I’m 29 years old. I’ve never had an alcoholic drink. Never. I’m not even religious, I just never got round to it. Are you surprised by this?
Most people are. Most people when I tell them this, look at me as though I’ve just told them, very casually, that I like to eat people. It’s always met with suspicion and a demand to know my reasoning. 'It just not being my thing' (Unlike with salsa dancing or S&M) is never enough to quench someone’s thirst for an answer. They need to know why. WHY?! Am I an alcoholic? Am I a Muslim? Am I on medication? Do I have a DUI? Am I just totally and utterly boring/mental/both?
What could possibly be the reason for not partaking in what feels like a generational rite of passage? Some people actually congratulate me. This is possibly even more irritating. It’s not actually the big struggle we tell ourselves it is. It’s just a life without any blurs.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the allure of drinking, the social lubricant and the ability to turn a boring situation into a fun one, by getting so pissed that you don’t even know what’s going on anymore. And I can’t lie and say that sober first time sex with someone is the smoothest operation known to man... But I just decided very young that I didn’t want to trick myself into thinking I’m having a good time when I’m not. I didn’t want to lose my vulnerability when i felt shy or afraid. I didn’t want to lose my wits about me, especially as a young woman. And I didn’t like the look of hangovers, what it does to people’s looks and mostly what it does to people’s bank accounts. The cons didn’t seem worth the pros to me. It seemed cheaper, safer and cosmetically easier to just learn how to face my demons dead on. When I’m sad I let myself be sad. When I’m happy I celebrate with cake, which never costs more than a fiver. When I’m shy, I find ways to talk myself through a situation. And it’s never actually that bad, in fact it’s normally pretty good. I have a great time on nights out, and when I don’t, rather than spend more money on trying to wash over it, I just go home and get a good night’s sleep.
I’m worried I’m coming across as really bloody vile and smug. I’m not. I promise. I’m also not trying to be preachy. I have no problem with people drinking around me. Everyone I know and love does it, in excess, and I don’t think twice about it. It’s just that I’d like to not be made to feel like such freak for choosing to not put something that is legitimately not very good for me in my body. I should be afforded that right.
My weight is fine. My skin is fine. My health is good. I don’t wake up next to strangers that it turns out I don’t fancy. I always know what happened last night. I have never woken up with a headache or had to write off a weekend because of a good Friday night, and I have decent savings for things I want that last beyond a night. HOW IS THIS SO HARD TO ACCEPT? What part of this says I’m clearly living my life wrong?
More and more friends of mine in their twenties are cutting down, and some are just cutting it out altogether. Alcohol is the ultimate frenemy. With our health as a society on the decline, and the cost of living rising at what feels like light speed, more and more young people are making the choice to put down the bottle. A lot of whom took a long time to do this because they didn’t want people to mock them for not drinking anymore. Some of my friends kept drinking while on ANTI DEPRESSANTS (a really dangerous combination) in order to blend in socially. I am urging, if not begging society to drop their predisposed ideas of what constitutes fun. If you are considering giving up booze at the moment… please know that all the awkwardness does drop away, sooner than you would imagine. For whatever reason you choose to stick to a soft drink, know that it’s fundamentally a pretty reasonable choice to make, well within your rights and it doesn’t make you less fun or less cool. I’ve had a bloody brilliant 29 years. I just did it on Haribo.
And to those of you who are the ones who give non-drinkers such a hard time… what is it you are so afraid of?
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Follow Jameela on Twitter: @Jameelajamil
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.