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Drink? Make Mine a Virgin


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In today’s modern life we have established a widely accepted drinking culture intertwined with our social lives. From summer parties and BBQs leading onto Halloween capers, then right up to the Christmas season filled with office parties and friend’s dinners, before welcoming in the New Year with a big boozy party, broken up by unseasonal trips down to the local after work, there is more than ever a pressure to be social and join in with the drinking camaraderie of your peers.

But, worryingly this gives way for opportunities for peer pressure. When the bubbles start flowing those who prefer virgin to the classic vodka Martini are more questioned and frowned upon than ever.

Although most people ask why others are not drinking in order to check whether people are enjoying themselves, is this a healthy mind set that we’ve naturally assumed? Why should your involvement in a social gathering be marred by your lack of alcoholic consumption?

Alcohol has been a socially accepted drug for many decades, along with its partner in crime tobacco. Going back even to the Biblical times references to wine are made in association with important ceremonies and celebration. Not to deny its place in the make-up of the modern urban lifestyle, the issue comes when those of legal drinking age are judged when they refrain from consuming alcohol, unlike the others around them. The phrase “Oh I’m not drinking tonight” now connotes a negative response and apparent despondency towards the sober party. People automatically assume that, the lack of alcoholic contribution indicates an unhappiness. Possibly at their physical situation, i.e. not really wanting to be at this collective group outing, or possibly animosity to the people present themselves. Few actually shrug their shoulders in acceptance, and instead tell the bartender to leave off the rum in the coke.

This social pressure to drink as an indication of social enjoyment is an unfair prejudice. It would be seen as obscene to demand a vegetarian to order a steak because you want to eat meat. Similarly people would frown upon a person ignorantly forcing their cultural ideas upon another, e.g. disregarding religious ideals due to a lack of coherency with a person’s own.

So, why then is the choice not to drink  met with raised, quizzical eyebrows and rapid questions of confusion? It would seem that it is due to how normal drinking is, and how glamorised by the media as fundamental to social “fun”. In every advert of a celebration (or indeed, any occasion) there will undoubtedly be a bottle or two of velvet red or sparkling white being shared amongst the beaming party. Have we have lost our sensitivity to the ‘sober choice’?

The occasion of coming together with friends and family should always be celebrated, embracing the time you have to be with those close to you. People whom in in the humdrum of daily life we take for granted and remember the moments scattered through your life that you shared. Some of those may prefer to toast these memories with beer, wine or just simple water. The fact is that everyone is there together. Regardless of what is in the glasses.

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