Why don’t you drink?

This is one question to which I never have an answer. Thankfully people never ask, ‘Why don’t you smoke?’ However for years I have been compelled to answer and explain my reasons for refusing to drink all forms of alcohol. Friendships depend on the answer I give. I have been called moralistic, judgemental, boring, anti-fun, not adventurous enough and many more such things for steadfastly refusing to drink.

But then, why don’t I drink?

Well to be honest, I was brought up to think that ‘drinking’ was not the normal way to be. In the adult world that I inhabit now, ‘not-drinking’ is absolutely abnormal. I have never wanted to drink. The smell never appealed to me. That it cost a lot of money did not help matters and neither did the fact that my parents would not be too happy about me picking up a glass of alcohol. But then again, these reasons never held me back from doing anything else that I wanted to do in life. I went ahead and did them any way. Then, why don’t I drink?

So to be really honest the answer is that I don’t respect the habit. I cannot say this to you, but you already know it, and that is the reason why you called me judgemental. Notice that I did not say that I don’t respect you. There is a difference between a habit and the person you are. I believe I am entitled to my opinion and most of the time I do keep them to myself. If you don’t want to know what problem I have with drinking, then don’t ask me. I don’t care how much you drink, that’s your life and your choices. Just like I have made mine, so I definitely respect yours. However, if you expect me to not  react when you pressurize me to drink, hound me to know the reasons why I don’t drink, and lecture me about what I am missing out in life, and still expect me to be saintly- well then you are asking for too much.

I have tried my best to answer this question a million times without hurting anyone’s feeling. I stick to, ‘I never wanted to’, which is true. I can say that it is not the only way to have fun, but that is a risky answer as it tends to kick-start a discussion, or worse – an argument. No I do not want to argue. In my teenage I argued a lot – with friends who wanted me to try to drink, with those who laughed at me and said that I have still not grown up and with those who pitied me for losing out on all the fun in life. There have been times where I have questioned myself. What is wrong with what I am doing? Why am I the only person I know, except my mother, who does not drink. Then there are other times, when I feel proud of myself. Proud- that I did not give in to peer pressure. Proud that I stood up for what I believed in, even when that meant risk losing very close friends. I have also learnt to be more flexible over the years, more accommodating. To be fair, I have also met few wonderful people who have simply respected my choices and let me be. Friends who did not insist on me drinking once I refused.

While I write this now, I am aware of the possibility that sometime in the future, I might crossover to the other side. I might drink without guilt or inhibition. However, I’d like to do so because I want to pick up a glass of wine, or vodka or beer. It should not be because you forced me to, or that is the only way to retain friends. I am not hurting you by not mirroring your choices. All I ask is for you to extend the same courtesy to me that I extend to you by respecting your way to live your life. And about being judgemental, well I really don’t know how to not have an opinion. I do know how to keep it to myself, but then, don’t ask for it if you don’t want to know the answer. I do have very strong opinions about everything. That’s me.