”
    “Everyone likes drinking!”

    People’s reactions are a bit … familiar.

    • Elana says:

      I usually make an effort to promptly say that I don’t have a problem with it for other people, but it’s not for me. Being a student also helps, because I can say it’s partly the cost and everyone instantly gets it.

    • Alex Black says:

      Right? Sometimes I wonder if it would be more socially acceptable to be a teetotaler for religious reasons (while not trying to impose your religious morality on others) than to just not like alcohol.

  5. queenieofaces says:

    I don’t drink for health reasons. It was a much bigger issue in college and when I was going to social events with alcohol in grad school, but now the only time it ever comes up is when I do fieldwork, because I can’t have omiki (the sacred sake that you’re supposed to have as part of/after ceremonies). I think I would have a much larger issue if I did fieldwork with men/as a man (a lot of men in my field have stories about going out drinking as part of fieldwork and then having to write their fieldnotes with a horrible hangover), but since I’m primarily working with women, many of whom don’t drink/drink minimally/understand that there are people who can’t drink, it usually isn’t a problem.

    Actually, the only weird moment I’ve had recently about drinking was right before I took my examinations. My advisor asked me how much coffee I’d had, and I pointed out that I’m allergic to caffeine so I hadn’t had any, and she said, “Oh, if I remember correctly, you don’t drink either. I guess you’re not going on a wild bender tonight, then?” …no, no, I’m not, professor.

    • Siggy says:

      Congrats on your exams, by the way.

    • Sciatrix says:

      People are much weirder about my avoiding caffeine than they are about me being careful about my alcohol intake. I think everyone knows about people who have issues with alcohol, but not everyone seems to have considered that caffeine can have some pretty nasty side effects for certain people. (Oh hai.)

      • queenieofaces says:

        People are definitely weird about caffeine, although usually “I’ll get heart palpitations for the next six hours” will get them to stop teasing me about it. There are a lot of “But how can you be a grad student and not drink coffee!” jokes, though.

        • Sciatrix says:

          Oh man, tell me about it. I tend to overemphasize the heart palpitations I can get if I drink more than, say, about two mugs of black tea when I tell people to butt out because explaining “I will get neurotic and keep being unable to focus if I drink much of this” is a bit too personal for most folks. Sigh.

      • I’ve noticed this as well. I’ve never drunk coffee (neither of my parents do and I never picked up the habit elsewhere) and caffeine makes my heart race. I don’t know if this is just because I never built up a tolerance for it or if I’m actually unusually sensitive to it.

        I actually think it’s healthier in the long run to avoid most alcohol and caffeine but people do act weird about both of them sometimes.

      • Vivianne says:

        Finally someone who understands!

        Even my own dad mocks me because I don’t drink either caffeine nor alcohol. Add to this the fact than I’m in the asexual expectrum. For “normal” people, I’m just a bore that does nothing in life, ha.

  6. Rachel says:

    I have this pet theory that one big reason aces tend to be disinclined toward drinking is because of how hypersexualized drinking culture and spaces tend to be. Any thoughts?

    As for myself, my attitude toward drinking has shifted over the past few years. I used to be pretty thoroughly teetotaler due to that distinct aroma of social pressure that comes with drinking in college culture coupled with my general asocial tendencies. I’m with Ace-muslim: mandatory socializing and attendant mandatory social drinking are the worst when you’re an introvert.

    I’ve loosened up on drinking since entering grad school, now that I can drink (or not) more exclusively on my own terms. These days, I’m happy to imbibe if there’s a sense of occasion (like at an outing with my classmates), but even then, it’s only once in a while. Drinking without that sense of occasion feels pointless to me. One big obstacle is that I find grain alcohols to be revolting, so I go for wine, which tends to expensive (and frequently not that great anyway), so that puts a big financial incentive to keep it occasional.

    • luvtheheaven says:

      Well the reasons I don’t drink are 100% in line with everything Alex Black, below, said. I also don’t call myself a “Teetotaler” for the same reason they said. Plus that term is barely in my vocabulary, I had to look it up to make sure I knew what it meant when I saw this question of the week.

      So for me it has nothing to do with any correlation between sex and alcohol.

      But the reasons I don’t get enjoyably high off of things other people enjoy and do get high off of, like alcohol… or sexual activities… I could hypothesize that maybe my brain is “wired” differently in a way that can’t appreciate these things the way other human beings can…

  7. Alex Black says:

    I’m not a teetotaler. Teetotaler has implications of prudery for me. Those are my mom’s things, not mine. I just don’t like alcohol, and I’ve tried enough different things to be sure that it is the alcohol part of alcoholic drinks that I dislike. I could manage some of the really fruity drinks where you can’t taste the alcohol, except I don’t really want to get drunk or buzzed or wasted or whatever. Impairing my mental faculties really just isn’t my idea of fun.

    …this perhaps some parallels with the exchange of bodily fluids just not being my idea of fun.

  8. Yoonede says:

    I’m a recovering alcoholic so I do avoid drinking situations now. Everyone I hang out with is in recovery and drinking is not part of the game.

    In my drinking days I used alcohol to force myself to be sexual.
    I still have a problem of viewing alcohol as a magic elixir that helped me be “normal.”

  9. Jen says:

    I’m straight-edge and make it known to people. It’s still really hard because in the scenes I run in, alcohol often plays a big role. Even my partner, who doesn’t not drink too much, will usually get buzzed. That gets problematic since it makes him flirty.

    People don’t seem to get the straight-edge part, but they will accept that my genetics keep me from processing alcohol properly. It’s frustrating, and my frustration just makes me annoyed at drunk people. I think to deal I just try to find the people who don’t drink much and/or throw myself into work. I always joke that I’m a workaholic instead of an alcoholic, but working at a convention or focusing on something like taking photos of an event keeps my mind off of the fact that I probably appear as this no-fun anomaly.

  10. Sciatrix says:

    I drink, although I do it moderately. I’m careful about alcohol use, because I have a family history of alcoholism and so do both my partners, so we’re…. wary about not being careful, if that makes sense. That said, being buzzed is a nice feeling, and I’m enough of a control freak that I sometimes like the artificial relaxation that alcohol can bring.

    • Sciatrix says:

      Oh, I forgot an interesting dimension of my drinking habits: I dislike both wine and beer and therefore avoid them. Which means that I’m frequently not drinking in social settings, since those are the most commonly available alcohols and I’d rather not drink at all than drink either most of the time. I do enjoy hard liquor and cocktails–whiskey’s pretty awesome–but a lot of people I know casually miss that, so I still get a lot of the social awkward that comes from missing out on a lot of social drinking.

  11. Nowhere Girl says:

    As for alcohol, I’m a 100% abstinent. I have tried a little wine, beer etc. yet as a sub-adult, with my parents’ permission and I decided I extremely dislike the taste. I have never been drunk and I’m happy about it – yes, the “how do you know you don’t like it” argument applies ;), yet when I see or hear drunk people, I’m really glad I don’t drink.
    I don’t have much of a problem about “who I socialize with” because I’m hardly a partygoer. Most of my friends do drink now and then, but they all know I don’t. I’m not afraid to stand by my rules. My father died almost 15 years ago, my mother married again ten years later. The wedding was very cameral: just her aunt, her husband’s parents, a few friends and me. I calmly asked the waiter for water instead of champagne. 😉
    I have also never smoked tobacco and I’m proud of it. For young people there is a lot of peer pressure to smoke. Fortunately I never really had to deal with it – at this age I was already a proud nonconformist. But it comes at a price – of being perceived as a weirdo, excluded, not liked, sometimes laughed out…

    However, I’m “afraid” all my “achievements” in “resisting” alcohol (again, as I wrote recently when discussing the issue of celibacy: in this case – just like in case of sex – I don’t resist any temptations, I simply don’t do things I prefer not to do) fly in face of another fact: I use psychedelic drugs. Not recently, but I do and consider it important. Actually, it’s one of the most complicated issues of my life – there was a lot of struggle before I accepted this “temptation” or “desire” (note that these are two very different things: “temptation” puts the subject in a totally passive position, “desire” still presumes actively working towards a goal, regardless of its possible moral connotations. “Temptire”, perhaps, to capture the tension between these two meanings?), a lot of waiting before I made the decision and found an opportunity (again, it was not so easy because of me not being a very sociable person). Still the story began when I was twelve years old and first heard the words “this drug that produces visions”. One of the most decisive moments of my life, “these WORDS that produce visions”, I called it later. I first tried magic mushrooms 18 years and 10 days later…
    I don’t use any psychoactive substances apart from psychedelics and weak “daily stimulants” (tea, yerba mate – I don’t like coffee and already energy drinks are so strong it has scared me) because I’m just not interested in those kinds of experiences. I believe there is such a thing as “drug orientation” – just like sexual orientation: realising what you want without any previous experience. A knowledge coming from the inside…
    I think there is a stereotype that asexuals don’t use drugs because they (the more neutral variant) don’t like / (the more negatively charged variant) are afraid of losing control. I have also been asked in a slightly mocking tone: how is it possible that I’m “afraid to have sex” and not afraid to use psychedelic drugs? One thing I have to note in such cases: it’s not true that I’m not afraid to use them. I’m always very uptight before a trip. Yet I do it because I consider these experiences worthwhile. These are potentially very intense spiritual experiences and it’s definitely not just passive, “pathological pleasure”, this is hard mental work. Similarly, it’s not really an issue whether I’m “afraid” of sex or only completely sure I don’t want to try it because I DON’T consider it worthwhile.

  12. Hollis says:

    I definitely feel the odd one out in ace spaces because I like alcohol. I’m not a big beer person, but pretty much everything else is a+ in my book. I do drink less than most of my friends, but I’m remarkably lightweight for someone of my size (and I’m currently taking meds that increase the effect of alcohol so I’m a SUPER DUPER LIGHTWEIGHT like I can’t even have one drink with my meal and expect to drive afterwards which is Obnoxious), while my friends can go on to have like 6 drinks and not have any noticeable effects of alcohol.

    And I’m not gonna lie, my alcohol intake is slightly related to my mental illness–I’m more likely to drink heavily if I’m hypomanic or if I’m really depressed (and in fact increased alcohol intake is one of the biggest signs that things are Not Right in my brain), which I do try to watch, but I don’t always catch it before the alcohol imbibing happens (and it’s more like “wtf was I thinking last night??? why on earth did I think it was a good idea to drink so much I know better—oh. Brain Things is why I thought it was a good idea and I thought I was invincible and I will be more careful for the next bit”). Which sometimes leads to wacky misunderstandings/hijinks of a sexual nature (because yeah, Rachel, you’re absolutely right that drinking spaces can be hypersexualized spaces) because people don’t get that while I’m increasingly cool with flirting and making out the drunker I get, my stance towards sex remains EXACTLY THE SAME and that stance is “put that thing back where it came from or so help me”.

  13. Funaria says:

    Like Alex Black, I just don’t like the taste of alcohol. There are a few wines that mask the flavour well enough that I can drink them, but for the most part I’m just not bothered about getting drunk. I’d rather relax with a book or a video game than wine. I work at a liquor store, so it’s a bit awkward when people ask what my favourite vodka, beer, etc is, but at least now that I’m nearly 30 I don’t get pressured as much to get drunk.
    At this point I don’t consciously surround myself with non-drinkers, but the friends I do have know that I don’t drink, and don’t try to push me into drinking.

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