For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about social drinking and wondering why it is that I, in particular, tend to drink more when I am out with friends than I would at home. Normally I don’t really drink at home, but when I am in social situations I have a couple of glasses of wine or beer. Usually, I never drink hard alcohol, but for my bachelorette party and my 30th birthday I actually did shots. Why?
Is it social pressure? Is there really still peer pressure to drink when we are in our 30s, 40s, and beyond? Is it the desire to connect with others, and do what they are doing? Is it so that I don’t feel different or weird? Am I worried about how I look, or if someone is going to think I am pregnant? (Which someone just asked me the other day when I said no to a drink.)
A couple of weeks ago, I was out with friends and actually went to the bartender and asked him if he could make me a virgin cocktail so that it would look like I was drinking, even though I didn’t want to. Then I paid for it right then, so that our bill wouldn’t say “Virgin blah-blah.” When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she said she does something similar. When she is going out to the bars with friends, she gets there early and orders a ginger ale and pretends it’s a double something-or-other.
I mean, really?
For those of you that don’t already know, I had a pretty eye-opening experience with alcohol when I was in high school. I wasn’t really a drinker in high school because I was a pretty serious athlete and I took our athletic honor code to heart. I had an occasional beer here and there in the summer, but that was about it. When I was a senior, already accepted to college, and done with sports for the year, I finally did what every other teenager I knew was doing—I drank, and I drank hard.
I don’t remember much from that night, but people filled me in afterwards. I ended up in a coma with a blood alcohol level past the point of even death, got pneumonia due to throwing up and aspirating, and I had nerve damage in my right arm, resulting in the loss of movement in my fingers for almost 3 months. Looking back, I can’t rationalize why I drank what I drank, but I can assume that I was trying to fit in and be “cool.” I almost died for that.
Now, it is almost 20 years later, and although I am not drinking to the same extent, I fear that am still drinking to fit in and be cool. I mean, I do enjoy the taste of a good wine, and sometimes a beer on a long hot day is just amazing, but I still wonder why I mostly drink when I am in social situations.
For me, this ties into what I brought up last week with regard to our hidden commitments. I suppose another one of my hidden commitments is to belong, and it manifests in social drinking. It makes me wonder, though, what else do I do to belong? What don’t I do to belong?
What do you do, or don’t do to belong?