#460: Boundaries are good, even if other people don’t enjoy it when you set them.

This is a very smart post on moving on and setting boundaries with an ex from Jenn Vicious at In Our Words:

“There’s this thing that sometimes happens when people break up but still care about each other: they want to continue working on things that were problems in their relationship. Don’t do that. My opinion on it is that if you break up with someone, then you are done working out the problems in your relationship. You are more likely to get to a place where you can genuinely care about each other as friends if you actually stop relying on each other for the same support you provided when you were together. You have to change your patterns of behavior, change the expectations you have of each other when you interact. It isn’t easy, but if you didn’t know that you needed to do it, you probably would have stayed in the relationship.”

(Bolding mine) That’s my opinion, too, which is why I say to not use the moment when you break up with someone to critique everything about them that you don’t like. You don’t have to make a case to someone about why your heart moved on, you just have to tell them your decision and then figure out how to live with it. Also, it’s true that when what someone wants (you!) is fundamentally different from what you want (not them!) there is no magic way to extricate yourself without hurting them.

And now, a letter:

Hello Awkwards:

I’m a 22 year old single female student studying library and information science. I’m a gamer, computer – roleplaying and boardgames it’s all the same.

I also don’t drink alcohol. My family thinks it’s a bit weird but prefer it to an extreme in the other direction and don’t bother me about it anymore, strangers and friends however are a different story. Most assume that I’m either religious (in some strange way), on a cleanse (HA!), a recovering alcoholic or even pregnant.

The thing is that I just don’t like the taste and if/when they find this out it’s no longer accepted for me to abstain. It’s always just this one beer or drink or wine that is going to convert me. And I like hanging out with my friends when there’s drinking. I can watch out for everyone and still have an awesome time with just soda. Still someone always asks and I always have to explain and then be pestered.

“It’s to bitter” I will say and they will reply
“Ah but this drink/beer/wine is different, try it”

and no it’s not it maybe sweet compared to other but that doesn’t make it actually sweet or remove the aftertaste of alcohol.

And I never send out the signal that this is something I want solved. I don’t desperately want to get drunk, I’m not in dire need of a drunk Yoda to guide me in the way of the drink. And not to make light of others problems but when I have to compare to trying to convert others to your faith/sexuality just to make them stop trying to enrich your life it’s gone to far- can someone give a way I can try to convince people to leave it alone without referring to these sensitive and more serious issues?

Please help a frustrated absolutist

Dear Frustrated Absolutist:

Try this:

Person: “Would you like some wine?”

You:No, thanks. How is (subject change) going with you?”

Don’t elaborate, don’t explain why, don’t justify it. You said in your letter that you feel like you always have to explain when you turn down alcohol, but you don’t actually have to explain. Be very casual and treat them like you expect nothing weird will happen, and most people will accept subject change and not even realize it. Of course, there will be exceptions, so if someone ask again, try this:

Person:Are you sure you don’t want some? It’s really good.

You:No thanks. So, tell me about (subject change).

Again, do not explain, justify, or elaborate. It is none of their business why you don’t drink, and elaborating on why invites them to try to make the case that it’s not that bad or tastes like angel sweat stirred by a unicorn. If the person still doesn’t get the hint, and if you like absurdity and are snappy with a comeback, try:

Person: “Why, are you pregnant or something?

You:Hahaha, yes, ever since I was kidnapped by demons. They warned me that alcohol could really speed up The Summoning of The Dark One, so I’m trying to lay off until the Day of The Blood Harvest is complete. So, about (subject change)…


Person:But why?

You:It makes my personality implant malfunction, and trust me, you DON’T want to meet (stage whisper) Leviticus, the Hands-y Science Professor.”


Person:But you should totally drink! It’s fun and refreshing!

You:I believe you! I’m starting to run out of subject changes, though, so I would *really* like the next one to take.

If you are not so snappy with a comeback, or want an all-purpose strategy, here is my actual recommended strategy if someone gets pushy about why you won’t drink:

Be done talking to that person for the time being. You said no TWICE. “No” is a complete sentence. If someone is just not hearing your “no” and steamrollering over it, one possible solution is to just walk away from the conversation. There are lots of people to talk to at parties. You can decide how much of an issue you want to make of it. You can go “gracefully“or ungracefully , i.e., “Hey, good talking to you” and excuse yourself from the conversation, or “I’ve said ‘no thanks’ twice now. Is there a problem?

Sometimes it’s good to engage with people and explain to them sincerely why what they are doing is out of line, as in, “Hey, do we really have to have this conversation again? Because it’s exhausting and boring. Stop trying to convince me of something I already know and get to decide for myself.”  Other times, the most self-caring thing you can do is to get yourself away from people & conversations that stress you out, and save your energy for people who make you feel good. Other times, you can just blink at them incredulously and remain silent until they fill the awkward silence with something less intrusive and terrible. “I’m sorry, what?

Because: The problem is not you not wanting to drink, or why you don’t want to drink. The problem is people hearing “no thanks” and taking that as the opening stage in a negotiation. And I think it is good for everyone to recognize when that is happening and have strategies for shutting the conversation down.

You’re not weird for not drinking. They are weird for taking “I don’t drink” as an invitation to sell you on drinking. Analogous: Someone is not weird for being a vegetarian, or having celiac disease, or being a vegetarian with celiac disease. The person who hears “I’m a vegetarian and I have celiac” and responds with “But have you tried this sandwich of ground animal parts on a whole wheat bun? I think it’s really going to change your whole outlook on things!” is committing a massive, massive faux pas. And that faux pas is coercion. Which we need less of, both generally and around food/drink specifically. Whenever someone behaves like that, I wonder, are they really THAT insecure about what they like? If the people in your life love drinking so much, they can do it without your validation or participation. Someone making a different choice than you would make is not invalidating your choices.

Now, your friends and family should know that you don’t drink, and they should be respectful about that. Which means, warning you if something has alcohol in it, and not making you explain yourself about it, or, if someone is badgering you about it they should also step in and say “Yeah, she doesn’t drink. So, howabout (subject change)?” as well. If they make fun of you or shame you, shut it down, not because you should drink but because people shaming you about choices that have nothing to do with them is shitty.

413 thoughts on “#460: Boundaries are good, even if other people don’t enjoy it when you set them.

  1. LW, I’m sorry your friends and family aren’t respecting that you don’t drink, or want to drink. I personally am trying to reform from being a persuader (usually this comes in the form of a one-time-only “are you sure?”) and accepting that no means no after the first no.

    Along the lines of the Captain’s great suggestions of “No/no thanks” as a complete sentence and “Hey, do we really have to have this conversation again? Because it’s exhausting and boring. Stop trying to convince me of something I already know and get to decide for myself” I have used, with a bit of a jokier tone, “Are we in a 1980s after-school special? Stop trying to peer-pressure me!” in the past.

    (I didn’t drink for years; I don’t do it much now, and though I have come to appreciate some tastes I thought were vile in my 20s, some stuff is still grody to the max on my palate. This may happen to you, too. But maybe not – and that’s 100% OK!)

    1. I didn’t drink for over 20 years, and there were always people who couldn’t seem to accept that. My strategy was to say No, thanks the first time, then, if there was a second time, say No with some of my irritation showing. Ignoring a third “invitation” or “request” or whatever you want to call it, and getting some physical distance from the person usually works. “Get away from me! None of your business!” are also perfectly acceptable replies, though I’m usually too polite to actually say those words. However, people who pressure other people about anything have it coming to them, in my opinion.

    2. The jokey after-school special line works well, in my experience: I used to play it off with “what, are you from those Just Say No episodes of Scruff McGruff the Crime Dog?” (Bonus points if the person remembers that special and wants to reminisce about how awful it was.) People will still sometimes push with “but I just want you to have *fun*” or “aren’t you sad as the only one not drinking?”, but making their argument feel ridiculous in a “why do you care so much about what I drink” way tends to be a good start. I eventually *did* find alcohol that I liked, but it was years after people had given up pestering me, and not everyone enjoys the experience. It’s an acquired taste, and if you don’t want to take the time and money to acquire it, that is absolutely your business.

      As a last recourse, lie with the threat of graphic medical information. I can’t eat most Asian food at all because dear lord the suffering of my intestines afterward. People harassed me about it until I broke out “seriously, stop asking or I will tell you about the diarrhea that ensued last time. Trust me when I say that you won’t enjoy that.”

      1. it was years after people had given up pestering me,

        This is a key component of developing liking for things, in my experience. There are many things in life that I did not like for years and only started liking once the people around me stopped giving a shit. Having a bunch of people hovering over you singing the “Are We There Yet?” song will ruin your experience of nearly ANYTHING.

        1. I know, right? If people are too insistent, the obvious response is to dig in your heels and refuse harder just to demonstrate that people can’t make you do things, even if before then you hadn’t given it a lot of thought. The alcohol finally happened when I was making dinner for everyone and a not-pestering friend wanted to bring something to share– I had no preference on what, so she brought wine. She casually explained the flavor to everyone in case we wanted to try it, I ventured a sip when I was in the kitchen for seconds, and it was nice.

          When I mentioned that to her, she was all “oh, I’m glad you like it– do you want recommendations on similar ones?”, not “HA I TOLD YOU IT WOULD BE GOOD, I WAS RIGHT, ISN’T THIS GREAT, HEY EVERYONE ELSE YOU SHOULD HAVE SOME TOO” which was another key component. People’s tastes should be about what *they* like and dislike, not someone getting Social Genius Points for badgering you into doing a thing that you end up unexpectedly liking.

        2. “Aren’t you sad you’re the only one not drinking?”
          How can it be a thing.
          “Aren’t you sad you’re the only one not wearing a hat?”
          “Aren’t you sad you’re the only one who didn’t eat strawberries at this table?” (or cookies or these little salty things people eat)
          “Aren’t you sad you’re the only one pressuring me to drink here?”

    3. Another vote for pointing out, in a fun way, that they are using peer pressure. I say, while laughing, “You sound like a peer pressure video from health class. I’m 28 years old, and I don’t smoke.”

      Or (also while laughing): “You can’t peer pressure me to do things, I’m 28 years old!”

      Of course in reality, peer pressure never goes away — but I like to remind people that we’re not in high school to make them a bit more self conscious about it.

      1. I think it’ll alienate the younger persons in the room. Or just be mildly annoying Well it’s not very good. In that case I could even insist on you drinking if I overheard just because it is annoying, to act as if I have a free pass to do that since you said so, which means it’ll backfire though I hope you’d understand. Or just avoid you and think less of you.
        At least you’re honest, you compare them to someone you think is lesser to make them a bit self-conscious (most people comparing others their age to people younger because they did something bad don’t admit that* OR they actually think those are universal traits, you never know), but it’s still bad and still not different than assigning any other universal trait or doing exclusively to teenagers or even children. Plus if you actually know it’s an universal trait, you have no excuse.
        Also in most cases, with these kind of things, you reinforce stereotypes in people who truly believe that and that it excuses/justify/make it so that they *have to* abuse. It’s especially comical with the “being violent and/or an abuser is such a teenager thing to do!” then you *have to* abuse them because they were violent (or some other thing that’s actually universal and you needed to so they’d learn not to be like that!) because they did something you wouldn’t have seen as violent if done by an adult and you’re held as an hero on television. Also, when it’s not dangerous it’s annoying and, why on earth do you actually say that if you know it’s an universal trait I mean is there a valid reason?
        * In fact, I had a theory that it was because being a teenager or child is seen as bad and they just want to make people feel self-conscious and most times don’t believe that all teenagers or younger people are (something), noticed that it led to somewhat to really bad stuffs for younger people, but it’s the first time I saw someone stating they did that for this reason. I thought it wasn’t totally conscious, but apparently in some cases it is.

    4. “Are we in a 1980s after-school special? Stop trying to peer-pressure me!”

      This has worked well for me in the past too!

  2. You know, I disagree with the ‘kidnapped by demons’ and ‘personality change’ responses. Just keep doing Broken Record with “No, thank you” until they stop or you’re tired of it and move on, as suggested.

    1. I’m pretty sure “No, thank you.” is not an appropriate response to a pushy stranger asking if you’re pregnant.

      1. In my experience, refusing to engage and particularly refusing to acknowledge nosy questions does work.

        1. “Are you pregnant?”
          “No, are you?”
          Or “No, are you saying I look pregnant?”
          Or “No, but is that what I need to do to get you to stop pestering me? I have a turkey baster out the back…”

        2. I think it’s kind of a brilliant response, actually. I might also start using it for the “So, when are you getting married?” questions, too!

        3. I’ve tried a cheerful, “Oh, no, thank you!” to all sorts of intrusive conversational gambits — random strangers telling me I ought to be doing fewer reps with more weight at the gym, “I’m an only child and I can tell you your kid will be sad and lonely if you don’t give her a sibling right away,” people telling me to smile.

          I think of it as shorthand for, “Oh, no, thank you, I don’t want any unsolicited advice today!”

        4. LOL I agree. On a couple occasions people have asked me “Are you a mother?” because of a little mannerisms I did at the time and my response was unintentionally a version of “No, thank you.”

        5. “Are you pregnant?”
          (looks down) “OH, MY GOD!!!” (screams forever)

          “Are you pregnant?”
          “No, no. Massive tumor.”

          “Are you pregnant?”
          “Shhh! For God’s sake, keep your voice down. It can hear you.”

          “Are you pregnant?”
          “I…don’t know what that means.”

    2. I sometimes dwell in the sort of culture where it’s rude to ask for things or accept them when they’re offered; if you visit someone’s house and they ask, “Do you want some coffee?” it’s rude to say yes, so you reply, “Oh, no thanks,”; they say, “Really, are you sure? It’s not trouble,” and after some amount of back-and-forthing you are permitted to say, “All right, but only one cup.”

      This isn’t my preferred mode of communication, but some of the people I know/like/am related to come from this culture and can’t easily drop its mindset. and in it, there are people who really do want to drink will stand there drinking pop until someone chivvies them into opening a beer, because otherwise they “don’t want to presume” or whatever. In those situations, the demon kidnapping response signals, “No really, this is not an extended politeness dance, I really don’t want any.” It lets us laugh and let it go, instead of them always wondering if they’re being impolite.

      1. Ugh. I grew up in this culture, and I cannot break it. My best coping strategy is to ask “Are you sure?” ONCE and then drop it (i.e. I will make a concession to people who don’t want to feel pushy/imposing, but also will take you at your word after one check-in whether you mean it or not).

        On the receiving end, I will say, “Well, if I haaaaaave to…”*smile* or “If you’re going to twist my arm into it…”*smile* the first time they ask if I want {thing} (stops the social dance while being playful) and “No, thanks, but some water would be great?” if I don’t want {thing} (stops the social dance by a sidestep request that is minimally imposing but let them still be host-y).

        In this sense, the demon response would probably be weird to say to well-intentioned-proper-southern-aunt but an excellent playful strategy in a peer group.

        1. Yep, that’s how it is where I live (Ireland, btw). There are some circles where it’s fine to just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something that’s offered straight away, but in a lot of circles it’s considered impolite not to offer a thing, and also impolite to take a thing that someone might not have been able to really give you in the first place, so you have to do a bit of back-and-forthing to make sure the person is really fine with you taking the thing.

          I know it’s something that a lot of people in a lot of culture find annoying, but I’d really like to stress that it is a cultural difference, not a culture-wide lack of consent. Like the way that in most of our cultures, “how are you?” doesn’t actually indicate that you want to know, in depth, precisely how your new acquaintance’s strange skin fungus’s treatment is going. We can understand that. Social forms regarding offering/accepting things are similar. Offering the first time is like the “how are you?”. Offering a few more times, with a reassurance (which can be read as insistence if you’re unfamiliar) that you would be genuinely happy for the person to have an xyz? It’s the “So, how have things been going with xyz since I saw you last?”

          I think it’s something that can be read as the same thing as people refusing to take “no I won’t have one of those” for an answer, but it really is very different. It’s the difference between “Hello good friend, how have you been and how is xyz going?” and “Hello stranger, how IS your embarrassing skin fungus?”

          1. I love when people get on here and talk about cultural differences like this. It’s so easy for me to get enmeshed in an American way of thinking and it’s great to be reminded of how people in other cultures do things very differently and it’s okay, it works for them, and there are often very logical reasons for the differences.

          2. *Delurk*. Yep, I’m in Scotland here and there’s a similar sort of vibe. Drinks are always offered, multiple times, when you’re visiting people’s houses, and there’s also the dreaded “round” system of drinks buying. It can be fairly hard to refuse drinks in the face of repeated offers, because it seems rude.

            It helped when I started thinking about the social significance of the offer. The majority of people are just trying to be polite, and your refusal to accept could be taken as a snub. Therefore a deflection always helps:

            “Can I get you a drink?”
            “Not for me, thanks”
            “Are you sure? I’ve got beer, wine, whisky…”
            “I’m not drinking today, but I’ll have a juice if you’ve got some.”
            “Can I not get you anything more?”
            “Juice would be just fine, thanks.”

            That’s the script I use on my father-in-law, and he seems to accept it. Nonetheless, he will always offer alcohol, multiple times, and that’s fine, because I know he’s just trying to be a good host.

            Of course, there are people who are not trying to be polite, but are using the drinking culture as a cover to intentionally push at your boundaries. The latter can be distinguished from the former, I think, because of the type of arguments they use;

            “But whyyyyy?”
            “C’mon, don’t be so boring.”
            “What’s wrong with a drink, then?”

            All of which are trying, in one way or another, to turn your refusal into something debateable. Even in a social-dance culture, you should never need to explain or defend your choice not to have a drink.

      2. Oh, God, I do so badly in that kind of world. Yes means yes and no means no. Period.

        1. Yeah, I definitely don’t work well in that kind of world either. I take all questions and all answers at face value, and if you’re going to spend time with me eventually you figure out that you shouldn’t offer me things you don’t want to give up, and you shouldn’t say no to things you really do want.

      3. The back and forth ‘game’ is why I dread when my mother has company. Even if it’s another family member, it’s just one big go-round of “Do you want….” “No, thank you.” “Are you sure…” “Yep, I’m fine.” “I could get you X instead…”

        I HATE this. It’s just so exhausting to listen to, even when it isn’t directed toward me.

        1. Holiday dinners with my dear departed Grandma: SIT DOWN AND STOP OFFERING STUFF, GRANDMA!

          1. My beloved great-aunt and -uncle had a ritual: she would Not Sit Down at a family meal, making sure everyone’s plates and glasses were never remotely close to empty, until he would finally bellow, “Goddammit, [AUNT], they know where the damn kitchen is! Sit down and eat your food before it gets cold!”

            Even now in my family, 30-odd years later, we can stop this “Are you sure?” dance in its tracks by saying, “You’re being Aunt Soandso.” It’s meant kindly and taken kindly, and we all have a smile remembering them.

        2. I really dislike the dance when it’s with someone who’s super anxious about Being a Good Host or whatever. Because underneath every “Are you sure?” is “I really want to do the good thing and get you to have a good opinion of me!” so it feels like the wrong answer would be crushing. In being so solicitous, the person is actually making their guest work extra hard to manage the host’s anxiety.

          My grandmother used to be like the ones described above, always on her feet and helping. Now she’s got dementia, so instead of fetching things, she spends a lot of family dinners (if we a) bring her, and b) don’t watch her carefully) circling the kitchen anxiously, looking lost and scared.

  3. I have the same problem, being a vegetarian for no reason other than I don’t like the taste of meat. People are terrible to me sometimes (questioning my patriotism, telling me I have an eating disorder, making fun of me on and off for hours, trying to force me to try it), and I have found that the best way to avoid it is to not even bring up ‘I don’t eat meat’, but rather just say ‘no thanks’ or ‘no I’m good with what I have’.

    1. I try to avoid telling people I’m vegetarian if possible because I often get a whole bunch of questions to get me to justify it, or look at me as if I’m judging them for their eating meat. I have had people get real touchy about it and look at me suspiciously as they eat their meal. I don’t say anything or care about how they eat, but they take offence all the same. This also happens if I refuse an alcoholic drink.

      As Baytree said below, I don’t however get any flack if I were to say I don’t like eating salad or drinking fruit juice or whatever. And those tastes can change, too.

      Just remember, LW, it’s not your problem that you don’t drink, it’s their problem that they won’t accept your choice not to drink.

    2. I had a similar issue when I was ‘semi-vegetarian’ for about 7 years in my teens. I just came to a point where I felt sick about eating red meat and stopped. It was never moral, I didn’t care what other people did, I just got bad images and came to dislike the smell/taste/idea. I didn’t have the same reaction to chicken or fish, so I kept eating them. ‘Semi-vegitarian’ worked for me as a vague label to explain quickly what I ate and didn’t, but it meant I got judged by both sides: to vegetarians, I was a sham, trying to cash in on their moral high ground, and meat-eaters instantly assumed I was judging them and tried to force me one way or the other. For instance, I have never particularly like pork, and didn’t eat it at all during this period (still don’t much), but was constantly told that pork was technically white meat so I should eat it. *should*. To me that was like saying ‘you eat meat so you should eat horse’.

      There’s no *should* about what your personal preferences are, as long as they don’t hurt yourself or others and you don’t shove your judgements down other people’s goblets. Since I was a teen and also battling with being overweight, new in town, a geek, and having two mums, I didn’t want to pick the vege-battle, and so prefaced every mention of it with ‘it’snotformoralreasonsdon’tworrypleasedon’tjudgeme’. And that’s stuck with me a little. While I now NEVER back down about having two mums, I do feel like I have to justify that I don’t eat seafood (allergic to some, don’t like others so far).

      Why is it that we’re starting to learn that lifestyle choices are CHOICES, but still think food choices are on the menu for debate?

      1. On the food choices are choices, why do we think they’re up for debate question, I think on some level it might be this kind of awful self-fulfilling prophecy thing. So many people are judgmental and pushy about their opinions on what people should eat, and then OTHER people (who are probably not as naturally pushy) start to get a bit paranoid and interpret well-meaning “I don’t like [food]” as code for “I think the thing you like is awful and horrible and you are wrong for liking it”, so then it has to be pushed or justified and now it’s a whole thing.

        Which, of course, doesn’t change the fact that the cure for the whole thing is for people to stop being so pushy and judgmental about other people’s food choices.

      2. I’m semi-vegetarian and I get all sorts of problems for it. I’m meat intolerant, so I can have a couple ounces of meat with other foods, but more than that and I’m in the bathroom all night. My family just doesn’t seem to get “I can have a taste, but no more” moderation. If I can have a little, I should be able to have all!

        And yep, I’ve had the pushy militant vegetarians and vegans tell me I’m a horrible nasty evil unhealthy person for not going all out. I tend to get more lectures/scoldings from the vegetarians, actually. Thankfully my husband is more than happy to eat meat off my plate if I get something with it included, like a soup. He’s also happy to share a bite of his own food.

      3. Interestingly, I have never felt that I have to justify not eating seafood – I simply say “I dont like it” and most people leave me alone. Was a bit hard on tour in Barcelona though, but it did mean someone sitting near me got a whole pile extra seafood in their Paella, so no-one complained!

        1. I tend to say I “don’t eat” shellfish and nuts. It probably results in a few people assuming an allergy though if they asked about cross-contamination or something I would tell them that it’s fine, I just don’t like them. (I hear you on Barcelona – I’m in New Zealand and hang out in Māori crowds where mussels, paua, etc are highly valued! Tuna is as well [tuna being the word for eel – in Māori the fish is tūna] and it has a very… distinctive flavour which I’ll eat a bit of, but not a lot.)

    3. As someone who disliked a beverage so much that i developed a psychosomatic allergy to it (Yep. Soda now makes me blister), I totally get all the ‘oh, but have you tried,’ and ‘oh, there’s only a little in it,’ bullshit.

    4. Wow, sad. What kind of city do you live in where people regard semi- or full- vegetarianism as some sort of threat to their personal or national self-image? Cannot fathom. I guess I’m lucky that I’ve lived my life in fairly progressive communities like LA and SF, and now in alt/indy subculture in Germany. No one that I know bats an eye at vegetarians.

      Why not be proud of your preference? Why not tout the health and moral benefits? You don’t have to proseletize, just don’t apologize. Srsly, if people are threatened or offended by that — their problem, not yours.

    5. This attitude towards vegetarianism/veganism has always been so weird to me, as someone who loves meat. The only reason I care about these things one way or another is if I’m inviting someone to a get-together/out to a restaurant so I can make sure there is enough food for them to eat.

      Once I was looking fo a restaurant to go to with my vegetarian friend and admittedly enough, it took a long time to find somewhere with enough vegetarian options where she could legitimately have a choice in what she ate and wasn’t forced to just pick the Caesar salad, but I didn’t mind. Another good friend of mine has a gluten allergy, so we made the trek to a cupcake place with a substantial gluten-free selection. That’s just what a friend does. PLUS if you can find somewhere with plentiful tasty options of the restrictive-diet variety, generally the food overall is pretty damn good.

  4. I think it’s a good thing to offer a very short answer. A minimum amount of words. It’s so easy to start explaining yourself but that gives the other person something to hold on to and criticize about you. If they keep on pushing, you know that person doesn’t respect your boundaries. Typically with the BUT WHYYYYY’S, you not drinking makes them uncomfortable and they don’t want to deal with that. It’s much easier for them to gang up on you,

    I’ve told this story before, but there was a time when I was on meds that clashes with alcohol. If you drank even a teeny tiny drop of alcohol it could kill you. You would basically suffocate to death. It would not be pretty at all. This med has since been taken of the market.

    I told my friends, thinking it would be good for them to know if they’d be maybe cooking me dinner or something else. Even with me spelling it out, some so called friends put alcohol in food I was eating without telling me. It wasn’t until I was calling 911 that they realized – whoops, Kellis Amberlee really meant it.

    I know it can be difficult, but eliminating people in your life that don’t respect your decisions is way better than huffing for air while dialing 911.

    1. There is a word for someone who puts things they know you shouldn’t eat in your food without telling you. That word is “poisoner.”

        1. I know there was on Elementary (which has really found its feet in the back half of the season).

    2. This is nowhere near as extreme as your example above, Kellis Amberlee, but it reminds me of my ex’s mother, who thought that my being a vegetarian was ridiculous and snobby. I got sick a few times after eating food that she served me, but I never said anything because I didn’t want to complain or be offensive, and so I avoided eating meals at her house. It eventually came out that she had been sneaking meat and meat stock in various ways into the food to “prove” that I could eat meat. Charming woman.

      1. Ugh. That sucks so hard. I really didn’t want to eat duck as a teenager, because ducks are cute and the thought of eating one upset me. My mother thought that was immature and stupid of me, and we had that conversation a few times, but it wasn’t really an issue since we never ate duck anyway. The more traditional and cheaper chicken was our regular bird-of-eating.

        One day at dinner I was all, ‘Hey Mum, what did you do to this chicken? It tastes really good.’ My mother smirked this victorious little smirk and didn’t reply, and then the penny dropped, and I put the remains of my drumstick back on my plate and said ‘It’s duck, isn’t it.’ And my mother said, ‘See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?’

        Of course, being a teen, I stormed up to my bedroom and slammed the door and didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night, which was my mother’s cue to tell me how hormonal and immature I was all over again the next day. And I believed her. I wasn’t mature enough to get my parents to take my choices seriously, and I was so childish that I went around slamming doors and sulking about the resulting problems, so yeah. I pretty much bought the story that I was making a big deal out of nothing because I was stupidly melodramatic.

        It’s only years later that it really occurs to me: we never ate duck for dinner before that, and never again. My mother deliberately let me assume it was chicken. She must have planned the whole thing precisely to get a reaction out of me, from idea to purchase to cooking to serving.

        People who mess with your food don’t do it because they really think they can convert you to liking it. They do it because it gives them a power trip to know they can fuck with your choices for their own entertainment from behind a screen of plausible deniability, and they need wiping out of your social sphere.


        1. Someone did this to me when I was a kid. I was riding horses a lot and they thought it would be HILARIOUS to trick me into eating horsemeat. When I found out, I ran straight to the toilet and threw up. It felt like I’d eaten one of my favorite horses friend.

          1. Oi vei, that’s horrible. I wanted to puke too, but I’m kind of phobic about throwing up, I really hate it. When I successfully kept the duck down, I felt like a sellout, and it added to my sense that I was making a big deal about nothing.

            I hope someone punished the kid who did that to you. What a disgusting little rotter.

        2. I’ve never understood this line of reasoning anyway. It’s not like you refused to eat duck/horse because you thought it *tasted* gross, it was because you found it *morally* gross. You could both find it super delicious *and* still be opposed to eating it. So how is tricking you into eating it prove your morals are silly? All it proves is that that person is an asshole.

          I for one find alcohol really, really delicious. But I also find going into work drunk ethically questionable and the height of irresponsible. So you could slip whiskey into my hot cocoa in the morning and I would go, “Man, this is like the best hot cocoa ever.” Then you’d say, “Ha ha, tricked you into drinking before work! You secretly like it! Fraud!” And then I’d say, “Get the fuck out of my house, asshole.” Maybe I *like* it but that doesn’t mean I should *do* it.

          Sometimes people chose not to do pleasant things because other values are more important than the pleasure from pleasant thing! Shocking, right?

        3. Oh man, I had the exact same experience w/ my mother over lamb, only she kept doing it over and over and never telling me until I was in my 20’s. I am still really pissed off about it…my mother still thinks it’s hilarious.

        4. I wonder if parents in particular think that this is an OK thing to do because of the socially acceptable tactic of sneaking vegetables, whole grains or whatever other weird/not-liked food onto their kids’ plates. You know, the old “mash up some veggies into the hamburger” trick.

          It’s a slippery slope from that to this other thing. When do you decide your kid is old enough to have the agency to make her own food choices? And when is a food choice unhealthy as opposed to just not-what-you-like?

          Obviously, sneaking some veggies into a hamburger is not as bad as sneaking some of name-your-favorite-critter-here into your meal, but I wonder if it’s the same in THEIR minds.

          1. Obviously, sneaking some veggies into a hamburger is not as bad as sneaking some of name-your-favorite-critter-here into your meal

            I don’t think this is obvious. Lying about what you’re serving someone is a bad idea, period; you don’t know why they don’t want to eat it (and if they’re a kid, they may not know why they don’t want to eat it; I know plenty of people whose childhood aversions ended up being unidentified allergies). Try to get your kid to try new things? Sure, a normal part of parenting. But tell them what they’re trying, and if they react badly to it, listen to their attempts to explain why.

          2. No, I don’t think this is a slippery slope or any way related at all. Sneaking carrots into a four-year-old’s hamburger because she won’t eat vegetables any other way and Mom is concerned about her nutritional intake is VERY VERY DIFFERENT THAN “Ha ha, I tricked you into eating a food you find disgusting and your horror amuses me.”

          3. Ooooh I totally don’t want to say forcing veges is wrong, too (I don’t actually think that), but this has just triggered a memory so I’ll play devil’s advocate…

            My whole childhood I told my Mum that carrots made me feel sick and my tummy hurt. I actually liked them, though, and my Mum (therapist) was convinced it was because of one particular day when I had carrots for lunch at school and was then sick, and she thought I’d associated these two unrelated events together because of the trauma of throwing up all over a classroom of 6 year olds.

            I believed her all my life until I found out in my mid twenties that I’m intolerant to starch. I’d have the same reaction if I tried to eat a raw potato, but carrot is pretty much the only starchy food I was eating raw, so I never put two and two together.

            I’ve not eaten it since, and not had symptoms since, and can still have cooked carrot (so it’s not like I totally miss out on the nutrients), and it’s fairly easy to avoid it raw (except damn that carrot and dip looks good at a party!). If only Mum had believed me and figured it out earlier.

          4. @neverjaunty

            Yes, it’s the (cruel) intentions that make all the difference. One is done out of concern for someones wellbeing, the other is done out of sadism.

          5. @Kellis Amberlee

            “One is done out of concern for someones wellbeing, the other is done out of sadism.”

            I don’t think concern for someone’s well-being automatically makes it okay. I have IBS, which is a chronic pain disorder, but my dad persists in thinking I’m just being picky. He likes to say “oh, just have a little bit of [whatever food], you’ll be fine!” So if he put something that was bad for my stomach into my food, he might be doing it out of concern that I was limiting my food choices for no reason, but that doesn’t make it okay.

            I’m fond of Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility for parents and kids: Parents choose what food to provide for the child and when and where to provide it. The child chooses whether they want to eat that food and how much of it they want to eat. It’s the parents’ job to provide a variety of foods for optimum nutrition, but it is NOT their job to force their kids to eat that food.

          6. Definitely, with adult children (or even teenagers), sneaking stuff into someone’s food is not ok. Nor is it ok to serve anyone of any age food that you know they have a moral objection to or health issue with to “test” whether they really dislike it, really break out in hives/go into anaphylactic shock/vomit, or so you can say “Ha Ha, I just got you to eat [that thing I knew it would really upset you to eat] and you said you liked it!!” That is seriously messed up.

            But I think parenting is a lot more nuanced than that last paragraph suggests. Kids, left to their own devices, tend to make really bad food choices! Even when he was in elementary school, my son admitted in so many words that it was a good thing he had parents like us because otherwise he would just eat hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, chips, macaroni and cheese, and tortellini. Although we definitely tailored our meals to our kids’ palates to a significant extent, we also did stuff like put spinach in the pasta sauce and on the pizza (under the cheese), served them “chicken nuggets” that were actually made out of mushrooms, and expected them to try all kinds of other stuff they didn’t think they would like. It was a steady process of adding things to the mix of things they were expected to eat without comment, gradually expanding the range of options. And they are glad of it! We were talking about it once, when my then-13 year old had ordered the baked brie with mango chutney as an appetizer, to be followed by lobster ravioli with chipotle cream sauce… and he said he feels sorry for peers who are still eating only junk food and bland standards. I mean, you don’t insist a child eat something s/he really thinks is gross, or would get upset about eating (e.g., Bambi or Thumper), and you don’t insist on the “clean plate club” kind of crap, but neither do you defer entirely to their judgment.

          7. I raised my daughter that way and ended up with an extremely adventurous child with few food issues — except nuts. So I had a kid who would happily chow down on raw fish, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, yet turn up her nose at a peanut-butter sandwich.

          8. @alphakitty Someone else in this thread mentioned that a thing they didn’t like to eat when they were a kid turned out to be a food intolerance later. When I was a kid I liked bland starches, like noodles and rice and potatoes, without a lot of flavoring added. Now that I’m an adult, I have IBS, and guess what are the best things for me to eat? Bland starches! I’m not saying every kid’s preferences are what’s best for them, but tricking kids into eating foods they don’t like, or not telling them what’s in their food, seems manipulative and cruel to me.

            Satter’s model says that the parents decide what food will be provided, so if you don’t provide hot dogs and chicken fingers and fries etc, then they won’t be eating those things exclusively. I just don’t like the idea of forcing or tricking kids to eat new things because it will be “better” for them. It’s not always better for them, and it leads to trust issues around food. I’m all for encouraging kids to try new things, but if they don’t want to, that’s their choice. They may very well change their mind as they mature and new flavors seem more interesting to them. I know I did.

            Also, the idea that baked brie and lobster are better for kids than other foods seems unfair to me. A lot of kids don’t have access to that kind of food because it’s expensive. A lot of kids only have access to “junk” because that’s what’s cheap and it’s what their parents can afford to feed them. To look down on those kids because they don’t get to have the super special experience of eating lobster seems pretty classist to me.

          9. Sigh. I knew this was going to get contentious. Definitely, sometimes a food aversion is based on the body sending “not that, please” messages to the mind. And my husband and I did a LOT of catering to our kids’ tastes when they were wee. But kids also get into ruts, and we weren’t content with either the hot-dog-chicken-finger-tortellini diet for the whole family for years on end, or for making two dinners every night for years on end. It was important to us to expand the kids’ repertoire of acceptable foods, both for their health and our sanity as people who really like their food! That’s a choice we got to make for our family. You get to choose for yours.

            But the idea that it is manipulative and cruel to feed your kids nutritious stuff they would not spontaneously choose to eat, in forms in which they will find it palatable, without giving them full advance disclosure seems extreme to me. At what age does this requirement kick in, do you think? Parents are supposed to be in charge. You start out making ALL the decisions for your kids. The older they get, the more they develop their personalities and preferences, the more you try to accommodate their preferences to the extent possible/reasonable/responsible, and the more you let them decide things for themselves, with the recognition that if all goes well they are going to leave home at approximately 17 or 18, and if you force them to go from child-for-whom-all-things-are-decided-and-controlled to adult-who-is-expected-to-be-in-charge-of-his/her-own-life overnight, it’s going to be a disaster! But no, you don’t ask your 5-year-old for approval to put spinach in the spaghetti sauce. Nor was it “manipulative and cruel” when my husband was grossed out by the extruded-and-re-formed chicken slurry marketed as chicken nuggets to give the mushroom nuggets a whirl without making a big announcement, and keep serving them when the kids liked them just fine.

            And no, neither I nor my son looks down on kids who don’t have the super special experience of eating brie and lobster, or thinks those things are better for kids (decidedly not!). We were just being glad that my son has learned to embrace a wide variety of foods, because we both find great enjoyment in eating a whole bunch of different flavors. Meals out like the one I described are a real, rare treat for us — we probably don’t even eat out anywhere once a month, unless you count picking up an occasional pizza. And we DO know kids whose families, for reasons having nothing to do with money, never eat anything more adventurous than turkey breast or chicken pot pie (Gah! I have in-laws like this! Nieces and a nephew in a family with a great deal more money than mine!). While I love chicken pot pie, interesting food is one of the joys of my life (relatively affordable compared to what I consider blah food, when you cook it yourselves — and again, to the extent it costs more we get to choose to prioritize that over things other families spend their discretionary funds on (we, for example, have no TV because we think dish is too expensive)). You get to choose for your family. You don’t get to call me classist because we choose top-notch food.

            I also freely acknowledge there’s more than one way to get your kids to the point of adventurous eating. Maybe my kids would have gotten there no matter what I did. You do your best, and when it works out well, you tend to be glad you did it that way.

          10. I just don’t think being adventurous with food is necessarily a good thing. For some people, certainly, it’s wonderful and they love it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with preferring familiar foods, or preferring bland foods, or preferring any kind of food over another. Sometimes I see people (especially in the dating world) assume that not being food-adventurous means you’re a boring person, or that you’re not adventurous in general and hate trying new things, and that annoys me. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the foods you know you like.

            I do not think you need to only cook what your kids ask for, or make two dinners. Again, the Satter method says that you get to decide what is available for your kids to eat. So if you don’t want your kids to eat chicken fingers and tortellini every night, don’t give them the option every night. She also has different recommendations for different ages. I’m not a parent, and I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent. I’m not trying to judge you, personally, and your own choices for your kids.

            My point is that in general, using tricks and manipulation to get people to eat food for their “own good” is not necessarily better than doing it because you’re an asshole. The person giving mandassassin Diet Coke instead of regular Coke thought that was for her own good too, but it still wasn’t okay. I’m all for people choosing what to put in their own bodies, and yes, I think this should start in childhood. That’s all I’m trying to say.


          11. I think there’s a huge difference between adding vegetables to food and not mentioning it and going out of your way to hide food a child doesn’t like to force them to eat it without realizing it. The first is “of course the pasta sauce has spinach in it – it also has x, y and z”. The second is “I know you hate spinach but I’ll make you eat it anyways by hiding it in your food!”

          12. On the subject of “if a kid hates it it might be bad for him”, my stepson’s favorite foods are macaroni & cheese, chicken nuggets, and pizza. Guess who ended up having celiac disease? He would literally only eat the things that were making him sick. So I’d have to say that not all preferences point to a dietary need.

        5. That’s a rotten, rotten thing for a mother to do! I’m so sorry that happened! As a lifelong vegetarian with meat-loving parents, I’ve had many arguments and tricks. It makes me so angry, I eventually blurt out “How would you feel if I put dog shit in your food and didn’t tell you?!” Because it’s the same for me. It makes me sick and disgusts me. That usually shuts down the conversation and makes everyone uncomfortable and think I’m overreacting. But that’s just an awful thing to do. An argument about it is awful enough, but sneaking meat/allergic food/alcohol/thing you don’t want to eat/etc. into your food/drink is just plain poisoning and awful. And it’s so much worse when family does it! They’re supposed to be trustworthy!

        6. People who do this are the worst. The sight (and even thought) of flakes of mould makes me nauseous to the point of gagging (I almost never make it through cleaning the fridge without stopping to puke at least once). As a result, even though I really like the taste of strong cheeses, I never eat blue cheese, because the visible flakes of mould make me literally lose my lunch.

          My aunt and uncle think it’s awesome and hilarious to cook up stuff that contains gorgonzola, offer it to me, and then once I tell them that I liked the taste, triumphantly inform me that I’m therefore “wrong” when I say I don’t like blue cheese. Man, fuck people like that.

      2. When I was 15, I went on a French language course in Cannes where we stayed for 2 weeks in French families. The mom of the house where I stayed was kind of rude anyway (it was really obvious they did this boarding thing just for money and disliked the kids who stayed there). One day, she served me a meal and after I had eaten, she was all “Gues what you ate?” “Yeah, that was pretty obviously rabbit, it was good, thanks.” She was clearly disappointed by my indifference, she’d probably been hoping for some “ewww” reaction because she knew rabbit isn’t a popular dish elsewhere in Europe. Way to be a mature and polite hostess :/

        My MIL also once served us a stew and asked if we guessed what was in it. I had guessed it was horse meat just by the look of it.I have no problem with eating horse and it’s considered edible in our country, but traditionally it’s been a “last resort” sort of food and now it’s more like a gourmet specialty. I don’t really know what she was getting at. Was she hoping I’d prove some prejudice she held against me, or what? I just shrugged and ate it (she’s a pretty horrible cook, unfortunately), but someone else might have been really and legitimately pissed at her for that stunt.

        I’m a meat eater and I have no problem with eating almost any animal as long as it’s not an endangered species or outright vermin. I might even consider eating something that is considered a pet in Europe if I was staying in a country where the animal were a normal part of diet and bred for eating purposes.

        But I’m 100% aware that not everyone else thinks like I do, and I would never spring some mystery meat on my guests for the LULZ. To me, it seems at best really immature and at worst outright disrespectful and manipulative.

    3. I have a friend who had the same experience with a severe peanut allergy, and “friends” deciding to sneak peanut into his food. Even when he went into shock, they thought “he was joking”. Suffice to say, he does not associate with those people any more.

      1. I bet they didn’t really think he was joking. I bet they just wanted to see what would happen, and used that excuse in order to paint themselves as pranksters rather than sociopaths in the aftermath. Jesus.

      2. It is amazing how many people, when you tell them you have an allergy to a food and cannot eat it, it makes you very sick, etcetera, WILL SNEAK IT INTO YOUR FOOD ANYWAY. I have known people who suffer from an anaphylaxis reaction with certain foods who were eating out or with friends suddenly notice, to their utter horror, that they had the beginnings of a severe allergic reaction. And how must that feel, having friends who will knowingly feed you food that can kill you? And the excuse is always along the lines of, “Oh, we didn’t think you meant it,” or “we thought you were just being picky.”

        And one person I know, with a deathly allergy to mushrooms, was fed a dish with mushrooms AT A RESTAURANT after carefully explaining in detail that they absolutely cannot eat mushrooms because their face and airways swell up and they cannot breathe, and they may actually die if that happens, so seriously, no mushrooms. And then halfway through their meal they started to feel their face swelling and was just like oh god no. Anyway, they survived it okay, but it transpired that yes, the restaurant had put mushrooms in her meal but defended themselves with, “but we cut them up really small so you wouldn’t notice them. We thought you wouldn’t know.” It is a DEADLY ALLERGY OF DEATH. How hard is it to grasp that concept??
        *flails with rage*

        1. I wonder how that sort of restaurant would react if the victim called 911, asked for an ambulance, and when it arrived, asked the paramedics to save their stomach contents and call the police, because they want to bring charges of assault and attempted murder. And please to get the health department to inspect the kitchen ASAP because the restaurant obviously doesn’t care whether it poisons its customers.

          1. I don’t have any major food allergies, but this is totally how my mind works.

        2. I’m flailing with rage right with you. I cook at a restaurant, and I happen to have a manager right now who thinks all food allergies are b.s., and makes a point if a person isn’t looking of slipping the exact food they are allergic to into that person’s food. Then he shrugs and claims that he’s only had one person who ever actually had to be hospitalized for it. I try to fix his sociopathic idiocy, or keep him away from the line as much as possible (which he thankfully doesn’t want to spend much time on), but I don’t work 24/7 and I can’t stop everything, especially when that person is over my head and will not hesitate to lie about me if I try to take the problem to his overseer. Then there are the people who don’t understand cross contamination and need to have it explained to them (you don’t need a morsel of food to set off a reaction in some people, just to prepare it in the same uncleaned area as the offensive substance has been prepared, or use a certain tong or knife, or have a little of the item move to a nearby pan of another food that is used without someone seeing), and how little of something can hurt a person. He is not the sort of person who listens to reason, even though I and others have tried to talk to him, and I’m not really sure what to do except protect the customers the best I can. Most frustrating is that I have issues with some foods, and I know how it can be. Not every food allergy or intolerance ends in anaphylaxis, some end with extreme vomiting or other unpleasant symptoms after the person has left the restaurant. I’ve been intentionally poisoned by a restaurant before…and I never went back. He’s hurting customers, and the people he works with. My coworkers and I spend much of our time plotting the best strategy for stressing the impact this person is having on the kitchen (in this and other ways) to the head chef so that he will either be sent away or stop messing everything up.

          I know, too, that it’s unfortunately not a rare day when someone says “I’m deathly allergic to onions”, for example, and then when I check every ingredient and tell them everything on the menu item they’re interested in that it’s in, even going so far as to give them better options, they tell me to throw it all and they’ll eat it anyway. Just because there are the customers who lie about the severity, or paint it as an allergy due to a dislike of chunks of that food, doesn’t merit chopping someone’s food fine, or not taking another customer at their word until they say it’s okay to do something else. I don’t assume that every person who finds something questionable about their food planted it there or lied for a free meal, because even if we caught a couple of people doing just that, the majority who complain are truly just not happy and I ought to fix their food somehow, so why would we assume that a few people’s exaggerations are a benchmark for anyone with a food issue and penalize people, or assume that the only reactions that matter to the customer are life threatening shock?

          Vicki-I think they should call the health department and the police. If those cooks intentionally poisoned someone, they can be charged with attempted murder. Better yet, they will probably never be able to work in a restaurant again.

          The best defense against this type of cook (in your own home or others) is to ask questions of your server, or even the cook if possible, to ensure that they understand the mechanics of allergies, particularly your allergy, and see if they balk, seem misinformed, etc., if they think that your request is reasonably achievable with minimal to no cross contamination in the area they work in, etc. Hopefully they’ll be honest. If you don’t feeI safe, RUN. I always tell my servers to tell Celiacs and gluten-free, for instance, that while I’ll try my best for them (I give them their safest options), the risk of cross contamination in my kitchen is high, even if I wipe everything down, etc. (almost every menu item contains gluten and as a result it is on every surface and in every fryer, and there are probably crumbs and flour molecules in the other food, and I guarantee there’s flour in the air). I hope the message is relayed (I think sometimes it is, because at least a few times people have abstained). If they are sensitive to symptoms, I’m more than willing to recommend a place that can better serve their needs. We get a lot of gluten-free people nowadays, though, and I spend much of my time grabbing things out of my fellow cooks hands and saying “No, that has gluten”, because no one has ever bothered to educate them in any of their jobs about this stuff, and the list of things that contain or might contain gluten is huge. I can’t remember it from memory, and, well, guess who found out they have Celiac disease after three years in the cooking industry? There’s a similar story for onions, mushrooms, and garlic (although those I can usually manage far better).

          1. Oh my god, that’s horrifying. Is there a way you can anonymously blow the whistle on this guy? Take it to the press, maybe?

          2. When somebody asks me if a food that I’ve prepared contains a particular ingredient, I make a point of thinking about whether the problem item has even been stored or prepared in my kitchen in recent weeks. Once you’ve been sensitized to an allergen even minuscule exposures are dangerous.

          3. I’ve been thinking about tape recording him secretly when he makes some of these comments and taking it to the head chef so he can hear for himself just how bad this person really is. He’s also verbally abusive to a lot of his lower employees, shirks his job duties, and generally acts unprofessionally. I’m mad at myself for keeping mum for so long, but the first instance was the gluten thing, where he ordered us to just make the dish as is and then walked off the line, so (I’m third in the kitchen, and he’s second) I ignored him and directed my coworkers to do the best we could for the customer. I know my head chef also doesn’t understand the concept terribly well. I could educate the head chef (and he would listen), but he’s so busy working 80 hours a week and helping us survive (because he’s genuinely a good guy who looks out for people and his employees), that I don’t know how to find the time to have the talk with him. I also know that’s why he hasn’t fired him, because the chance of getting someone just as bad or worse is high, and he’s already so tired. It was only in the past couple of months that I heard this guy go off on how he used to do this all the time at other restaurants on the west coast. If he wasn’t constantly avoiding the line and avoiding cooking food for customers, and if I’d ever seen him do it personally, I would have turned him in. Right now, thankfully, he doesn’t have a lot of access to customer plates, and I’ve told him to his face when he suggests it that we’re doing it this way (yes, that got me an office visit for being insubordinate, but hey, worth it).

            The mushroom story made me cringe. One, because I was once 100% certain that I’d made sure no mushrooms had gone into a dish for someone who was allergic, and two, because I was apparently wrong. I remade it and felt terrible for my brain blooper and apologized A LOT. The fact that this restaurant thought that mincing things smaller was okay and was an acceptable “apology” makes me sick to my stomach. My point is, sometimes we do make mistakes unintentionally. We’re on autopilot, we’re busy, we make a lot of the same food, the same way, and sometimes we miss requests. Send it back, whether it’s a preference or an allergy. I’ll make you a new one the RIGHT WAY happily, and if anyone tries to screw with your food (most don’t), there are people who will stand up to them at most places.

            I’m getting sick of restaurants thinking gluten-free is ONLY a fad, and not related to hey, an autoimmune disease, and potentially crippling symptoms depending on the severity, and they think they can throw things on a menu and just take away bread or crackers or croutons, and hey, everything’s great, right? It’s called research, but I guess that would be too hard.

            So, yes, it’s partly my fault for not standing up when I should. I also was offered his job and turned it down before he got it, so I guess I could have prevented it that way, too. Hindsight?

          4. Have you pitched it to your boss in the context of how this guy is opening up the restaurant to ALL THE LAWSUITS? Because seriously, he is.

        3. Because if something in your experience or the way your body works isn’t part of most people’s experience, then you’re making it up to be a bother to those around you. Obviously. Always. /sarcasm

          Story of my life.

  5. “Whenever someone behaves like that, I wonder, are they really THAT insecure about what they like?”

    As a mostly-vegan mostly-teetotaller, I can vouch for the truth of this. Insecurity comes through loud and clear in negative responses. People don’t like to think about why they do things. Just the fact of having someone around who has made a different choice is threatening because now they have to say to themselves “I have chosen to do this for reasons, and I could have chosen differently” rather than just “I do this because everybody does this and there’s no other way to be.” I think that’s also why worries about “preachy” vegans/teetotallers come up so quickly — an accusation of preachiness puts the responsibility on the vegan/teetotaller to give the omnivore/drinker reassurance of the validity of their choice.

    1. So true. I discovered that a few people in my social circle had some serious issues with food and boundaries after I developed an inflammatory bowel disease and had to eliminate alcohol, dairy, insoluble fiber and fatty/spicy foods as well as raw fruits and vegetables from my diet.

      Even after I explained that I was really, really sick (this was when I was newly diagnosed), certain people took my food and alcohol choices really personally. They totally acted like I wasn’t drinking AT them, like I was losing weight AT them. It was weird!

    2. Agree! Some people can get really weird when they first find out you’re a vegetarian/ vegan/ nondrinker/ something else that could be attributed to morality reasons. They take it as a personal attack often. Some will start explaining their moral choices to me without me saying a word. “Oh I would be a vegetarian, but it’s so hard to get protein.” Or “I used to be a vegetarian, but reasons.” Great for you! Can I just eat my food now?

      I’ve even had people ask me permission to eat meat in front of me. Some who knew me better asked in a polite, “Hey would this disgust you?” sort of non-permission meant-to-be-kind way, but quite a few requests were not like that. Maybe it was a trap to “prove” I was “dictating what they ate.” I have no idea. I always responded in horror and slight offense and that usually got them to stop asking. Even if I get a bit repulsed, I leave that to myself and don’t criticize what they eat. I expect them to do the same (barring the circumstance of a nearby food making someone actually ill or very distressed which is a completely different and understandable situation).

      The other unpleasant arguments: “Oh that’ll kill you.” (usually said with some joy)
      “You’ll get fat.”
      “How do you get enough protein/B-12/every other nutrient they can think of.”
      “Well what do you eat?”
      “Did you know there’s meat in so many dishes you eat normally? I bet there’s meat in that food right there!” Then they go and ask everything I eat and try to prove I’ve eaten meat recently. This argument started at an early age.

      Anything for the insecure person to feel better I guess?
      Normal people react with “Okay cool. If I make food for you be sure to tell me exactly what you don’t eat.” And nothing more unless they’re thinking of a similar diet/lifestyle choice and want info or resources.

      1. When I know that a person is vegetarian/vegan for moral reasons I -do- ask them if it’s okay for me to eat meat in from of them. I don’t ask to catch them at food policing, I don’t ask to “prove” that they really don’t mind it. I ask because I don’t want to make them uncomfortable while they’re eating. I don’t know, it just seems like being polite. I don’t tell disgusting medical stories to my friends who are disgusted by them, I don’t try to have religious debates with my friends who are upset by them. But I can’t know automatically what does or doesn’t upset a person, so I ask.
        I can see how you don’t want to impose your feelings on the person that you’re eating with, but if my friend is genuinely revolted by me eating then we’re not having a good time together and I expect the friend will not want to go out with me anymore. I think if someone asks, then they’ve asked. You’re not imposing anymore. They asked.

        1. I ask, too, for similar reasons. I’ll only ask once, though, so if they say ‘it’s fine’ I’ll keep eating as I was before. My friend’s response of ‘a burger is fine, but chicken wings or ribs or anything that looks like the animal will bother me’ was not questioned! If it’s someone I eat with a *lot* I might not always follow what they say, but I will try to be as kind as possible…so if I know that seeing others consume meat bothers my friend at all, I will pick the veggie option if I could go either way. But when my veg friend and I were travelling together, I wasn’t going to go without meat for 6 months so I would still sometimes eat it.

        2. Yeah, most people do it to be polite. And I always take that as kindness and am grateful. The rare 10% that argue with my response of “No it’s fine” are the ones I’m talking about. It’s always an acceptable thing to do if it’s done without spite and without too much debate!

      2. Because I’m curious, I have often had conversations with vegetarian friends about what they eat. But its always started with polite curiosity “So, tell me about one of your fave meals” kind of thing – as I find it really interesting to see how other people live (and I love food. Hubby and I keep planning to start eating vegetarian more often, but things keep getting in the way)

      3. I used to be a vegetarian, and I’m familiar with some of the rude, stupid things people will say when you share this information with them. However, I can also understand the other side, where people get defensive when they hear that you are a vegetarian (or gluten-free, or low-carb, or whatever), because unfortunately, there are lot of folks who *do* cast judgment on others. People who have no qualms about telling you why carbs are the antichrist while you’re trying to enjoy a baguette, or bringing up gruesome stories about “pink slime” as you’re biting into a hamburger. So I think some people feel they have to preempt such comments, which of course is not fair to those of you who *don’t* moralize about your food choices and simply want them to be respected. But I do understand where it comes from.

    3. Yes! 90% of the people I tell I’m a vegetarian react with, “oh, ok.” The 10% that want to argue with me/pre-emptively assume I’m going to lecture them – well, those are the ones I suspect have guilty consciences and are arguing with their own conscience really, not with me.

    4. As an omnivore, I have no problem with you being vegetarian and usually I don’t even ask why. As a mostly non-drinker I get that it’s a cranky making question sometimes.

      What I wish was that I’d get more restaurant input from my friends with dietary restrictions. There’s nothing quite as bad as choosing a restaurant where your friends can’t eat anything because you didn’t realize that in addition to being mostly vegetarian they’re also not eating wheat/corn/flour stuff.

  6. You get to have whatever beverage preferences you want, and it’s your choice. I honestly don’t get why alcohol is such a weird subject for so many people**… if I tell people I don’t like soda there’s no problem, but if I don’t like alcohol I “just haven’t tried the right kind of ______.”

    My solution is exactly what the Captain suggests, and it does work. If your friends are in the habit of pushing on you it may take a while to retrain them. Be patient at first, but if they don’t get it after a while don’t worry about being blunt. You are not rude. They are rude for pushing something on you that you don’t want.

    I’ve also noticed that people who don’t respect my choice of drink also tend to not respect my other choices. While I’d never end a friendship over this alone, it’s a red flag. YMMV.

    **Actually I do get it. A lot of people get drunk socially, and feel weird having someone in their drinking group who’s not imbibing alcohol. Partly because you stick out (like if everyone else had a pet dog but you had a pet stegosaurus) and partly because it alters the field. That is, they are all impaired while you are not, and that puts you at an advantage in a situation where everyone else is forced to put their guard down. I’ve known a few people for whom it was a trust issue – if you don’t want to get drunk it must be because you’re hiding something.

    1. It’s interesting that you bring up “trust issues”, because wanting to stay sober when other people are drinking could also have everything to do with trust issues, and if people feel weird about that, LET THEM. I mean, predators actually do use alcohol on purpose to lower the inhibitions of their intended victims. “You’ll feel weird if I’m not drunk? Mmmmmkay…..that’s pretty much on you.”

      A lot of setting boundaries is you deciding “This is what I need,and I am okay with you feeling weird about that.

      1. I’m often the only non-drinker in my group. I’m also often the one driving. It can be good to have a sober person around!

        1. Same for me! But then my friends (while not completely drunk yet) try to get me to try things or have “just one drink.” And I remind them I’m their DD (designated driver) and I need to be sober. Works well with friends they meet up with trying to get me a drink. One told me I had to be angel to do that. Like it was a sacrifice. Maybe for some? A great excuse! (Usually…)

        2. While in high school (a very long time ago) I drove whichever friend’s vehicle we were in because I was the only one not drinking. I had good friends; no one tried to coerce me into drinking.
          In the 90s I was a truck driver and found the “No thanks, I get random UAs.” useful when offered drugs by strangers at biker events.
          But I’m realizing I hang with awesome people. There’s still no one in my life who would give me a hard time for what I do or don’t put into my body. I don’t think I’d keep friends who didn’t respect my choices.

        3. Totally not-a-secret thing: For the first time ever, I now at the grand old age of 30, finally have my own transport that isn’t a bicycle (where I’m from, not driving is not weird at all, btw). And I’m discovering how brilliant it is to have a cast-iron Excuse to not drink. In the pub? Everyone drinking? People offer you a drink? “I’m driving” is the magic phrase that makes my OJ and sparkling water absolutely fine. I love it!

          1. My fav thing about OJ and sparkling water is that if you put the water in last, and stick a slice of lime in top? Looks just like a cocktail. Stealthy!

          2. I used to drink OJ and coke mixed, when I was underage and going to shows. It looks terrible, kind of dull brown, but it’s delicious.

          3. Personally, I like cranberry juice and sprite. Bit sweeter than OJ and sparkling water, but nice as an alternative. Quite easy to disguise as a coctail too. OJ and cranberry juice works quite neatly too.

            I work at a student bar/restaurant-place and so do most of my friends and we are all aware that our alcohol consumption is waaaaay above what’s reasonable so most of them are not giving a fuck when someone desides to not drink for a while. Friends that are not a part of this cirkle are usually a bit more annoying and that’s when I fool them with non-alcohol drinks just to not have to defend my decision (besides, I’m not all that fond of soda). Then again, I’ve noticed that many have more of a “problem” with those who never drink than me who drinks occationally. I used to be like that once too, but I’ve grown up a bit now. In many cases I think it comes down to insecurity (tht’s why I started to drink, and I think, at least around where I live, many start drinking because of an alcohol culture and peer pressure. Let’s just say that the “cool kids” usually start with the heavy drinking at about 13 where I come from…)

      2. Reminds me of “The Gift of Fear.”
        One of my best friends kept trying to get me to try “the right drink” that I wouldn’t taste the alcohol in (always did). And he eventually joked his life’s goal was to get me drunk. Years later, turns out he was a predator. And he got tired of waiting for me to be drunk.

        Someone who completely disrespects your boundaries (especially around drinking choices) could be that predator testing his victim as “The Gift of Fear” shows examples of. Works with strangers in a bar all the way to really close friends.

      3. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like their reasons for feeling weird meant that anyone else’s behavior should change! It’s not the LW’s responsibility to make other people comfortable… I was just commenting on a pattern I’ve noticed among my own social circle.

        You’re absolutely right. If they feel awkward, well… let them feel awkward. That’s their problem.

    2. People being pushy and coercive suck, but I do think there’s another issue at play here. Alcohol is often an acquired taste, and many people start out drinking the shitty stuff (especially when they’re underage and have limited access). That contributes to a culture in which people expect non drinkers to be change their minds, often because at one point or another, they changed theirs. No excuse for your friends’ douchery though, and I hope these scripts work for you!

    3. That is, they are all impaired while you are not, and that puts you at an advantage in a situation where everyone else is forced to put their guard down.

      I think there is something to this. I would never, ever bug a teetotaling friend to have a drink, but recently when I struck up a convo with a friend-of-a-friend at a party (after I was a couple of cocktails in) and said I was going to the kitchen for a refill and asked if he wanted anything and he said “I’m all set, I don’t drink,” I admit I felt a flash of “Oof, but what if I, the tipsy person, say/do something stupid in the presence of the sober person” and it was weird and made me think. But most often I think people turn that stuff outward, without even knowing they’re doing it, and that’s how you get “OMG, why not??” and “You just need to try such and such cocktail” and etc.

    4. I was on a school trip a few months before I could turn 21, and everyone wanted me to join in with the drinking. I’ve been fine with taking a sip of whatever’s there when I’m with my family since I was a teenager, but I really didn’t want a drink of my own for no clearly established reason. On the school trip they pestered me about that, even knowing I wasn’t legal. Even the instructor tried to give me a cup of something. I came up with “There’s alcoholism in some branches of my family”, which is true but not really something I think about, and then apparently I was judging them…

  7. I’m with Kellis Amberlee on this one; I dislike the ones that are cutsey about it; these people are now crossing over into rude and/or controlling and providing them with a comedy routine softens the implication that they’re being rude and/or controlling.

    I -am- a drinker and I still encounter this sort of nonsense sometimes. Usually from people who have their own problems with restraint and feel like they should push/harass/tease others into drinking at their pace rather than one’s own. Which is not only rude but can be dangerous.

    When one of these clowns pulls this nonsense with me (“Hey, have another!” “What, that sissy drink? Get something with more alcohol in it!”) I start with “no thanks” and move onto “no, really, I’m good” and then go straight to “why do you care so much what I drink and when?” Move on to “I don’t know why you think YOU should be the one choosing what I am drinking but I’m okay with making my own selections, thanks” and close with “you’re being rude. You should drop it.”

    1. That’s a really good point. I am female. I drink Irish whiskey or bourbon, straight up, and I don’t like cocktails in any form, with any mixture of anything. You’d be surprised how often that’s been an issue in certain groups of people.

    2. Good point! They are crossing a line and need to know.

      I’ve also seen this a lot with weight issues and especially someone’s guilty pleasures such as junk food or food with more calories/fat/sugar/name your perceived poison. “Here, split this dessert with me or order one too so I don’t feel fat!”

      It manifests in so many ways, some more dangerous than others. It never makes sense. Someone else participating in something you secretly find to be a bad habit doesn’t mean your perceived bad habit is magically gone by others participating. Bad logic!

      1. Yeah I’ll split a dessert with someone if they don’t want it all, but if someone asked me to order one as well so they could feel better about eating I’d probably tell them it’s the same food whether I’m eating one too or not.

  8. I have this problem too. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the worst persuaders are people who cannot imagine being comfortable unless they have had a drink. I don’t mean that they are alcoholics, just that in social situations, they rely on the way that alcohol lubricates situations. It gives them something to offer, a conversation opening (what do you like to drink), a way out of a conversation, and something to do with their hands. And plausible deniability, I suppose, if they say or do something ill-advised. Of course, it makes them more likely to do something ill-advised too, but they don’t think in that way.

    It’s always much worse at weddings where many people are strangers and at work social events, for me. Once I realised that, I worked out that the key to stopping persuaders was to imply that they would be making me *more* comfortable if they let me not drink. It does work.

    Sometimes, I ask people doing rounds for a cup of tea (I *heart* bars that serve food, and so offer tea) instead. It freaks people out and distracts them, and I generally get out of the round after that, which is helpful. There is only so much soda you can drink.

    If they don’t try to persuade me, I may later get into a conversation about having grown up enough to stop pretending I like the taste, but it’s really not a thing I get into with everyone any more.


    1. I love the cup of tea idea! Sometimes, when I’m with heavy drinkers and don’t want to drink OR have the stupid conversation about why I’m not drinking, I will get a glass of seltzer water or ginger ale with a wedge of lime or lemon or a cherry in it. It looks like an alcohol drink so I don’t get too many comments. If people ask what I’m having, I just raise my eyebrows and lift the drink at them. It’s worked so far. It’s not entirely honest and straightforward, but I get tired of being put on the spot. I do drink alcohol, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

      1. Yes! Especially because of the social dimension of drinking. I recently stopped drinking for the time being, but I’ve started having juice in our fancypants crystal snifters, because dammit, those snifters are AWESOME and I want to still be using them. 🙂

        1. I drink milk out of wine glasses with dinner when I live alone. BECAUSE I’M A GROWN-UP AND I CAN, DAMN IT.

          1. *fistbump* Me too! I also have a really nice brandy sniffer that’s absolutely perfect for sipping chocolate milk out of while relaxing with a good book. I mean, brandy’s alright and all, but sometimes milk is just what you want.

          2. Oh my God, I do this too sometimes with soda pop in a wine glass! I just really prefer the taste of Things That Aren’t Wine to wine most of the time, and I like to feel fancy, you know?

          3. I would totally do this if I had wine glasses! Oddly enough, for me, drinking orange juice out of one of the glass jars I’ve repurposed for drinking glasses makes me feel pretty special too. And it’s cheaper! 🙂

          4. At my kaiako’s place we always get our cold drinks in goblets because she’s a 27-years sober alcoholic who missed the fancy glasses. 😀

      2. The substitute drink idea is one I’ve found pretty effective – I know some people who do the sort of thing the LW is describing because they feel like bad hosts if they’re making everyone else fancy-pants mixed drinks and leaving one person with just a soda.

        It sounds like the LW’s problem is more related to people failing to respect her choices, but if you’re ever just dealing with an over-solicitous host (or a wanna-be mixologist), one thing I’ve tried is asking them to make me a cool mocktail. This almost always works at bars and nice restaurants too – most bartenders I’ve run into have enjoyed the challenge and can actually make some pretty delicious stuff sans alcohol.

    2. I have occasionally used the “I don’t need alcohol to be able to socialise” response if someone’s being pushy about why I don’t drink. If they’re gonna disrespect me, I have no problem with having a shot at them. Australia has a horrible drinking culture, far too much of it is about drinking to be drunk, so I have a pretty strong anti-drinking bias (or rather, anti-pushing-alcohol).

      1. Australia has a horrible drinking culture, far too much of it is about drinking to be drunk, so I have a pretty strong anti-drinking bias (or rather, anti-pushing-alcohol).

        Yeah, we do. It always amazes me how many otherwise sensible, responsible people my age are all like, “oh hey, let’s go out and get smashed, it’ll be great!” And i’m just like, “uh, no.”

        I don’t drink much alcohol, generally, and I’m very picky about what I do drink (and sometimes I have health issues that make drinking inadvisable), and there’s usually a five-to-ten minute dance to convince people that no, I’m fine, really, I don’t want a drink, I’m good. Because if I don’t have a drink, they’re being a bad host. And when finally I convince them, they’re like “Really? Well, okay. If you change you mind [Alcoholic Drink X] is in the fridge, but I think we also have some juice/soft drink/mineral water somewhere.” And then I get funny looks, because someone who doesn’t drink? Wow, they’ve never seen THAT before. Even on the occasions when people aren’t drinking to get drunk, everyone drinks.

        1. okay, so you two just blew apart my theory that this was an American or European problem. I’m another Australian who barely drinks, and the drink pushers I know are at worst just annoying, and usually left me alone after the first or second no. More often than not, people I’ve encountered just get on with it when someone refuses a drink.

          That being said, I do have this one girlfriend who constantly asks our other friend if he wants a drink when we’re out, even though we all know that he doesn’t drink. It doesn’t seem to bother him, and his girlfriend thinks it’s hilarious but it’s kind of just this weird thing, especially the most recent time, when she apologised for forgetting, but then went on to ask him if he was sure he did’t want just one.

          1. Wow, you haven’t observed the drinking culture? I always think it’s really interesting when someone manages to live in a microcosm that totally avoids something powerful in mainstream culture.

            I’m a NZer and boy am I familiar with our drinking culture. When I was 16, on my boyfriend’s 18th birthday, my first drink was half a tumbler of straight, cheap vodka. I used to drink straight spirits all the way.

            My urge to be “manly” exacerbated this so badly – a dude at a party commented that “girls can’t handle tequila”, so I skulled, I dunno, 500mls straight from the bottle? I may have got alcohol poisoning (I had more still later, was still vomiting 2 days after the fact – before that tequila had strangely been what I drunk that DIDN’T make me sick). It’s still a funny story my partner tells about the guy turning to him half an hour later and saying “I can’t believe she’s still walking around!”

            I was also in the Naval Reserve. That’s the only time I’ve had beer for breakfast on a hangover and got given pints hand over fist all day between Anzac parades, It’s fucked up and unhealthy but the bonding of getting completely and utterly off your face with other people, mostly guys in my case (never been sexually assaulted! Woot!), closely resembles the bond of working to exhaustion together (sports/military). Even the hangovers are part of the experience.

            I don’t drink more than a couple of beers any more, if that. My body says NO. And I like it much more. But I still feel the pull. :/


          2. @hrovitnir

            “I always think it’s really interesting when someone manages to live in a microcosm that totally avoids something powerful in mainstream culture.”

            Heh, you’d have a field day with me. I’ve pretty much gotten used to the fact that my experiences are never typical. To begin with, in college one of my friends did a lot of work to convince me of all the sexism and misogyny in our country (the U.S.) – it’s not that I disagreed with her (much) about what counted as sexism, it’s just that I had somehow rarely/never encountered many common forms of it. No street harrassment, no sexual assault, no discouragement from math/science (to be fair my school overall was just really into those things), etc. To this day I’m irked by rhetorical statements like “if you’re a woman, you’ve experienced this” because while I’m now totally prepared to believe that most women have in fact experienced that, I usually have not.

            Then I somehow avoided the prevalent/stereotypical social scene of my college – partly on purpose, but it’s still amazing to me how I hardly knew any of those “typical” people at all. One example is that I think almost half of our alumni go into finance or consulting upon graduation – but I know maybe two people who are doing that (and I’m not close to either).

            All off topic, but… yeah, I know the feeling of somehow having a totally different experience from everyone else!

        2. New Zealand has it too. I drink a little bit, but I don’t like anything past tipsy, and I certainly don’t understand what’s fun about throwing up and blacking out. Surely if the night was so fun you want to remember it? Luckily I’ve gotten a good group of friends who respect a no now, but when I was younger… oy.

      2. *fistbump* to the fellow awkward Aussies!

        I hang with an older group, many of whom do not drink so I haven’t felt it an issue myself. Ive been clubbing while sober and I do feel it’s a bit scary when 99% of the people you see can’t find their own underpants, theyre so drunk. The other 1% (the DDs and nondrinkers) have the same expression I do- kind of scared, intimidated and fascinated at the same time! The complete lack of control is, to me, terrifying.

        I also have an 18 year old colleague who doesn’t drink and he said he’s regarded as a weirdo in his social circles (mainly Uni, Gym and work friends).

  9. In response to “why?” (when you’re in the mood to expand) perhaps “Does it matter? Whether I have an alcohol allergy, or alcoholism runs in my family, or I just don’t care for the taste, the bottom line is that I would rather not. I don’t see why that warrants a discussion any more than my not liking frozen peas, sweet potatoes or rugby shirts. Fair enough? I mean, it’s not like my having a glass of wine would stop global warming or something…”

    Actually, although I do drink, I tend not to drink much — and nobody ever gives me grief when I decline. All I say is that alcohol makes me sleepy. People seem to understand that being sleepy when you’re out at some social event is no fun.

    1. “Does it matter?” is such a good response. It can either be light-hearted or aggressive, depending on tone, and gets right to the heart of why someone is hassling you (or offends them and they huff off: also problem solved!).

      I have been on the receiving end of this multiple times, and I always find it really positive. I am chatty and curious, and inclined to ask things like “Can I ask why you don’t drink?” (All answers= “Ah, fair enough!”) and “If you don’t mind talking about it, why are you a vegetarian?” I try not to be pushy about it and I definitely understand why someone who gets hassled to defend their life choices all the time doesn’t want to talk about it at all to me… but sometimes I’m dense.

      A “Why does it matter?” question followed by my, “Eh, it doesn’t, just like to know what makes people tick.” or (not in a not-drinking case but in others) “I am starting to be X too and trying to learn more.” or “I am so NOT X and am trying to understand the other view point.” leads to “Ah, okay, but I don’t feel like talking about it.” or a “Well, if you’re a polite, interested audience, {SOAPBOX!}” or somewhere in between.

      And no matter what the outcome, we both feel positive about the interaction.(And, as I said, it has the added benefit of offending poor-intentioned pushy people which usually results in them leaving you alone or saying something that makes it really obvious they’re being the pushy jerk.) I love this question.

      1. Replying to echo what you’re saying, I love “Does it matter?” too. I like it because it can be a lighthearted, flippant response to a person who’s asking why you don’t drink – when you suspect they’re just making conversation.

        And if the person really is being pushy? I’ve had great success in responding to pushy people’s questions by asking questions back.

        “Why aren’t you drinking?”
        “Does it matter?”
        “Well hahaha, I mean, I was just wondering, you don’t seem like you really like to party.”
        “Why does that matter to you?”

      2. As another chatty and curious person, it’s nice to see how you’ve made that work. I really don’t want to be rude, but part of making sure I’m not rude accidentally is understanding other people better, so I do ask questions. That said, I am polite about it: “If you don’t mind”, “May I ask”, and things of that nature.

  10. I have this exact same problem! And it doesn’t matter how “good” your reasons are. I explain to people that I don’t drink for three reasons: 1. I don’t like how it tastes (I’ll taste some of what my partner chooses to drink, but inevitably it tastes nasty and I’d rather have the non-alcoholic version of it. 2. Alcohol is expensive. 3. ALCOHOLISM RUNS IN MY FAMILY LIKE SAP IN A TREE. Despite that last reason there, people still blithely go on to explain that I “just haven’t tried the right drink yet.” Yeah, ’cause that’s something I need to work on.

    1. My advice, stop explaining. And if they push you, “You seem creepily invested in this. Do I really need to justify it?”

      1. Yes. You don’t owe anybody an explanation as to why you don’t drink. “Because I don’t.” Repeat until they go away.

    2. Yep, stop explaining seems the right way to go.

      I’ve tried your approach too. “Here are MULTIPLE reasons including one where I could get SEIZURES because of MEDICATION I am on.” And nothing works, no matter how serious with a pusher. A commenter mentioned above a reason where alcohol could pretty much kill him/her and THAT didn’t work with his/her friends. I’m starting to believe there is no excuse that will satisfy a pusher.

      So, excuses for close non-pushy friends or genuinely curious people when you’re in the mood could work, but otherwise just repetition of “I don’t want a drink.” and personal attacks into their insecurity if they keep pushing with a variant of “Why do you care so much?”

      1. Several people have said that either they have serious medication issues with alcohol or certain foods, and their friends or family members don’t listen and keep insisting or hide the refused items in food or drink and serve them anyway.

        Yes, these people are poisoners. Also, there are only a few ways to take this kind of behavior: either the poisoner believes you are lying or foolishly mistaken, or they don’t care about your health, comfort, or other expressed issues. These people ARE NOT FRIENDS.

        I am sensitive to MSG in my food and have had the experience of having a family member experiment with that “for fun.” We don’t interact any more, for that and many other reasons.

        People who don’t believe you/care about you/respect your expressed wishes do not deserve to be in your life. Boundaries matter.

  11. OH MY GOD, letter writer, are you me? I live in Wisconsin, and the drinking culture around here is massive. We are “Brew City,” so the pressure is on to drink LOTS OF BEER, and if you don’t it’s like you’re unamerican or something. And I don’t drink. I never have really. There have been drinks that have tasted good to me, but I’ve never liked the feeling of losing control, which is of course the exact feeling most people are aiming for when they drink. (To some extent, anyway.)

    I also have IBS, which can be triggered by alcohol, and I’m taking medications that interact badly with alcohol, so I have a lot of reasons not to drink. I usually pull out the medication excuse if people bug me too much, and most people understand that the subject is no longer up for negotiation. But the truth is, even if those things didn’t apply, I still wouldn’t drink. It’s not something I want to do. And I shouldn’t have to justify that to anyone.

    It’s hard being a non-drinker in a drinking culture. People treat you like you are anti-fun. But that’s bullshit. You are not alone, Letter Writer, so don’t let people make you feel like you’re doing something strange or wrong by not drinking.

    1. Another non-drinking Wisconsin reader here, and the pressure to drink — and drive while drunk*/** — is intense here. I’m borrowing all the good advice for the next time I have this conversation, which will be the next time I leave the house, because Drinking Culture!!!

      I urge LW to embrace the “no is a complete sentence” approach, especially with family members. I foolishly spent 20 years turning down drinks at every family meal. I thought they’d learn if I was polite. Guess not.

      * First drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor
      ** People are routinely arrested on their 4th or 5th or 6th drunk driving charge; they don’t have a license, and they don’t go to jail.

      1. Yeah, the drunk driving is a huge problem. I live on a high-traffic street with a lot of college kids, and I’ve heard more than one car accident happen right outside my front window. I always have to go out and make sure nobody ran into my parked car. :/

    2. YES!! I too live in Wisconsin and know exactly what you are talking about. I quit drinking because I feel terrible the next day. No matter if I’ve had one drink or three, I don’t think my body processes alcohol very well.

      Like you I’ve been accused of being a “fun Nazi” among other things simply because I choose not to drink. I wonder if a lot of this attitude is because by not drinking, you are not going along with the crowd. Perhaps an underlying attitude of “it’s different, kill it” is at play.

      1. Fourth Wisconsin-dwelling non-drinker here! I have awesome friends, though, and except for one who occasionally jokes about wanting to see me drunk (I love her for other reasons), everyone leaves me alone. (I think it’s because we’re all academics and have so many other social shortcomings among us that not drinking is considered a mildly interesting preference.)

    3. As someone who does drink, but doesn’t drink beer I found the drinking culture in Wisconsin intolerable. It was like by not drinking beer I was somehow simultaneously dissing the brewing history of the state and positioning myself as someone who thought they were better/more elite than the beer-drinkers around me.

    4. I feel for you! I have many of the same reasons for not drinking.

      For a pushy person, I’ve found “Because I don’t need to be drunk to have fun” in either a jokey or rude tone depending on the situation to work great for shutting them up.

      And the idea of losing control! Nasty to me, too! Glad I’m not alone in that one. What if there’s an emergency or you need to drive somewhere or a natural disaster? Someone in the room needs to be sober!

    5. “I usually pull out the medication excuse if people bug me too much, and most people understand that the subject is no longer up for negotiation. ”

      When I was in college, my boss once got very belligerent when I wouldn’t have a drink at a work-related social function. When I offered her the medication explanation, she still wouldn’t accept it. Over and over she said, “Will you DIE if you mix them?” and “Will you DIE without the medication?” Like drinking should be my highest priority as long as the consequences were less dire than death.

      Most of the people I spend time with don’t care. I’ll order water or plain iced tea and they’ll have what they have. Sometimes a friend will slip up and buy me a drink when they’re getting rounds for others. I just smile apologetically and say, “No, thank you, I don’t drink,” and they will either drink it themselves or find someone else to take it. Sometimes people are curious and they will ask why. My answer depends on how well I know them and on how they ask. The truth is, there are many reasons I don’t drink.

      1. I hate the taste and smell of alcohol.
      2. The smell gives me migraines, and I shudder to think what actually drinking it would do.
      3. There’s the medication, of course, a presciption sleep aid that helps me manage a chronic health condition. Said condition is also improved by way of lot of careful lifestyle regulation – good diet, good sleep habits, etc.
      4. Addiction runs in the family.
      5. I just don’t want to. I’m not interested.
      6. I like being in control and don’t want to be even a little drunk.

      Usually my answer is some combination of 2 and 5.

      For most people, that’s enough. They nod, sometimes murmur something about it being a shame that I can’t enjoy [their favorite drink], and then we talk about something else. Some people get very self-conscious, though, like I’m criticizing them, or like I am communicating that they cannot drink around me. There are those folks who think that because I don’t drink I must have some deeply-held convinctions about the horrors of alcohol when really I just a) don’t want to get sick and b) only drink and eat things that don’t taste gross.

  12. Yeah, I’ve had to deal with this sometimes. I inherited my mom’s low alcohol tolerance, which means a glass of champagne will give me hangovers (and in her case, a strawberry daiquiri gives her heart palpitations). And yet I’ve gotten the “you’re a pussy, admit it” or “we need to work on that with you.”

    It’s not like I’m being a teetotaler AT them. I just don’t like waking up in the morning and feeling scuzzy after one damn drink. Also, with the exception of Bailey’s and umeshu, I don’t like the way most alcohol tastes. Probably an after-effect of having to drink alcohol-containing elixirs as a sickly child.

  13. Spot on advice, as usual! I don’t drink either (in similar social situations to yours, LW), and I always just smile and say “No thanks!” cheerfully. If someone asks me why I don’t drink, I just shrug and smile and say “Oh, it’s not my thing” – that’s much harder to argue with than saying I don’t like the taste (even though I don’t). My experience has been that if you act like it’s no big deal (because it isn’t), and you’re happy and confident with your choice, people will take you at your word. If anyone tries to push the issue, I mention how much money I save from not buying alcohol all the time.

    Also, internet high-fives for not being into alcohol! You’re not alone!

    1. “It’s not my thing” is my go-to when people are asking me pushy questions. It’s neutral, non-judgemental and applicable in so many different situations.

      Don’t smoke weed? Nah, not my thing
      Don’t shave your legs? Yeah, just not my thing
      Don’t do shots/kiss girls for your amusement/flirt with people for free drinks? Not my thing.

      Like you said, you can’t really argue with that. It’s pretty arrogant to claim “Oh, it actually is your thing and you just don’t know it”, and if someone really is dumb enough to say that, I sure as hell don’t feel bad about being rude to them after that.

      1. It also pretty clearly communicates that you don’t have a problem with it being their thing, so the whole “Are you judging my choices? No! You must do as I do to validate me! RAGE!” thing that’s been mentioned upthread doesn’t get triggered.

    2. +1 — “no thanks, not my thing!” was my go-to phrase all through college, and anyone worth the time shrugged or at most – “aw, you sure?” “yep!” Reasons just turn it into a conversation point, don’t go there. LW, you’re not alone!

  14. As always, the Captain is wise, but I can’t help reading this and seeing both sides. About two years ago, I found out I’m not supposed to eat tomatoes or drink red wine (I love Italian food, so that’s great!), and people have accepted this change with varying degrees of ease. People who know me well are fine, but people who don’t know me well, do what many many people (including myself) do when encountered with something like this: They don’t believe it.

    This is totally unfair–I recognize that. But I wish we could take out a world wide ad to say “stop faking allergies.” Because a lot of people do this, and it makes people not take real ones seriously. Of course, this isn’t the fault of people with ACTUAL allergies, so we should all treat all alleged allergies as if they are real until proven unreal.

    Allergies, however, are one thing. “Taste” is another. The Captain is absolutely right that saying “no” once should be sufficient, twice even more so. People should pay attention to social cues and not be bullies or engage in peer pressure. But I don’t necessarily think all desire to share drink with you, LW, is your peers’ insecurity about their own drinking habits. Humans like to share what they enjoy–be that beer or brownies or bacon. Add to that the current cultural trends surrounding food in the west (ever more diverse and elaborate and celebratory), and their reaction may also be in part because they don’t want you to miss out. People’s taste buds evolve and change over the course of their life, so one’s tastes can literally change. So there is a certain logic to trying something you haven’t previously liked every once in a while.

    None of that, again, makes it okay for people to argue with you, pressure you, or question you. Reading your letter has made me realize that I probably am overexcited to share new foods with people who are less enthusiastic. And I don’t want to pressure people into eating something they don’t want to. That’s awful. So thank you for raising awareness. But on the off chance it helps you put up with us sharers, we may just be (poorly) expressing a desire to include you in something we enjoy.

    Again, still not cool! We should behave better. But since you asked how to make people hear you, if this is what’s happening, another possible script could be: “Thanks for the offer, but I’m happy with the drink I have. Don’t let me stop you.”*

    (*”Don’t let me stop you,” would also address anyone who’s worried that you’re uncomfortable with them for drinking. Where I come from, a lot of people think alcohol is a sin, so that adds an extra layer of awkwardness that goes beyond the usual need for peer acceptance/conformity. They may even be afraid they are offending YOU by drinking in your presence.)

    1. I’ve never noticed people faking allergies (why on earth would that be helpful?!), but I completely agree/ sympathize with the rest of your post! I’m a huge foodie, so I tend to get really overexcited about my food/ wine and want to share it with my friends! That being said, I’m also a vegetarian, so I understand when people have limits, but this letter has made me rethink a bit of my food enthusiasm, which could probably come off as obnoxious to people who just aren’t in to it.

      1. I have a friend who used to tell restaurants that she was allergic to tomatoes, when the truth was just that she really dislikes raw tomatoes. (Cooked is fine.)

        I have no idea why she thought it was better to say this than just to firmly tell the wait staff to leave the tomatoes off. But I suggested that she was making life harder for people with actual food allergies, and she heard that, and I think she stopped doing it.

        1. I still do this at times, and don’t feel badly about it at all. Because (sometimes) there are chefs and waitstaff who will simply not respect the fact that you have taste preferences that don’t include that particular food item and it’s easier to claim an allergy than it is to have to make a scene after they decide to argue with you about what you like. As a supertaster, there are things that I simply can’t stomach.

          I will say though, 90% of the time I simply request “no [hated foodstuff]” and they’re fine. It’s the ones who try to talk me out of it that require some white lying.

          1. Or you could just not eat there again. Or send the food back to the kitchen. I don’t get it, you say it’s fine 90% of the time, but the remaining 10 percent you’re still eating at that place, just with added lying?

            Money talks. I don’t see why you’d continue to support a restaurant with staff that don’t respect your (food and otherwise) orders.

          2. Seems to me that if the wait staff are arguing with you over what you like, or if it’s a house rule that they don’t leave ingredients out, time to go to a new restaurant.

            Telling a restaurant you’re allergic to something means, if they’re conscientious, they go to quite a bit of effort to clean a food prep area and utensils specifically for your meal. Then hearing someone such as you say that you lie about it (and aren’t sorry) can be very frustrating–both for the staff who have to do it, and those with actual allergies who have concerns that they’re not taken seriously.

          3. There’s nothing in my response that says that I return to these places. But I’m not going to walk out in the middle of a meal with other people because a particular waitperson or chef decides that they know better than me what I like. They can either respect my choices (I do not claim allergies off the bat, I simply express preferences), but if they’re going to question my preferences, then they can absolutely suffer the consequences of not respecting my choices for that meal. And then never get my business again.

          4. Sam, someone suggested recently I might be a supertaster, and I’ve never spoken to someone who is (as far as I know) – does it hit with stuff like hot food for you? (Captain, sorry for the OT but this relates to people who’ve pushed food on me that I simply can’t eat.)

          5. Kittehs: it mostly manifests itself as an overdeveloped sensitivity to things that are bitter. So most cruciform vegetables taste like metal, and I really don’t like chocolate and coffee. And don’t even get me started on gin. It also means that I can’t tolerate fatty meats (any time I order a steak I spend half the meal having to carve out the fatty pieces, which other people always claim are the best part).

          6. Kittehs, I’m also a super taster, and for me it’s mostly a problem of hot/spicy stuff. I actually really love bitter; I love how it overwhelms my whole palette and makes my mouth feel–but this is considered weird by most supertasters, so ymmv. A grind of black pepper from a pepper mill can be too much heat, and really intensely favoured salty/sour/sweet things don’t go over well.

          7. I confess, I am completely baffled by these stories I’m hearing about restaurants that don’t respect food preferences and/or allergies. Every single time I have ever asked for an ingredient to be left off, or have witnessed someone else ask, the request has been acknowledged and generally met — and if you send it back, they’re totally cooperative and apologetic and you eventually end up with the food you asked for. Where the heck are you people eating?!

        2. Huh. I have to say, this never occurred to me- I just say no “whatever-I-don’t-want” and expect to be taken seriously. But I can see why some people might choose this. Thanks for enlightening me!

          1. It can be useful (especially in places where the prices are cheap, the waitstaff unhappy, etc. and the management does not care if you come back or not.)

            I’m a vegetarian who despises meat and it makes me sick. I’ve had multiple chain restaurants ignore my request for a dish without meat. And then when I send it back while explaining I’m a vegetarian, they scrape it off (and leave tiny chunks behind) leaving the food uneatable for me. And since I’m shy and out with others, I usually don’t want to correct twice or cause a scene so I just won’t eat it and will avoid the place from then on (which you can only do so much with friends wanting cheap local places). Sometimes the fight isn’t worth it for me and they will respect an allergy more because they could get sued and they’ve had training to respect it.

            I get the idea, but I haven’t used it yet personally because “I’m allergic to meat” is an odd one and some people think fish and seafood isn’t meat and it’s a long list of allergies to explain.

            I did have one amazing experience with a waiter at a restaurant though where for extra money a dish came with meat. I said no thanks, nothing more. He came out and thought the dish might have meat in it. He asked if I was a vegetarian (and apparently he was one, too, which is why he paid extra attention probably). And told me to double check and he’d take it back if it wasn’t for a new dish. It turns out it was mushrooms, but I was so pleased. I never had a person try to correct a possible kitchen mistake like that. Care like that stands out!

        3. But she’s not making things harder for people with food allergies. I’m with Cynical Romantic – coercive assbags and people who police other people’s food are making it harder for people with allergies.

      2. I think allergy-faking is just one of those things that some people do to get special treatment or attention. To feel like a “poor thing”? I also have no idea why this is enjoyable, but anyone who’s ever worked in the medical field can tell you that the world is full of people who want to make up medical problems to feel special. Which, yes, does make it harder for people with legitimate medical problems to be taken seriously.

        1. Hey, so actually? It is THIS attitude–yours–not that of the villainous alleged allergy-fakers–that makes getting appropriate medical care really difficult for me.

          I have had THREE serious conditions (TWO potentially deadly) misdiagnosed/long-term undiagnosed because doctors wouldn’t take my self-reports seriously enough even to investigate…one went so far as to lie to me about blood test results that he couldn’t believe WERE the cause of my symptoms, and spent months being treated for the wrong condition, with seriously bad consequences for me, because a psychologist decided that I was just trying to make myself feel special. HER WORDS.

          If someone is making up medical conditions to feel special, I’m sorry, but it’s a health care professional’s JOB to figure out how to tell the difference.

          1. I am so sorry. 😦 I have no experience with allergies but I am autistic, which is another condition that gets the “omg people fake it to get attention how awful!” treatment. (In fact, someone’s brought it up downthread.) I have run into vastly more trouble and awfulness because of the narrative of people faking autism than I have because of people faking autism. The “people fake autism all the time!” stories did a real fucking number on my mental health and made it harder for me to get diagnosed, while at the same time I’ve never, actually, *met* a person faking autism and have to doubt that this is a widespread problem.

          2. Hey, yeah, it was autism! *fistbump* (The non-potentially deadly condition, obviously.) Misdiagnosed as depression/being a perfectionist/having too-high standards for boyfriends/just not wanting to believe I was really the same as everyone else. Srsly.

            And I have also met *zero* people faking autism for attention or special treatment, but several people who probably should be diagnosed and aren’t. And–everyone–it’s not as easy to fake as you’d think because most people don’t understand at all what it actually is or what the experience is. And any potential accommodations you could get, which are not a given even with diagnosis in hand, would be of marginal usefulness at best to someone who didn’t need them.

      3. I once got nagged really badly by someone with a single food allergy about referring to my multiple intolerances as allergies, which I know now was wrong, but at the time I was just learning that my system reacts stupidly to things and learning the correct terminology in a culture that still knows very little about the difference between the two. She claimed that my calling intolerances an allergy made allergies seem less important, which annoyed the hell out of me. Yes, my intolerances are not immediately life threatening, but if they’re not taken seriously they can damage my health long term. Also, spending up to a week generally feeling awful? Not fun.

        1. As a relative of someone with celiac disease, I really hate the current fad for gluten-free diets, because it makes it too easy to assume that a request for gluten-free is fad-driven and doesn’t have to be followed exactingly. When I was standing behind someone in line and heard them say, “Do you have gf bread? No? Then I’ll have whole wheat” I got mad!

          1. Why are you mad at someone for preferring a gluten free product?

            Everyone is the boss of what they themselves eat. No one is the boss of what other people eat. Who cares if it’s a fad vs. an allergy? If everyone were just respectful when people said they didn’t want to eat certain stuff, then it wouldn’t be a problem.

          2. See, I’m glad it’s a “fad diet”, because that means it’s much easier to find stuff my husband can eat. It makes it easier for celiacs to get products.

          3. One possible concern (I don’t know how legit it is) I’ve heard of is that since gluten-free diets are so popular now, some manufacturers or restaurants will label a product gluten-free that technically has a little bit of gluten in it. Maybe not even enough to affect someone with gluten intolerance, but dangerous to someone with Celiac’s. If a restaurant or manufactor didn’t understand how Celiac’s version of truly gluten-free worked, it could become dangerous (They might think “It’s a fad! It just needs to be mostly without gluten, who cares it won’t hurt anyone” Which most places wouldn’t do I assume). That’s one possible reason for a person with Celiac’s to be annoyed by the fad (though the benefit of having suddenly so many more options is a huge plus!)

            And gluten intolerance is a newly extra supported condition now affecting a lot more people than Celiac’s. So they might feel queasy if they eat gluten and much better if they don’t. So if a place is out of a gluten-free product, they might just think the benefit of having a product now with some gluten and feeling bad later is worth it since it won’t kill them or anything. So the fad diet is also people with a mild medical condition learning about it normally mixed with Celiac’s mixed with people with other possible health or moral concerns or whatnot mixed with a few people following a fad. So it’s hard to assume anything about one person. Because an intolerant gluten person can eat it once in a while and still be sick unlike Celiac’s.

          4. I think fads can be really helpful for those of us with intolerances, but I wish there was more general knowledge about intolerances out there. If I tell someone I can’t have bread because of yeast, they start to give me gluten free advice, which really doesn’t apply to me.

          5. “Why are you mad at someone for preferring gluten-free?”

            It’s really not rational. Skepchick does the same thing here: http://skepchick.org/2013/03/ai-free-range-organic-gluten-free-kale/http://skepchick.org/2013/03/ai-free-range-organic-gluten-free-kale/

            For my part, I love that the vegans have made dairy substitutes much more common (if not quite mainstream), because that means that I (with my dairy allergy) can enjoy things like ice cream and cream cheese and so forth. Wouldn’t have been possible in the 1950’s — that would have been either “nothing dairy-ish ever again” or “diarrhea FOREVER” territory.

            I don’t really mind the existence of stupid posers who *think* they have celiac, as long as they’re not ignoring other medical conditions they might actually have – but even if that were to be the case, it’s their problem, not mine. I don’t need to “fix” them.

          6. With that said, though, Vasha’s point about fads driving the possibility of cross-contamination is very valid. :-/

          7. I’m gluten and lactose sensitive, so will often pick GF and dairy-free options when they are on the menu.
            I am well aware its not an allergy, but rather a “living a decent lifestyle” preference…
            That said, I dont tend to ask if they have it in GF and then move on to something else if they dont, I just make do, because I can get away with small amounts. I really feel for people who are celiac. Would be my worst nightmare after my experiences of trying to keep my intake down!

          8. I understand what you’re saying. Because of the fad, we have all kinds of things that are labelled “gluten free,” but still have minute levels that can harm celiacs, and people don’t understand the difference.

        2. I tend to say “allergy” when talking about my food intolerances – simply because having an allergy is a commonly understood concept, and I don’t feel like having to expound on the subject to waitstaff (and others).
          In food service situations, I have found it necessary to go further than “No [food item], please.” Particularly as I’m a fat girl with a severe intolerance of aspartame. Yup.
          Me: “I’d like a Coke, please.”
          [Server brings drink, I try it.]
          Me: “Sorry, this is diet, I asked for regular.”
          [Server raises eyebrow, brings drink, I thank hir, I try it.]
          Me: This is still diet–
          [Server takes drink away before I can elaborate, brings drink, I try it.]
          Me: Look: I. Cannot. Have. Diet. I. Am. ALLERGIC. To. Aspartame.
          Server: Ohhhh… [brings correct beverage at last]
          Sadly, not an isolated incident. Now I bring up the intolerance/”allergy” the first time I send it back. Happily, since I can taste the aspartame (ick), I’ll never put enough of it in my system to be poisoned this way. But it still leaves me with no beverage followed by hassle.

          1. I have to ask for no lemon or lime in my drinks in bars (especially sodas) because it’s pretty bad for me, and a few times when the server mixed it up and I’ve sent the drink back, all they do is take out the slice. Because obviously the bits of lemon I still see floating in the drink won’t hurt me…

          2. Yay for finding someone else who can taste the aspartame.
            I cant stand the taste of it either, it makes me gag. My husbands family thought this was hilarious to start with, as they all drank diet and zero drinks. So I stuck to tap water at their place. I would rather that than deal with the ick (and the extreme waverings of appetite I get the few times I do consume aspartame).

          3. Wow, that is just intolerably rude even if you weren’t allergic to aspartame. How DARE they try to make your drink selection for you?! And it stinks of body-shaming, too. I would be tempted to request another server, just to get the point across — and favor the offender with one of my famed death-glares, too.

            How do those people even think they can get away with that? Diet and regular soda do NOT taste the same, even to non-aspartame-intolerant people.

          4. !!! that is so beyond disgustingly presumptuous of someone to assume that because of your body shape that you must be wanting a diet drink when you didn’t specifically say so.

            (as an aside, I think aspartame tastes gross, too.)

          5. Regrettably, I am violently intolerant of aspartame (3-4 hours of high fever and feeling like I will throw up) but I can’t reliably detect it. I have gotten this wrong three times and that was about enough to make me swear off soda and flavored water from anything but a bottle or can in my own possession.

            I have only had trouble about this once in recent years, from someone who said, “Yeah, I think the iced tea is unsweetened” and then when I brought it back–it was clearly sweetened–“Well, I dunno, it might be diet or it might not, does it really matter that much?” At that point I said, “You are asking me to pay for something I don’t dare drink.” He went off and asked a manager, and came back and said, “It’s free.” So I left it sitting on the counter and didn’t go back, because if the restaurant can’t even say if the drink is diet or not, they are not a very safe place to eat.

          6. Hello, another aspartame intolerant person!

            So many people don’t believe me when I tell them I can’t have aspartame. Or they tell me I should eat and drink diet items in order to lose weight (we won’t go into all the studies that show that foods/drinks with aspartame actually make you crave carbs. And then there’s the fat-shaming. Why do I have to explain how chronic insomnia makes it very easy to gain weight and very hard to lose it?).

            Aspartame won’t make me horribly sick. It won’t kill me or put me in the hospital. It will make me irritable and paranoid and give me a low-grade grinding headache that lasts for hours or even days. I think that’s reason enough to want to avoid it.

            The fact that I can have other artificial sweeteners with no problem (saccharine is just fine) makes it even harder.

            I wish I could get people to stop pushing stevia on me, too. I can taste the difference between stevia and sugar, and I don’t like the taste. If I don’t like the taste, I’m not going to eat or drink it no matter how healthy it is for me.

          7. I am an Artificial Sweetener Detector. Aspartame is awful. Sucralose? Just vile. Stevia, for all that people are like “But it’s natural!”, is still pretty nasty to me. It’s only kind of natural, it’s been well-processed! If it tasted like a stevia leaf, it would be fine.

            Sucralose is the trap, though, because they’re putting it in everything these days, even things with sugar in them. SOME OF US CAN TELL, AND IT TASTES LIKE POISON. I really want to drink all these nifty fruit-infused water drinks, but it’s like they’re all full of sucralose.

            I had a housemate who was all over agave nectar, put it in everything. Not for me. No way.

            I can do sugar, honey, and sometimes corn syrup. Fruit is yummy.

          8. I can’t do aspartame, either. It touches off migraines. I try to avoid elaborating on this — aspartame is one of those things that has for some reason attracted the kooky shouty paranoid conspiracy theory crowd, of which I am not a member. Given that things like lights and sounds can also touch off migraines, I wouldn’t be surprised if were literally the taste of the stuff that did it.

            I was delighted when they started labeling things with “Attention phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine”. As far as I know, phenylalanine has nothing to do with my personal issue, but it happens to be a component of aspartame, and in excess is dangerous to people with phenylketonuria, hence the warning. Much easier than squinting at ingredients lists printed in .00025pt sans-serif caps.

            Like ellex24 up there, other artificial sweeteners aren’t a problem. Diet versions of things that normally use sugar or HFCS taste odd, but things that are formulated with sucralose or acesulfame potassium in the first place are fine. I don’t shy away from sugar as a rule, but it’s hard to find individual-serving drink mixes and vitamin water and the like that aren’t artificially-sweetened, probably because sugar is hygroscopic, and you can only do so much to seal a packet you someone is going to hurl loose into a gym bag or a purse.

      4. My guess is that people would fake allergies because they hope it will allow them to bypass conversations like the one in the OP–they think people will be less likely to argue with medical issues than with mere preferences. (Assumes others are operating on the “Biology is Destiny; Everything Else Doesn’t Really Exist” principle, which is… a common one.)

        Which is why I get hissing, spitting mad at the idea that some people will apparently try to get people to “prove” that they really have allergies “in case they are faking it.” If they are faking it… it means they really, REALLY want you to SHUT THE HELL UP and not bug them about this food! So if someone takes it upon themselves to “test” to see if the person is truthful or not*, that person is BEING A GINORMOUS ASSBAG. DELIBERATELY. You are having a conversation you know for a fact the other person doesn’t want to have. There is no “politeness dance” excuse possible here.

        So I am a little uncomfortable with the idea that people claiming allergies they don’t really have is making it harder for people with allergies or “makes people” not take allergies seriously. I think the GINORMOUS ASSBAGS are making it harder for people with allergies. And if the GINORMOUS ASSBAGS didn’t have “Some people just say that to try and get me to shut up and leave them alone already” as an excuse to ignore allergies, they’d find some other excuse to tell you what to eat.

        *General life rule: It is not your job to “test” people. It is not your job to “test” their food allergies by poisoning them; it is not your job to “test” their moral character by attempting to coerce them into doing shady things; it is not your job to “test” how much they can “take” by being deliberately mean or violent to them; it is not your job to “test” their fighting-off-rapists ability by sexually assaulting them; it is not your job to “test” the strength of two people’s friendship by trying to break it up. If you find yourself “testing” people regularly, you are probably a narcissistic victim-blaming bully.

        1. Yep, this is spot on. It’s not your job to make people “prove” they have a “real” allergy. You eat what you eat, other people eat (or don’t eat) what they prefer, everyone is happy!

          I mean, even if you think someone is making up an allergy for attention, the right response is to respect their stated wishes for what they prefer to eat and otherwise say nothing about it. Don’t make a big deal, just say, “Cool, no olives, then” and go on with your day.

          Also, you don’t have to have an allergy to something to just not feel good when you eat it. Your delicious health food might be my Giant Shit of Despair food. Do you want to hear all about the Shit of Despair? No? Then don’t give me pushback about my food choices.

          1. Hahah “shit of despair”. Look, I love onions. I’ll eat em raw. I’m not allergic, but boy howdy you do not want to be in the same room with me after I’ve eaten them. I will be miserable and … uh … flatulent.

          2. Yeah, I just want to be clear here that I don’t think it’s incumbent on the allergic to “prove” they are allergic. However, I’ve had people say to me, “I assume people fake that sort of thing.” Now, of course, people making that assumption suck teh most. But, until we’re not all taught the principle of the “boy who cried wolf” in preschool, I’m not sure I buy that lying about an allergy is 100% okay. There was just an article on slate about nut allergies (in the wake of the nytimes magazine thing) and the difficulty deathly allergic people have convincing others that it’s a real problem. Claiming a medical problem to avoid the awkwardness of asserting your own tastes (which are a legitimate reason already!) has consequences outside yourself for the people who actually have that medical issue. It’s not fair, of course. People shouldn’t assume that because they know one person who lies about an allergy that everyone does. But it’s reality, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that, in an ideal world, we avoid making that particular lie out of courtesy to people who actually have the medical condition. To me this is akin (though to a much lesser degree) to people who get a handicapped parking sign under false pretenses. I have an uncle who thinks anyone with those stickers is “faking it.” And yeah, he’s the creep. But guess who bares the brunt of his assumption? People with actual handicaps.

            Also, people should listen to you when you say “no” to whatever food, without asking for a reason. If they don’t, and you feel so pressured that you are tempted to lie as to your reason for not eating, you should avoid that person who made you want to lie for all time. They are bad news. And by avoiding them, you avoid the pressure to lie, so yay.

          3. OMG, the “Giant Shit of Despair” is the best term ever. I’m going to start using that.

            *thinks wistfully about chicken tikka masala, the last food to bring on TGSOD*

          4. See with the disability parking things (as a disabled person, though I don’t drive and I don’t think I’m disabled enough to qualify) I don’t often pay attention but if I was and they had a placard, I’d go “oh ok” even if I saw someone coming out of a shop and get into the car with seemingly no problem, because you need to get a doctor to sign off on that and presumably the doctor knows their health better than I can from looking at them. If they don’t have a placard I’d be annoyed, but I probably wouldn’t confront them anyway.

            I mean, my disability is pretty invisible itself. Sometimes I limp, sometimes I walk with a cane (and because I’m 28 and look a lot younger I do get people giving me dirty looks occasionally thinking I’m faking). Most of the time I seem to be walking normally. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, and in my mind it’s up to the person’s doctor to decide that.

          5. See, people DO look at people who park in the designated spots and judge them for maybe not being visibly disabled – that’s ableism in a nutshell.

            And people DO look at the baskets of people buying food with food stamps and make judgments about whether they are buying what other people think they should eat.

            The whole point of the post is, yeah, fuck those people for being jerks. They can all come up with an anecdote about a sketchy Uncle who fakes everything to game the system, but that’s their own prejudices about class and disability showing.

        2. Yes, this. People who say they have allergies are not ‘making things harder’. People who assume that they are the judge of what food choices are or aren’t worthy of respect, and only allergies-proven-by-a-doctor’s-note count? THEY are the problem. Stop victim-blaming.

        3. I totally get why you’d lie about having allergies to get out of a sticky situation. There are some great illustrations of that above. What makes me frustrated is the by-product that lying creates. I have the same problem with anyone claiming an illness or condition that they don’t have, simply because it’s easier for them right then for whatever reason. It makes things easier for you right then, but it doesn’t solve anything long term. Not thay you have any responsibilites to me or like, The Society, but it frustrates me and I’m gonna rant now, so look away if you want to. You’ve been warned.

          With food, like you say, the real problem is people that keep on pushing after you’ve said “No”. And by lying you’re making it easier for yourself right now, but you’re avoiding the real problem and you’re not making any long time progress. The people who badger you over your food and drinking choices are probably badgering you over something else as well.

          But another aspect of it is people that lie about their medical conditions. I think it’s a slippery slope from saying you’re allergic to something to avoid a confrontation, to overexaggerate symptoms at the doctor.

          I have allergies that have brought me into the emergy room more than once. You know how there’s typically a “Skip the line if you’re having trouble breathing/chestpains/etc”-sign? Yeah, people read that and idk, they think they’re Special, so they skip right to the front of the line claiming to not be able to breath because of allergic reactions and long story short, it makes the waiting longer for those who really need emergency care. It makes it more difficult to get proper care by doctors who don’t want to give adrenaline and other drugs to someone who doesn’t reaaaally need it. I’ve seen the same kind of behaviour with people claiming chest pains, and it turns out, the really had a stubbed toe and just wanted to see some doctors asap. Even if the medical staff might suspect someone of overexaggerating, they don’t know for sure, they still have to rush there and help the patient. And then there are some people who really need the quick help that sit there and wait for their name to be called, and they’re suffering longer because someone else is claiming something that they don’t have.

          So yeah, I see it as a slippery slope. I’m not saying that people can’t lie if they want to, of course they can. But please think of the possible consequences.

          /end rant.

          1. “What makes me frustrated is the by-product that lying creates. I have the same problem with anyone claiming an illness or condition that they don’t have, simply because it’s easier for them right then for whatever reason.”

            THIS THIS THIS. It’s like people claiming they’re autistic or whatever in order to justify their lack of social skills. Don’t do this, people. It’s asshole behavior.

          2. Thank you for saying this, Kellis Amberlee. I was trying to and failing. The notion that it’s okay to lie about this, whereas lying about most other medical problems is automatically seen as bad (faking cancer = not okay), is part of a cultural landscape that sees allergies/food intolerance as less than or unreal–not to be taken seriously. The problem is, for some people, it is just as deadly and they are put at risk when the general perception is that people are exaggerating when they claim to be allergic.

            Yes, of course, we should believe people when they say they can’t eat something. But those of us lucky enough not to have a deadly allergy would be well served to avoid perpetuating a false cultural perception just so we can get our restaurant order with less hassle.

          3. I think what I was reacting to badly in the initial comments was people with allergies (or celiac) not taking people at their word about their eating needs, like, “The person in front of me needing gluten free bread is probably faking something, ugh, I hate people like that, they make it harder for me, because everyone assumes that I’m faking it too (the exact same way I am assuming they are faking it without actually knowing anything about them).” Like, I don’t think people should fake allergies, and I get the annoyance if someone tells you outright that that’s what they are doing, but the assumptions about how often people actually do that are coming from both doctors at the hospital and waitstaff AND in this thread from other people with allergies. So it seemed like commenters here who had diagnosed conditions (or, in some cases, were just related to people with diagnosed conditions) were very indignant and judgy about the idea of other people eating their secret special food when they don’t “really” need it, and my response is, well, how the fuck do you know when it’s some stranger in front of you in line? Maybe it’s someone buying bread for a shared meal, and since they are out of the gluten free stuff they will get normal bread here and try another shop later or make rice for the GF person. Or maybe they’ve just decided to say fuck it and deal with the consequences because this is the third store they’ve been to and they’re hungry.

            I would never assume that someone who tells me that they are allergic is probably faking. If you say you’re allergic, you’re allergic. If you say something doesn’t agree with you, it doesn’t agree with you. I mean, how do food allergies get diagnosed in the first place? Something doesn’t agree with you for long enough or drastically enough that you go get it checked out. Are you only officially allergic after you’ve seen the doctor, and before then when you’re shitting your brains out and swelling up and getting hives you’re just a big faker who ruins it for everyone and everyone treats you like that? I hear you guys about bad waiters, chefs, disbelieving doctors, etc. but that’s the culture I want to change with the OP, ie, when people say they don’t want to eat certain stuff, just believe them. Don’t make them show their papers or explain why to you, and don’t assume they are lying. Don’t police other people’s food choices, even if you think you know better. Even if you feel annoyed about their choices, they get to eat how they eat.

          4. I strongly agree with the Captain here.

            And also, I honestly don’t quite see the slippery slope there.
            I think it’s a huge difference if someone says at a restaurant/party/whathaveyou they have an allergy because they know otherwise it’ll only be a big hassle and someone faking deathly symptoms at the doctor’s just to not have to wait. The latter can have immediate consequences to someone who really is in need of fast help, the former…well, doesn’t.
            The only consequence of faking an allergy I can think of is people still putting something into your food/drink and thus find out (or think they find out) you aren’t really allergic and so also treat someone who really is allergic the same way. But, well, as the Captain said numerous times, that is actually a consequence of assholic behaviour and the fault of those who decide that they must test everything they come across–if these people just accepted the stated wishes of others it wouldn’t matter if someone really was allergic or only pretended to be because the only result of that would be people not being served the food they don’t want to, and not an actual danger to anyone.

            I also don’t think it’s fair to assume that someone who pretends to have an allergy is somehow more likely to lie to a doctor. I can honestly imagine doing the first (though I have never done so and also don’t intend to, but who knows what kind of desperate and annoying position I’ll find myself in) but I would never ever do the second. That makes a world of difference.

        4. Sometimes lying is a tactic of desperation. Serotonergic compounds and I get along very, very badly. It’s not a matter of anaphylaxis; it’s a matter of them making me into a terrible, rude, surly, insomniac human being, whose common sense gland has been surgically removed. The first question medical people ask you when you show up to complain about chronic anxiety is, “Have you tried antidepressants?” At one point, I had nearly everyone I was talking to (except the ER staff, who had actually *seen* me while the Prozac experiment was wearing off) arguing with me that SSRIs were the “real” solution I needed.

          Thereafter, whenever someone asked me if I had any medication allergies, I listed SSRIs. No sane doctor will attempt to give you any drug you have listed as an allergy. The very idea gives them the vapors, and recurring nightmares that involve the words “malpractice lawsuit”.

          It’s not exactly the same situation, as the proletariat is unfortunately rife with the people mentioned all over this thread, who want to test your “allergy” out of ignorance or mad power-hunger. But sometimes, making it clear that the bad things that befall ME will subsequently be in some way applied to YOU if you press the matter is the only way to make people stop.

      5. My mother-in-law’s husband likes to claim he has an allergy to fish, because he finds that it cuts down on the attempts people make to persuade him to try some. He thinks he’s terribly clever for coming up with this “solution” and cannot wrap his head around why it might be a problem. (And this is a man with a grandson with a severe peanut allergy, too.)

        1. I should add that this is in the context of being a member of a family with a lot of “picky” eaters – my husband, for example, will not eat turkey, pork, or beef, and he dislikes tomatoes. No one in our circle has a problem with this; they accept it and no one pushes him to “try it just this once.” I’ve never once seen anyone offer fish to my MIL’s husband, or expect him to eat it, and he’s also a person who is very effective at stating his boundaries and enforcing them, so I’m sceptical that his faking an allergy is really about dealing with social pressure, and much more about him being proud of himself: he brags about his “solution” regularly, making it even more clear that he doesn’t care if people know he’s faking the allergy.

        2. YMMV, but I personally feel there’s a difference between “lying about allergies because I don’t like the stuff” and “lying about allergies because the physical consequences, while not actually involving anaphylactic shock, still suck like a rocket-powered shopvac”. Nobody should have to do either one, but disrespectful people who pull stunts on the “I don’t like it” lot and observe no consequences wrongly conclude that nothing will happen to the “rocket-powered shopvac” people either.

          Basically, bad things happen because a second party is forced to accommodate the bad behavior of an unrelated third-party. I’ve started to refer to the doings of said third-party as “ass-haberdashery”, i.e., the art of being such a colossal asshat that you force otherwise normal people to engage in asshat behavior just to deal with you. I occasionally have to explain what a haberdasher is, but I’ve never had to explain the domino effect.

      6. When I was a kid, my parents used to force me to eat things that I could barely swallow, so at some point I said that I thought I might be allergic to something I didn’t like. Alas, it didn’t work. That’s why I started my own religion, and my God considers all the foodstuff that I never liked to be abominations (oh, the blessings of adulthood!).

  15. I liked the frosted pint glass full of ice-less soda. Even though people are there when I order it, is somehow makes them feel less need to push me if my glass looks like theirs.

    1. Club soda with a lime wedge does this trick nicely, too. Not that the LW should have to have a not-even-really-pretend drink in her hand to get people to leave her alone, but at least thirst-quenching is universally pleasant.

    2. I’m quite fond of tonic water with lime in it, but it’s probably an acquired taste. I second the thing about not needing to hide that you aren’t drinking, but I find it refreshing (and if you are looking for camouflage, it does flouresce nicely in black light).

        1. I didn’t like it much originally, but I acquired the taste on purpose when I found out quinine is a muscle relaxant. Useful for restless leg syndrome, post-workout stiffness, and menstrual cramps. Apply about a highball glass of the stuff per 50kg of body mass. Cheap and works wonders.

    3. Plain cranberry juice in a martini glass. Not a Cosmopolitan, but definitely looks like one.

    4. I’ve never had one outside of Australia, but if you’re at a bar that does cocktails they may be able to make you a lemon-lime and bitters, the world’s most delicious fizzy drink to put in my face. It’s a lemon-lime pop like Sprite and bitters, as the name would imply, and looks like alcohol while tasting like heaven. It’s my go-to drink when out with drinking friends.

      1. Oh gosh. How I miss lemon, lime and bitters. I was absolutely appalled when I realised that I’d moved to a country (the UK) where they don’t serve them. I searched liquor stores until I found angostura bitters so I could make them myself, but it’s not the same. *craving*

        1. Just to clarify, for the benefit of people who cannot take any alcohol whatsoever, Angostura Bitters do contain alcohol: 44.7% volume which is 89.4% proof.

          I had a friend who is allergic to alcohol. Even a couple of dashes of Ango would have caused him much distress.

  16. Once upon a time, when I was in college, alcohol was like this magical substance. it was this thing that none of us had ever had, then suddenly we COULD have, and it was kind of forbidden and it made your head go funny and it was suddenly the coolest thing on earth.

    Of course, then we all turned 23 and grew out of it. But for a while there, a party without liquor was non-existent. So I can kind of understand where your friends are coming from, even if they’re being stupid about it and not accepting your boundaries.

    Here’s the thing. *nobody* likes alcohol the first time they try it. ALL of us went through the “eewwww” stage, and then slowly navigated our way through finding things we liked, then having our taste buds acclimate, then learning to appreciate things that had been super-gross years before.

    So when you say, “I don’t like alcohol.” what your friends are hearing is, “Make a recommendation to me for something that doesn’t suck!” And because alcohol is this new and magical substance with sorcery-like abilities, everybody is eager to offer their solution.

    So resist the urge to defend your choice or rationalize it or whatever. Like The cap’n says, just say straight up: “No thanks.” And change the subject. If your friends keep pressing that issue, they’ve crossed the douche threshold and you no longer need to be nice to them about it.

    1. And because alcohol is this new and magical substance with sorcery-like abilities, everybody is eager to offer their solution.

      And of course it never, never occurs to them that someone might have felt those sorcery-like abilities and not liked them at all. Or actively disliked them. Or have fifty years of not liking anything about the stuff and really not need to be treated like a little kid being told to eat its greens.

  17. I feel your pain LW – I don’t drink either, for a mixture of reasons and Reasons, and this won’t be much comfort for you right now but I have found the pestering and the questions wore off as I got older so there’s hope!


    When I was younger and there were more people and more nights out, I developed a pithy line that was like 15% true so I didn’t feel weird saying it. I think what made the difference was that I wasn’t emotionally attached to the reason I gave out loud (because it wasn’t really the real reason) so if someone argued with me or tried to persuade me out of it, I didn’t feel like they were attacking me or saying my reason wasn’t enough or really making me defend my choices (which is an easy way to wind people up and might be part of the reason why you feel so aggravated by the questioning).

    The line was ‘I used to drink when I was younger but I turned out to be the drunk girl who cries in the toilet at the party and no one enjoys that LOL’ *eye roll*

    I think in ten years I can probably count on one hand the people who questioned that! Most (idiot) people chuckled in recognition of that particular stereotype and if they weren’t an idiot, they realised it was a white lie and backed off.

    I don’t know if it’s entirely appropriate now – it’s sort of a bit sexist and shame-y – but it functioned very well as a shield.

    It might be worth trying to find your shield, LW – it might give you some separation from the questioning so you can take back the space to set the boundaries the good Captain recommends.

    1. Fun fact: I literally *was* that girl. The first time I ever got drunk, I went to the bathroom, totally fine…and broke down sobbing as soon as I got to the toilet. The world was suddenly the most overwhelmingly lonely place.

      I got over that quickly, but that’s pretty funny. If I laughed at your response, it would be a “Man, do I know how THAT feels” laugh.

      1. I was that girl too! It wasn’t the reason I didn’t drink but it felt near enough to the truth to fall off the tongue easy. OMG and now it looks like I meant all people who laughed were idiots, so I’m very sorry for that inference 😦

      2. I was that girl, too. After a bottle and a half of beer everything seemed so awful that I had to try and keep back tears. (This was at a work party, no less.)

        1. Oh man, that’s the worst. I have a super high tolerance, which made navigating social functions a bit perilous because to an outsider it would look like sober, sober, sober, weeping on the floor. Humiliating enough with your best friends, but positively anguish-inducing around acquaintances or strangers.

  18. Growing up in a very alcohol-driven country (probably one of the worst countries for binge drinking), I had a real culture shock at University where drinking heavily was not just a social activity, it was THE social activity. I was interrogated and made a social pariah for not drunking. I kept being told that it would make me relax and less uptight (I was only uptight because people wouldn’t freakin’ leave me alone already about not drinking). I even had a soft drink spiked by ‘friends’ who got upset when I wouldn’t drink any more after realising it was (what I now know is) rum.

    Even now, I’m still badgered about it. Because I’ve found a few alcoholic drinks that I don’t mind the taste of, I just have one or two light alcoholic mixers to start with, which sets people on ease and stops them badgering me, and then I’m on the soft drinks all night. This is not something I say the LW should do, at all, by the way.

    I don’t see the appeal of getting ‘plastered’/utterly drunk, and I think that it’s part of the reason drinkers encourage others – because they don’t want to be judged in their drunken state by someone sober. I think it’s a shame my culture views alcohol = awesome, non-alcohol = dull. I don’t even know if half the people who are out drinking even really want to be drunk, or feel that they won’t be accepted/viewed as boring.

    LW, all you need to say is ‘no, thanks’. If your culture is anything like mine, you will never give an adequate explanation so you may as well take the least amount of effort to refuse (or have fun with the wildest stories you can think of – “I was abducted by aliens when I was last drunk, and I don’t wanna risk getting abducted again”, “I’m a superhero and I have to be alert for any villains trying to take over the world”, etc.

  19. The Alcohol Inquisition is a curious phenomenon. In its ruthless hunt for teetotalitarians, it will use weapons such as I Used To Think Like That Too, Free Psychological Consultation On Why You’re Afraid To Lose Control, and best of all, I Bought You A Drink Anyway. The latter is a marvelous way to gain free drinks if you play the role of the teetotalitarian’s friendly neighbourhood garbage disposal.

    1. YES to all of this! I live in a *suuuuuper* weed-enthusiastic region, and I get shit flipped at me All. The. Time. just along these lines when I decline. Particularly the perennial favorite FPCOWYATLC, paired with a sparkling Are You Going To Live Your Whole Life Like The Poor, Rabbit-Eyed, Sheltered Suburban Sheep I Want To Imagine You To Be?! Screw ’em.

      1. Uuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhhhhhh so I do in fact drink like a fish but I used to (thankfully not so much anymore, now that I have less assbaggy friends) get that kind of attitude about my complete uninterest in weed (which I am still completely uninterested in) and my general way-less-than-everyone-else interest in sexuality (none at all in my teen years, and now I’ve moved on to being sometimes but rarely interested in specific people, but still not at all driven to seek out new people to have that particular type of interest in, and SUPER not at all interested in hooking up with strangers). I used to get a lot of impromptu evo psych lectures and armchair diagnosing of various childhood traumas. It was SO BORING. Like, sorry you think I’m “rebelling” wrong, but I’ve always had a stubborn streak about not doing stuff I didn’t like doing just because everyone told me to.

  20. I am an actual recovering alcoholic who is not inclined to divulge that information to most people, and so I have perfected my ‘nope, thanks’ script with a partial truth–I have thyroid disorder, and as a consequence, I need to avoid alcohol as it interferes with my meds. Do I regale all-and-sundry with tales of my former life as an addict? Hell no. One–none of their business, Two–I’m not that person anymore, why talk about her as though I were, and Three–this is my body’s wellbeing, not fucking NATO peace treaty negotiations. Other people can do what works for them. Drinking doesn’t work for you, and anyone who bullies and badgers you for the ‘why’ is telling you more about themselves than they are about you.

    1. Just curious. Are you okay with disclosing things about your thyroid disorder? I mean, obviously you are, but could you tell me a bit about the reason why? It seems like disclosing health stuff could easily lead to a similar discussion where people give you advice you haven’t asked for and otherwise throw their opinions on you. I recognize that some people might be doing it out of the kindness of their hearts and wanting to contribute with what worked for them, etc. But still, ick. Like you say, it’s your body’s wellbeing – maybe not the best first topic of discussion?

      YMMV. I’m rambling, and I’m more of a “get a feel for someone before giving them details about my health”-person.

      1. I mostly do it because there’s a visible scar on my throat from the partial thyroidectomy–literally, something I can point at and go ‘see? not making shit up!’ Ideally, you are supposed to greatly limit or curtail your use of ‘c.a.t.s.’ (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar) if you’re on permanent hormone therapy, as they interfere with the absorption/effectiveness of your meds. While you’re right that this is also heading into the over-explaining of your ‘No’, it’s an easier out that also
        doesn’t have the Eternal Badge of Morally Bankrupt Shame attached to it like recovery from alcoholism does. I’ve really only met one asshole who just kept going and prying after I explained it this way. Mostly, it works.

          1. Happy to do so, hope that helps and it kind of went along with what some other folks recommended. That is to say, a partial truth sometimes works wonders as an effective derail for the folks who don’t stop at ‘no, thanks.’

        1. “the Eternal Badge of Morally Bankrupt Shame attached to it like recovery from alcoholism”

          This part made me so sad for you, that people react to it like that. You’ve done something really hard that most people never need to do, and you’re still doing it and succeeding. That’s awesome, and it makes you awesome.

          (This is not to say I think you should get into it with people trying to push drinks on you – I know I wouldn’t want to if I were in your shoes. They have already proved they’re not safe people to talk about difficult stuff with, just by not respecting “no thanks”.)

        2. Wow – I have been on thyroxine since 2001, and had a partial thyroidectomy in 2008, and none of my doctors have EVER mentioned that to me! Thanks for the heads up – will have to investigate further…

          1. Yiskah, they didn’t tell me, either. Not to derail the thread, but there’s a completely great reference for all things thyroid/hormonal called “Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled?” by Richard Shames, MD that brought it to my attention. I also learned that if you are having little or no relief of hypo symptoms with just your synthroid (thyroxine), you can supplement it with a small dose of Liothyronine. Needless to say, ask your doctor (I don’t even play one on tv, sorry!) if you can still drink moderately with no issues.
            I may be projecting My Stuff about my recovery onto other people, but unfortunately, I have encountered assbags who, when given that information, set it aside to use as ammunition at a later time. I would definitely tell someone I was dating about it, but I don’t tell new acquaintances. In my case I think it’s been a really healing thing to let go of that life and that identity as no longer useful or needed. YMMV, of course. Good luck to the LW, stand firm and enjoy your tea/soda/non-alcohol beverage of choice!!

        3. It’s always seemed off to me that people associate being a recovering alcoholic with being morally bankrupt or whatever…When I have friends tell me that they don’t drink because they were an alcoholic or were starting to feel uncomfortable with their drinking I respect them more because it takes real strength of character and emotional maturity to say “Even though some other people can drink in moderation, this is something that I can’t do in a healthy way so I will do what is best for me even though it is hard.”

          1. Agreed, and if someone else were to tell me that they were a recovering alcoholic, I’d be very supportive, too. It is difficult, and it is, in fact awesome that anyone can get a handle on a thing like that and get their life back. I know I was also surrounded by a lot of abusive assholes (who, coincidentally, were heavily invested in seeing that I constantly felt bad about myself) at the time. I’m cutting out people who treat me badly these days, the trouble is in finding healthy & kind people to replace them with. Just wanted to say, also, how awesome the Awkward Army is. You guys have no idea how hard you rock!

          2. I’m not sure it’s ‘morally bankrupt’ they’re wary of. People who have just discovered sobriety can be like people who have just made friends with Jesus Christ, or people who have just tumbled onto meditation/crystal healing/BDSM/veganism/other stuff that’s seen as ‘righteous’ or ‘mind expanding’ by one group or another. It’s a very small minority, to be sure, but they tend to be very loud — and just as bad, in their own way, as the “but whyyyyyyyyyyyy aren’t you drinking?” crowd.

  21. Thank you for this. I prefer not to drink, and people hassle me about it all the time. Or they used to, anyway – I now avoid going places where I know people will drink heavily, because I know it will involve having to answer questions and defending myself all evening. As much as I think it is great to have good answers at the ready, I would love it if it wasn’t necessary in the first place. Even the odd expression people get on their faces when I tell them that I usually don’t drink becomes tiring after a while. Last time I told someone, the immediate response was ‘but you are ok with other people drinking, right?’ It is as if I’m trying to shame people with my behaviour (I’ve noticed the same thing happening when somebody is trying to eat healthily – so many people immediately become defensive about their own eating habits). They visibly relax when I tell them it’s not because of my religion/politics; I simply choose not to drink most of the time. Some people seem to take it as a challenge. Even when I tell people alcohol makes me ill, some respond with ‘lets try to get alberthe drunk’. No wonder I don’t go out anymore.

    I wish people could just let me drink or not as I please without feeling the need to comment upon it/ask about it at all. I’ve told my husband that if I want some of what he’s drinking, I’ll ask for it myself, so that I don’t have to refuse his offering all the time (especially when other people are present). Amazingly enough, he has had no problems with this. Why should others?

    1. The “but you are ok with other people drinking, right?” reaction sounds like it could be annoying. I’ve occasionally found myself asking non-drinkers if they’re comfortable with me having a drink. I have grandparents and at least one friend my age who would be polite-but-uncomfortable with me having a glass of wine while around them, which I respect, so it’s not a rhetorical question for me. I can see where it can veer into “but you’re not so uncool as to judge other people for it, right?” territory really fast. Any advice from the non-drinkers here concerning how (or when) to phrase that question? Is it also appropriate to ask about serving meat when vegetarians are present as well?

      1. For what it’s worth, I know a non-drinker who isn’t comfortable being around drunks, or having people she’s close to drink around her. She avoids certain situations (social events in bars, for example), and has asked a few people not to drink around her. She doesn’t expect the rest of the world to abstain, or to be telepathic.

        1. Chiming in late on the matter, but I wanted to second this. I am a teetotaler-type who does not feel comfortable with people getting drunk around me. I’ve loosened up a bit over time — and as I found a circle of people (many of them in recovery) who *don’t* push me to have a drink when I’ve said I don’t want one — and I’m generally okay with, say, my date having a beer or a glass of wine while we’re at dinner. But I wouldn’t be comfortable with a couple of drinks or more, and occasionally I have to bring that up with new people. It’s in the vein of “You do what you like on your own time, but while we’re out together I’d prefer if you didn’t.” or “Not while I’m here, please.” I do try not to make it some sort of ultimatum; however, if someone wants or needs so much to drink/smoke/use whatever it is even in the face of a polite request, we aren’t well-suited and I wouldn’t be making another date with them.

      2. I’m a veggie, and I’m always happy for people to eat meat in front of me. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s OK for people who don’t eat certain things or drink certain things to police the behaviour of those that do, just as it’s not ok to push alcohol on an abstainer. Nobody should be policing the food choices of others, full stop.

        The only case I can see where this might differ is a close friend/family member/etc who wanted some moral support whilst giving up something or found a particular smell very offensive. For example, I hate the smell of tuna, so my friends generally don’t eat it around me. But that’s their choice, and if they want the tuna, I will shut up and deal.

      3. I would tend to ask “are you” rather than “you are, right?” because it doesn’t presuppose an answer. It also depends heavily on tone of voice. I’d go for lightish with a tone of genuineness/curiosity so it sounds like I actually want their answer, not the answer I want them to have.

    2. I think it depends on social context. I do drink, and I have friends who don’t, or who will decide not to for various reasons. If I’m with a group that’s not drinking, I won’t drink. I don’t need to. If I’m one on one with a friend who’s not drinking and we’re having dinner and I want to have a nice glass of wine, I’ll ask if she’s ok with me drinking. Because if you want to drink but can’t, for whatever reason, it’s completely horrible to have to watch a friend enjoying something that you can’t do (see: me and cheese. I love, LOVE the taste, and have to keep reminding myself that it is not worth the intestinal disturbances.) Or if they’re uncomfortable being around people who drink.
      Basically, I want my friends to be comfortable. If one of them said, wrinkling their nose “Could you not?” I’d go “OK, no problem.”
      If it’s a stranger, I just flat out don’t bother to ask.

  22. Montana here (as in the state with the highest number of drunken driving related fatalities–not exactly a brag worthy statistic, right?), and I can assure you that in a few years your friends will be more than happy to have a sober buddy who wants to accompany them on their outings, and that that the blush of the early drinking years will probably wane. Hey, you’re a great friend, you’re happy to hang out with them while they’re drinking because you enjoy their company (how is that condemning in any way?). Sure, maybe they want you to share in their fun, or maybe their reasons are less friendly. Assure them that you’re having fun just the way you are, and keep saying no. They’ll get it eventually, and if no doesn’t work, tell them that while they’re great to be around, you do have fun when they’re not pressuring you.

    I sympathize with not caring for the taste of alcohol, or even the idea of being drunk. There are some charms, but overall the experience is overrated. As for the Celiacs and those with food allergies, one issue is enough for me. I can’t even imagine how much strength and determination it takes to be vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free. I tip my cyber-space hat to anyone who can manage any of those things.

    1. It’s nice to see another Montanan here. Yes, the drinking culture here is intense . I knew folks (OK, men.) who gauged trip length by how many beers they’d drink enroute. “All the way to Choteau? That’s a 5 six-pack drive!” I listened to boys in high school brag about how drunk they’d gotten over the weekend and how much they’d puked. It never sounded like fun to me. Luckily, there are still social circles where the drinking is moderate and the coercion non-existent.

  23. Just chiming in as a person who didn’t drink alcohol for years (and rarely drinks now), that I feel your pain.

    As a someone in the LIS field, I can assure you that there are plenty of LIS people who don’t drink, like gaming, and are fun to be around. You are not an outlier and don’t let others make you feel that way.

  24. I do drink (rarely) … but I can’t stand the taste of beer or wine, and those were the only alcoholic beverages available on my campus. My friends would ask me if I wanted to go to the pub with them and get a beer and I would say yes and get a soda. After a few rounds of this, they stopped asking me to go with them and I started to hear the rumor that I was a teetotaler who hated alcohol. And then new people stopped asking me to go to the pub with them. It sucked. No one bothered to ask me – and I would have cheerfully told them that I do drink, just not beer or wine … and that I didn’t care if they drank so long as they didn’t mind me sticking to soda if beer or wine was the only alcohol available.

    We live in a very strange culture where people make a LOT of judgments about you based on what you drink. I wish to god people *had* actually talked to me about this, but more so, I wish my acceptance hadn’t hinged quite so much on how my quietly abstaining from beer made them feel about themselves.

    1. I feel your pain. I’ve had people offer to buy me rounds and then get annoyed with my ‘girly’ choices, but as beer would make me sick, I just keep the broken record going…

  25. When I get push back on turning down alcohol, I usually go with “If I’m going to consume that many empty calories I’d rather it be ice cream.” I used to try to explain my reasons, but that would just set up a situation where convincing me I was wrong became a challenge they had to win at for some reason. As I got older and started to give less of a damn about what others thought, after about the second no I’d just flat out ask why my consuming alcohol was so damn important to them. That either shuts them up, or they get huffy and storm off and I can get back to my sweet, sweet ice cold caffeine.

  26. Someone making a different choice than you would make is not invalidating your choices.

    I love this! Nicole and Maggie–BTW, now *both* tenured w00t!–have eloquently explained this point on the blogge, but I can’t find where. Anyway, this is a huge terrible problem with people who are bad with boundaries. They feel like other people are making choices “at” them.

  27. When I went abroad for ‘work experience’*, I was a non drinker and happily so, because I genuinely hadn’t found a drink I liked the taste of, and when I was younger, I just wasn’t interested, because the youth drinking culture around me didn’t seem safe. Someone once told me that they’d love to see me drunk and without my self-control (though I fail to see how massive enthusiasm over geeky things demonstrated any self-control whatsoever), and that just wasn’t a good enough reason. My colleagues abroad, who came from my heavy drinking culture, were surprised, and asked if I wanted them to find me a drink I liked. Since I operate on a system of ‘I’ll try it once but don’t guarantee twice’, I agreed, but that was entirely my choice. They found out pretty quickly that even when I wasn’t drinking, I could still be pretty fun, and when I was drinking, it was still hard to get me to dance on the tables with them (true story).

    Even though I drink now, I’m very controlling about how much I drink. If I know I want to get very tipsy, I’ll drink a bit more, but once I’m done drinking, I’m done. I live in a culture of ‘go on, have another’, to which I have to keep saying no. I’ve found a good technique for me, and it might work for you, LW, is to jovially say ‘no thanks, but if you really want to get me something, I’d love a soda’. Saying that makes the people I’m spending time with feel like they’re being gracious by getting me what I’d actually like, so I find it helps. Not that you should have to buffer their feelings, but like I say, I find it works. Someone who pressures you after that is just being a jerk.

    Also, it kinds of amuses me that people would be so eager to buy someone a drink rather than a soda, as soda is usually a lot cheaper!

    *Long story…

    1. Heh, I got the “Oh, we have to get you drunk sometime” when I first started university.

      For a little while, I even wanted to try it, just to have that experience. But I drink really slowly. Not just alcohol, I’ve used hours to drink a bottle of apple juice. And I won’t drink faster in order to get drunk. (This caused the only real peer-pressure situation I had with my friends about this, a friend of mine kept instructing me to “sip” every few seconds. It got incredibly annoying, and we had a frank discussion the next day. She never did it again.)

      So once, someone decided that maybe jello-shots were the solution. The result? I went from sober to sober-and-vomiting, with no hint of drunk or tipsy in between. After that, I stopped wanting to try to be drunk, and everyone stopped trying to get me drunk.

      1. People still give me the occaisonal “oh, I’d love to see you drunk sometime!”. I don’t know why, I don’t know whar kind of personality change they are hoping to see. I’m not a an absolutist, but I genreally find drinking to be pointless and unnecessarily expensive. Also, it usually makes me sad.

        On thinking about this, it’s a bit insulting, this continued fascination with the idea of me being drunk. Does it have something to do with the idea that you will show your true personality while intoxicated, the whole In vino veritas thing?

        1. I loved discovering the power of saying things really bluntly, but using a really cheerful tone of voice.

          “I’d love to see you drunk sometime.”

          Cheery Voice:”That sounds like a terrible idea! Let’s hope that never happens!” *Bright Smile*

          I like to imagine that I’m about to add a “hooray!” at the end.

        2. That “I want to see you drunk sometime” really grosses me out. I can’t help hearing it as “You are always so self-possessed and in control, and I want to shatter that, to see you vulnerable.” Which is not, to my mind, a friendly thought.

          Similarly, “I want to get you drunk sometime” makes me think “If anybody is going to get me drunk sometime, it had damned well better be me. Consuming the alcohol of my own free will. Because you ‘getting’ me drunk sounds pressure-y at best, non-consensual at worst. And either of those would be the death of this friendship (such as it is… as I reevaluate whether it even IS a friendship every time you say crap like that).”

          1. Yes to all of this.

            The being-in-control bit especially. Because I’ll admit that if a guy says this to me, then it’s a red flag.

          2. “I don’t like you being in control of you because it makes it harder for me to be in control of you, which I think is the way things should be.”

          3. Sometimes it’s just curiosity. I freely admit that I, being a sociologist by training, am really weird about this stuff. I’m more likely to ask, “So what ARE you like when you’re drunk?” rather than nagging, though — I don’t really care if you think my questions are weird, but I do care about not making you upset with them.

        3. Sorry, I completely forgot the reason I was replying in the first place. Because yes, it’s a little weird the way people act as though getting drunk will somehow “reveal my real personality”.

          (But this is also always about how it’s said. A musing “I wonder what you’d be like drunk” or “I wonder what kind of drunk you’d be. I think you’d be a Sleepy Drunk” is different from “Man, I HAVE to see you drunk someday, that would be hilarious.”)

        4. I got that so often too! It was hilarious when I did get drunk for the first time and all that happened was that I sat quietly in a corner doing nothing much. Yep, I get boring when I get quite drunk…

          1. LOL! That was me. Got drunk, got boring, threw up, went to sleep. It was unpleasant and I would prefer never to do it again. As it takes a ridiculously small amount of alcohol for me to get drunk, I keep my intake even smaller.

          2. I’m told that I chatter more when drunk. I have no idea how anyone can tell. I have a permanent relapsing-remitting case of logorrhea when something catches my interest, sober or otherwise. For details, see: My entire blog.

        5. My friend was working in Korea and the grad student culture was exactly that way. They were suspicious until they saw you drunk, as that was the only time that a person was allowed, socially, to be themselves. Also, it was the only time they were allowed to make certain kinds of complaints or other social bonding. It was very important to get extremely drunk at least once so that everyone knew what kind of person you really were.

          It combined poorly with her unwillingness to drink heavily and the fact of her gender. I understand that some of Japanese culture is the same way.

          I do, however, note that I have no direct experience with either, but have no reason to suspect the accounts I have been given about alcohol interacting with otherwise highly formalized subcultures.

  28. Another non-drinker here. I went through much of the same thing. I just do not like the flavor of alcoholic drinks, and I’ve had people suggest and have me taste everything under the sun. The alcohol aftertaste remains disgusting to me, and I’ve had enough tries to know that growing into it isn’t particularly likely for me at this point.

    I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family though, who’ve long since accepted that I’ll have a cup of hot chocolate when they break out the coffee and liquor after a big dinner.

    Current friends are also all okay with it, luckily, though some have been very pushy about it in the past. At one point, some then newer friends did feel they had to be pushy, and find me that one drink that I’d, of course, absolutely love. They also suggested that they could also surely find a drink where I wouldn’t taste the alcohol at all, and then they could be funny and spike my drink. I told them then and there, that spiking my drink with anything, ever, would mean an instant end to the friendship. I’d never speak to, or even acknowledge them again. This was in a social situation where the atmosphere had been very friendly and cheerful until that point, so my sudden mood swing towards dead serious got the point across. The topic was never mentioned again. I don’t care that I’m not allergic so it will be “harmless”, putting something in my drink I did not ask for is not okay, ever.

    1. I hate that “Oh, you’re not allergic so it’s harmless” thinking.

      Causing someone’s food/drink to feel unsafe to them is never “harmless”, and I think that’s a lesson that more people need to understand.

      I have enough issues with food already (I’m a woman in western society, of course I have food-related issues), I don’t need to add “can’t trust my food/drink to actually be what I think it is” onto that list.

      1. Absolutely agree with both of you!

        Even if the person does not get sick or need to go to the hospital or something else that is obviously wrong to everyone but the most stupid of people, it is never okay. If someone cannot understand that, put it in terms they’ll understand.

        “You spiking my drink without my knowledge and against my will is crossing a line. How would you like me putting mud/ urine/ spit in your drink? It’s just ‘harmless,’ right?” (The same argument works great with food preferences, too. How would you like dirt/ feces/ my boot in your food)

      2. Yeah, this. Not only do you have to be on the lookout for date rape drugs in your drink of choice when you’re at a bar. Now you have the added pleasure of examining EVERYTHING you drink in front of other people.

    2. A guy spiked my drink with alcohol once. I’d asked for orange juice. He brought back peach juice (which I can’t stand but he preferred it to orange juice so he assumed I would too) and there was alcohol in it. I called him on it and he whined that he was just trying to loosen the tension. Well, that backfired on him because it created a lot of tension that hadn’t been there before. At the time, I didn’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, for taste reasons, and as an added bonus because of a medication I was taking that could have severe consequences when mixed with alcohol. It was an “take when you have symptoms” medicine, not a daily medicine, so I hadn’t actually had any that day, but as I pointed out to him, there was no way he could have known that.

      1. I’m actually boggling the most here at the assumption that obviously his favorite kind of juice is also your favorite kind of juice, even though you specifically asked for something else.

        How do these people manage to grow up and function at all in adult society? Do they do this shit to their bosses? “Well, I felt like St. Patrick’s day should be a corporate holiday, so I figured the office would be closed and nobody else would come into work either.” Were they absent in all the days of kindergarten when teachers would ask kids what their favorite [color, food, whatever] was and the students would give a variety of answers?

        I seriously think we should be able to *actually* fail people at kindergarten and do it to a lot more people. You should not be allowed to progress to first grade, let alone college, without demonstrating a functional understanding of the concept of “different people have different favorites.” Also sharing, waiting your turn, not hitting, and saying please and thank you.

        1. Yeah… some people (lots of people) have trouble with the notion that preferences and emotions and the like are subjective and individualized. My mom comes to mind. Instead of asking directly to accommodate her music preferences (which would be fine), she says “can you please not put on awful music without any good melodies”? When someone asks her not to put a certain thing in a certain food, the response is “but it’s delicious”! And – my absolute least favorite – the insistence that we MUST go swim with her (she loves swimming in even the coldest water) even if the water’s cold because it’s wonderful and blissful and we’ll love it!

          Not to mention the concept of “when you say X it makes me feel really bad, so regardless of whether you think that’s a ‘good’ or ‘reasonable’ or ‘healthy’ reaction, please don’t say X if you don’t want me to be really unhappy” being kind of impossible to explain.

          Unsurprisingly, I was pretty bad about respecting others’ preferences too, for a while, and about respecting conversational boundaries. I’m really happy I found sites like this one to teach me otherwise. I hope other oblivious-to-subjectivity people find something like this as well.

        2. haha, actually, not being able to understand that other people have different preferences/points of view puts a person developmentally at about age 2, not even kindergarten.

    3. Additionally, I believe that trying to secretly get people to consume psychoactive substances without their consent or knowledge is called “drugging them,” and drugging people is illegal in most places.

  29. My eldest daughter (20) doesn’t like the taste of most alcoholic drinks unless they’re really sweet, and even then it’s only a few particular drinks – few of which are sold in pubs. I tend not to drink much any more these days myself for a number of reasons. I’ve noticed that when she says she doesn’t want an alcoholic drink, very few people will accept it at face value without trying to coerce her into drinking, whereas when I (40) say no, they just accept it. If I step in and say “No, she doesn’t drink. Hey, how about that [change of subject]?” then they’ll back down, but no 20-year-old wants to drag her 40-year-old mum out on every night out with her mates just to get them to leave her alone when it comes to the alcohol.

    The peer pressure from her age group really is ridiculous, but I’ve noticed that all her friends’ FB posts seem to revolve around how pissed they got last night at the pub/that pub/whatever, or how hung over they are from the previous night/weekend/that bender. I suspect it’s something of a herd mentality taking over, and someone not conforming to what’s seen as herd behaviour is somehow threatening.

    Plus I guess if everyone else is losing their inhibitions, perhaps they’re a bit unnerved by the thought that if they do something completely outrageous or just plain dumb & stupid whilst drunk, there’s one person present who is guaranteed to remember the next day. Not unnerved enough to moderate their own drinking – but enough to try and pressurise the non-drinker into getting inebriated too so they won’t pose a threat.

    It’s something that I guess most people grow out of, but that’s not much compensation whilst you’re still that age and getting the hassle.

    1. perhaps they’re a bit unnerved by the thought that if they do something completely outrageous or just plain dumb & stupid whilst drunk, there’s one person present who is guaranteed to remember the next day. Not unnerved enough to moderate their own drinking – but enough to try and pressurise the non-drinker into getting inebriated too so they won’t pose a threat.

      How silly. No drunk has been safe from that since someone first thought to put a camera in a cell phone. Facebook will ALWAYS remember.

  30. I drink, but I drink within limits. My usual rule is “One if I’m leaving early; two if I’m staying late; three if I’m staying over.” I find I’m much happier when I stick to those rules. (Full disclosure: I don’t always stick to them.)

    Sometimes men take it upon themselves to buy me drinks without asking if I want them first and I have to explain that what I have in my hand is my last drink for the evening and I don’t need another one, thank you. How they respond to this information tells me a lot about what kind of person they are–if they go “whoops, sorry” and give the drink to someone else, I think much more of them than if they get pissy and ask me what the hell I think I’m doing turning down free alcohol like that.

    1. Very true! It can be a great way to learn more about the person buying the drink.

      The same with them asking. You can do a polite turn around such as “I’ll have a water or club soda, thank you.” so they still feel like they’re doing a favor. If they ignore that and give you alcohol, that tells you a lot.

      I’ve had the experience with a friend of my friends constantly asking and I repeatedly saying no. Finally he asked if he could get me a water and I said “Thanks, but no need.” But he got up and got me a water. That taught me something. If he had given me alcohol, that would teach me something else. If he accepted my no, something else entirely.

  31. I used to get this a lot too, when I still went out every week (about age 16 to mid-twenties).
    I also don’t drink alcohol because I just don’t like the taste and never saw the appeal of getting drunk (I know people who also don’t like the way it tastes but still drink when they feel like getting drunk).

    I used to go with ‘no’ or no thanks’, or occasionally if they pressed for a reason, every now and then ‘I just don’t want to’. And it worked on some people, but other people still pressed on anyway. The habit was for one person at a time to take orders and go buy the drinks for the rest of the group. Eventually some of these people who had a problem with me not drinking alcohol tried coming back with the drink I ordered (like diet coke, just for the sake of an example), but with alcohol mixed in. Like I wouldn’t be able to just smell it, let alone taste it.
    The only solution then seemed to be to get screaming, aggressively mad at them, ask a friend to do the same, and never socialising with them or accepting drinks from them again. I’d tried being polite, and I’d tried being insistent and I’d tried just not talking to them when they brought it up. They just moved to some other tactic. Some of them did seem to care when they realised I was actually angry, but some of them did not.

    I still don’t get what it is with some things. Lots of stuff people are just fine if you don’t want to do it, and I don’t know if it’s even always that people feel like you are invalidating their own choices, for example: no one ever gave a shit that I didn’t smoke even if almost everyone else did; no one ever cared that I didn’t do whatever drug most other people were doing either. But alcohol and a bunch of other stuff, and some people just turn into total creeps who try to pressure you or even sneak-force it on you. And I know some people will be like this over anything, but there still seem to be some things that it happens with a lot more than with everything else, and I haven’t yet found a feature that is exclusive to these things.

  32. I drink now, but I was a teetotaler when I was younger and most of my friends didn’t have a problem with it. That being said, people who would try to pressure you to drink need a quick, stiff “why is it so important to you that I drink?” in response.

    I always liked to explain that my dad worked in the liquor industry (he was actually the director of marketing for one of the largest liquor companies in the world), and so I got to see up front all of the behind-the-scenes secret subliminal shit that they do to try to brainwash people into drinking (this is true!). Also, growing up with liquor essentially paying the bills in my house (and ridiculous amounts of swag and advertising copy lying around the house) meant that it didn’t really have that “forbidden mystery” cache that it has for a lot of younger people.

    Of course, nothing compares to the reaction I get when I explain to people that I don’t like chocolate (supertaster!). You would think I killed a sack full of puppies in front of them.

  33. My go-to phrase is, “Thanks, but I’m very happy not drinking.” I like this phrase because it reassures people that you are having a good time, and them suggesting that you do otherwise would make them the jerk.

  34. I drink sometimes, but when I’m home I don’t because there’s no public transit and I don’t like crashing at other places. One friend will always get soooo mad and it really wears me down.
    I don’t smoke weed (no real reason, just not interested) and one friend used to always pressure me, never taking no for an answer. Once she said “when you decide to smoke, I want to be there.” hello, I don’t smoke weed! My sister also kept pressuring me and pressuring me andi finally just had to snap at her. I also had people pressure me into smoking cigarettes ( this was last year, and we were not in high school) and I remember thinking “seriously?” I wish people would just accept other people’s preferences.

  35. The funny thing about Explanation Theatre is that we get so used to having to justify everything that it becomes uncomfortable not doing it! I tend to accept food allergies, drink preferences, whatever, without question, and it gets WEIRD.

    Me: Hey Friend, we’re ordering pizza. Would you like any?
    Friend: No, thanks, I just can’t stomach cheese. It’s lactose intolerance.
    Me: Oh, okay. Too bad.
    Friend: I mean, I get really sick. It’s not that I have something against pizza.
    Me: Understandable. If there’s anything you want to get, let us know.
    Friend: I mean, I tried some once, but then…

    When really I’m just like, I get it! You don’t want any pizza. It’s not a referendum on whether you love us as friends. I’m not going to put you on the rack. Let it go.

    1. You know, I bet some of the time the person’s really trying to convince themselves that they really can’t have whatever it is. There was a time when I had dietary restrictions on stuff that I actually really loved to eat, and it was so difficult and sad to say no when people offered me this kind of food! I said no (usually), but on some level I wanted to spend as much time as possible in the world where pizza (or whatever it was) was a possibility… so even if the offerer totally accepted my initial no, I went through the whole justification dance anyway.

    2. My husband comes from a family where you are always, in every situation expected to justify your choices. Occasionally it’s Competitive Justification Theatre when his family are around.

      It can be really frustrating in conversations to get him to just say yes or no without lengthy justification, and dealing with that in him has caused me to become much more aware of when I start doing the same kind of thing (usually when it involves something I got shit from my family about or otherwise have insecurities around).

      1. I am from that kind of family, too, and I had to learn (and have partners tell me outright) when I was over-justifying. I think that’s why I’ve come out so far on the other end of that spectrum as an adult. Demanding explanations for things that aren’t really yours to decide and then derailing the explanation for not being “good” enough is a powerful manipulation technique.

    3. Argh, yes. I get where it comes from, but after a certain point I just want to take them aside and say, if you want to call me a judgy asshole, could you please just do that directly instead of assuming when I say “Oh, okay, no problem” that I don’t mean it?

      1. Kind of like people who second-guess what I do, at length, if there’s some benefit for them. “I’ve had enough cookies, you can finish it off.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, I’m done.” “Oh, I don’t want to take them if you change your mind.” “No really, I don’t want any more.” “Are you absolutely certain it’s okay?” “YES, AND STOP TELLING ME THAT I’M NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE MY OWN DAMN DECISIONS.”

        Since these social protocols, in context, do not mean to call the other person a judgy asshole, imply that they’re not allowed to make decisions, or pressure them into changing their minds; but out of context, with people who don’t use them? That’s absolutely how they come across.

      2. I *think* it’s probably less a case of “I think you’re a judgy asshole” and more a case of “I have a script and it’s hard to come up with new things to say on the fly and oh god why can’t I stop talking about the Giant Shit of Doom?”

  36. OH MY GOD. I just got the best Captain-Awkward-appropriate banner ad of all times. I know they are usually comedically exactlly-off-the-mark, but apparently the spambots have been reading and working on their people skillz.

    It was a banner ad for an AdCouncil campaign called “That’s Not Cool.” And it was for a game where you pick a hypothetical boy/girlfriend and then practice using boundary-setting language while they get increasingly naggy at pushing your boundaries. Kick ass! Go play now: http://www.thatsnotcool.com/Games.aspx

    Although now I am thinking of a Captain Awkward video game. This might be a level, but we’d definitely need one where we flung potted African Violets at Imposing Nosy Old Friend. And a boss fight against Darth Vadar Boyfriends .

  37. The thing is that I just don’t like the taste and if/when they find this out it’s no longer accepted for me to abstain.

    The solution here is do not say “I don’t like the taste”.

    There are some very categories of food & drink that are vast, contain multitudes, and offer an incredible variety of aromas, flavors, and/or textures. When someone says “I don’t like the taste of X”, where X can taste sweet or salty or bitter, creamy or crunchy, nutty or fruity or salty or earthy, sharp or mild, the reaction most people have is to assume limited experience, and that “I don’t like the taste” means “I tried something that had a taste I didn’t like”, not “I have tried lots of different kinds of X, and disliked all of them”.

    “I tried X, and it was too bitter” doesn’t work as a deflection, because not all X is bitter. (or sweet, or salty, or whatever)

    Bear in mind, this doesn’t just happen with alcohol. There are lots of categories of food that fall into this space: cheese, olives, cured meats, coffee, chocolate, mustard… the Captain’s scripts work equally well for someone pushing Sake or Stilton.

    1. While I think that you do have a valid point about the way humans think and react to certain speeches or excuses, her friends still need to understand after the first and especially repeated attempts to say no that “no” really does mean “no”. People might be easier to deflect if she avoids using that particular tactic, and it’s true that she can only change her own behavior, and not that of others, but the emphasis shouldn’t be solely on her. Others, especially her friends, need to respect her boundaries, and not simply look for an excuse to think that she might be “waffling” and coerce her into other activities, no matter how well meant. Yes, I think her friends just want to include her in an activity that they think is fun and they want her to enjoy with them, but she’s already stated that she still enjoys going out with her friends. If she says that she doesn’t enjoy alcohol, but that she still enjoys their company, it would be mature of them to respect her decision, and let her drink a different beverage instead (if any) while still hanging out with them. In the meantime, if she enjoys being the designated driver or the person who looks out for them in a less than sober state, then there’s an advantage had on both sides.

    2. This happens to me with cooked vegetables. I dislike about 90% of cooked vegetables, although there are plenty of them that I like raw. I know I don’t like them because I’ve tasted them. Lots of them. In different dishes and prepared different ways. I’ll even try them again every so often because my tastes do change. I didn’t develop a taste for coffee until age 37 (thanks, boss, for bringing in an espresso machine). So it’s really annoying for someone to say “Oh, well you love cheese, don’t you? How about broccoli with cheese sauce, I bet you’ll love that!”

      The answer is no. Broccoli with cheese sauce just ruins perfectly good cheese sauce.

      “I don’t like the taste” does seem to invite a “But have you tried this variety?” response.

      So my standard answer is something along the lines of “I dislike most cooked vegetables, but I’m happy with a salad”. Or “Although I like chocolate, I dislike desserts that are heavily chocolate.” Regarding alcohol, telling people I have a low tolerance for it and it will put me to sleep has worked pretty well.

      People generally don’t seem to like hearing a flat “I don’t like that”, but a short and simple qualifier has worked well for me in keeping people from pushing.

      OTOH, people who know me generally know better than to push me, and when people do push me, I tend to walk away.

  38. Hello there! Another person who doesn’t drink because 1) Oh my god why does everything with alcohol in it smell and taste like turpentine 2) It does very not good things to me and 3) Ahoy heredity addiction issues in almost every member of my entire family on both sides going back GENERATIONS here.
    I’m nearly 30 now and I can definitely say that for me dealing with other people trying to get me to drink has gotten better with time— it’s a combination of having a lot of practice saying no, finding strategies that worked for me in how to say no, and the people around me finally getting more secure in being around someone who doesn’t drink.

    It’s that finding ways of saying no and figuring out why the hell some people got so hostile about the alcohol thing that were really big for me. The Captain’s scripts are a great place to start when you get cornered by someone who demands you justify yourself to them—and oh yes, that’s going to happen soooo much. And it sucks that it’s going to happen and you shouldn’t have to be in a place where you have to wade through other people’s issues to have a good time. But I’m not going to lie to you: it’s going to keep on happening.

    I’m a “the best defense is a good offense” type person. Through years of trial and error, I’ve found a couple of good strategies that help head off the “oh my god go away and stop pressuring me you asshole” conversation for all but the most determined people. Most of it has to do with image. When I walk in the door, rather than being in a position where I have to make a negative statement like “No, I’m not going to drink x”, it seems to help control the situation a bit more when I can start out from a positive place saying “Ooooh, I would *love* a Shirley Temple/ Root Beer/ Virgin Sunrise/ Roy Rogers/ Abstinence on the Beach/ Arnold Palmer/ Coke”. And then I stick to that until it gets normal for people to see me with that drink. Also, having a mixed drink (woo, Virgin Sunrise!) or a bottle (hello Sprecher or Goose Island root beer/cream soda)in my hand tends to help make people who aren’t used to being around someone who’s not drinking feel better because I’m blending into the background. This is also where geeky enthuasism can come in handy, because when you geek out about how awesome someone’s creative non-alcoholic selection is, it tends to reassure people that your choice not to drink isn’t come from A Moral High Ground, which helps to calm people down.

    As to that figuring out why not drinking makes some people profoundly uncomfortable? A lot of it seems to be a fear that You Are Judging Them, So They Will Judge You First And Harder And Make You Do What They’re Doing So You Can’t Judge Them Anymore And Possibly Make Them Stop Doing Something They Find Fun. Other people will have other reasons, but for most it seems to boil down to that. As a couple of other people have said above? That’s their issue.

    And those pushy assholes who simply can’t handle you not drinking and either try to coerce you or spike your drink? They’re doing you a kindness by waving a giant red flag and yelling “I don’t respect boundaries! If you think this is bad, it will only get worse!” Take the gift they’re offering and take note.

    But seriously, it does get better. It’s gotten to the point where my one of my local bartenders has gotten into the habit of trying out his mocktail concoctions on me and my friends now regularly stock grenadine and Sprite at parties because they know that’s my jam. Good luck!

    1. Abstinence on the Beach?! Do tell.

      When I was a bartender, I had a reputation for making kickass Shirley Temples.

      1. ingredients:
        1 can (12 ounce size) frozen grapefruit juice concentrate
        1 can (12 ounce size) frozen cranberry juice concentrate
        1/4 cup coconut milk
        9 cups cold water

        In a 6 quart container combine concentrated grapefruit juice, concentrated cranberry juice and water.

        Put 1 cup of juice and the coconut milk in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and pour back into main juice mixture. Stir to incorporate. Chill at least 2 hours. Serve in punch bowl or pitcher. (http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/380/AbstinenceOnTheBeach64044.shtml)

        I would float peach slices in the bowl, myself.

        For the sake of on-topic, I almost always follow up a refusal of alcohol with a request for a non-alcoholic drink, usually a fruit juice and club soda, so that I’m accepting the intended hospitality of my hosts.

        Then if they continue being or start acting like jerks, I’ll move on to a hard no.

    2. Seconded on the geeky enthusiasm front. I totally geek out over sodas the way some people geek out over wine and beer. It’s a great distraction.

      Friend: I’m going to the bar, can I get you anything?
      Rose: Oh, a ginger ale, but only if it’s Schweppes or Seagram’s. No Canada Dry. And for the love of all lovable things do not let them mix Sprite and Coke and call it ginger ale! If they don’t have any decent ginger ale I’ll just have a pint glass of ice water, thanks. Oh, unless they have root beer. But not Barq’s, Barq’s is revolting. A&W or Fanta is fine. Not Boylan’s, too saccharine… you know, maybe I should come up to the bar with you and just see what they have.
      Friend: *looks very relieved at not having to remember all of that*
      Rose: Oh man, the other day I went to a burger joint that had Stewart’s root beer ON TAP. I was so excited!
      Friend: *looks desperate to talk about anything else*

      It also conveys “I am deliberately choosing IN FAVOR OF this thing I like” rather than “I am SO AGAINST this thing you like”. I mention the pint glass of ice water for the same reason; it makes it clear that I really want a lot of water.

      Beyond that, seconding that “No” is a complete sentence and so is “I don’t want to” or “I’d rather not”. If I really don’t want anything at all to drink, I say “I’m good, thanks”. Anyone who pushes you beyond that is being an asshole and you’re entirely justified in saying so.

        1. Sometimes I cry because I can’t get Vernor’s in Melbourne, and a 12 pack of Canada Dry at Costco runs like $15.

      1. But I love Barq’s! And IBC more! But not A&W or Mugg or that crappy root beer at Panera.

        Yes, this has great potential. Excellent idea.

      2. This is hilarious, but I do know what you mean. I dislike Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but I’m perfectly happy with any other brand of cola. It’s extraordinary the number of people who have asked me “Coke or Pepsi?” and can’t accept it when I say “Neither”.

  39. My thing when was younger, was have a non alcoholic drink in a pint glass and say “no thanks I’m good” and if they attempted to pour something in put a hand over he top of it and repeat “no thanks I’m good”

    Now I get to say I’m Diabetic

    As another suggestion to add to the script of you’re creeping me out “you are making me feel not welcome, I’m going now” and find another conversation.

    good luck

  40. LW, I feel you. Now people are pretty cool with it and when I refuse alcohol they ask out of curiosity if it’s for a health reason or whatever, to which I reply “no, I just don’t like the taste”. And they leave it at that! It’s pretty awesome!

    My teen years, though, were pretty different. In my country, teenagers usually start drinking around 16, and it’s this cool new thing, you know? So they want everyone to share their cool new experience. And there starts the coercion and exasperated sighs when I persist in refusing etc etc. I hated it. I’m so happy it stopped now. I have cool people in my life, I’m really glad for them.

    My brother even once tricked me by putting alcohol in my glass of lemonade when I left the table for a few minutes. Jerk.

  41. Now, obviously, you shouldn’t have to make anything up or accommodate other people’s unreasonableness, but I’ve almost always had success with, “Nah, I have to drive home.” I do drink, so when I say that it’s usually true (though sometimes I just don’t feel like drinking and don’t want to have a tiresome conversation about it, so I just preempt that with the driving explanation). Only one person has ever kept pressuring me after that. He was, of course, drunk at the time.

  42. Also, if someone tells me they don’t drink or that they don’t want a drink right now, I find myself saying, “That’s okay! I won’t peer pressure you!” And then I feel stupid because I’m like, “We aren’t in high school anymore, who would peer pressure someone to drink?” BUT THE ANSWER IS APPARENTLY EVERYONE.

  43. It’s not only the ignoring of boundaries (hi, LW! I don’t drink either, I don’t like the taste, smell or the feeling of alcohol changing my mood!) it’s the whole you don’t fit our norms crap that irritates me. I get it a lot with the subject of hot food, especially when I visit friends in the US. “You have a timid palate” or “but this isn’t hot” nonsense coming from people trying to push me to eat stuff that will HURT. And they know it will hurt. I get quite short about that.

    Wish I had some useful advice, but this is more a fistbump for having had similar tripe thrown my way.

    1. I recently figured out the hot issues. Some of it goes into the supertaster line of reasoning (apparently like a fourth of people?) But basically, some people have more taste buds and are more sensitive to things like spicy and hot food. Some people have less taste buds and need MORE spiciness to taste the same amount of spice you or I would. You can try explaining this to them and sometimes it makes for a great almost subject change and people get interested. Other times they still call you a wimp, but hopefully it sticks in their mind and they do it less later.

      So you’re not a wimp. You just taste food stronger. Their mouths are inferior.

      1. Heh, my favourite line to use is actually a joking “I’m a real wimp about it.” It means that I get to make it really clear that I Do Not Want The Hot Food. This has also been useful in restaurants, staff tend to remember a joking “a timid dish for a timid customer”, or “Reallyreallyreally mild. Mild like a summer breeze. Just think spicy thoughts at it, that’s enough.” or “Do you have anything that lives in blissful ignorance of the existance of chili-peppers?”

        But yeah, it’s also one of those things where the more hot food you eat, the “better” you get at eating hot food. But I think it’s unpleasant to eat it, so why would I do it more often? I’ve also had some luck with people who talk about how they like it when a dish makes them sweat, or when the mouth starts to tingle, by just saying “Yeah, I know a lot of people like that. That’s exactly what I DON’T enjoy, though. It just makes me really uncomfortable, and then I want to go home.”

        The best thing about boundaries is when you get to the level that you completely expect everyone to follow them. I get genuinely puzzled when someone tries to push me into drinking alcohol/eating hot food, because I know that it’s not going to happen, and that all they’ll get is a smiling “No, I won’t try it.” I think that’s also why I have no problem adopting the “wimp”-label. It seems like such a rididulcous thing to try and be Brave About Food, or somehow be Better At Eating Food. Why on earth would anyone make that into a competition?

        Anyone trying to shame me into eating something new (when I don’t want to) get something like:
        “That’s me, afraid of new experiences. And Tigers. And Lions. Also Bears.”

        All these conversations got so much easier when I truly realized that it’s weird for other people to be invested in what food I like in my mouth. And that it’s weird to think that you’ll know more about someone’s enjoyment of food than they do themselves. But part of it was also realizing that since I really don’t judge other people’s tastebuds, chances are that no one is judging mine. And if they are, then I’ll never understand that person anyway.

        1. Heh. My boyfriend is like that, which I found out when he told me he didn’t like paprika on deviled eggs because it was ‘too spicy. ‘ so I don’t cook that way when he’s around, and I’m the ‘taster’ when we go out.

        2. I am a Spice Coward. Although I have found a number of things that taste so good that are just over the edge of my tolerance that my tolerance has increased significantly over time, it is still painful and unpleasant.

          I have no shame! Table pepper can hurt!

          Also it turns out that sometimes the taste buds on my tongue disappear in spots and then grow back in denser chunks, and at those time I have extremely delicate and sensitive bits of tongue. Heat and acid are exquisitely painful at those times.

          Hooray for the spice cowards!

  44. I am Australian. In case you don’t know Australia is full of drunks.

    I enjoy selected alcoholic beverages, but aside from a shor (and very screwed-up) period I have never enjoyed getting completely drunk. I am now on meds that do not play well with alcohol (and ibuprofen and asprin and…) so now I don’t drink at all. I have actually stopped going to events/parties where I know there will be a lot of drinking – it just isn’t fun to be the only sobor person at a party where everybody else is so drunk they’re throwing up.

    Anyways. I’m happy telling people I can’t drink because of meds – it provides an excellent segue into talking about my brain cooties. Discusing brain cooties is an excellent way to get to know people; they will immediately reveal if they are judgemental arses, attention-seeking arses, personal-experience-diminishing arses, general arses, or awesome.

    1. I will say this about Australia: “I’m on my Ps” always worked for me during those days, and these days you have your Ps for longer.

      (i.e. Newly licensed drivers for the first few years have P plates on their cars in place of the L plate for learner drivers. And for L and P drivers, the legal blood alcohol limit is .00% (it’s .05% for fully licensed drivers.) So if you drank that night and then drove the next morning and there was still any alcohol in your blood, you could get busted. And we have police units who will randomly stop anyone and breathalyse them. And by ‘anyone’ I don’t just mean people they don’t like, I mean they’ll block off whole streets and stop every car.)

      1. Yup. And when you’re on your Ls, your supervising driver (the full-licensed person sitting in the front passenger seat) has to have .00% blood alcohol also.

      2. I’m in the US. I initially thought “I’m on my P’s” referred to the female cycle. I’m laughing now.

      3. In New Zealand sometimes they breath test cyclists too. (I’ve gotten cranky at people advertising where to avoid because they’re breath-testing. Sorry, you might be my best friend but I’d still rather you got a fine for driving over the limit than that you kill yourself or someone else.) They’re not necessarily so universal about targeting for other things though – I’ve had people glad I was in the car with them at license checks because the cop sees a nice middle class white person and says “It’s ok, you can go back and get it” instead of issuing a ticket.

    2. Of course, we also have Sober October, which is the best excuse ever!

      … Even in March 🙂

    3. I am Australian. In case you don’t know Australia is full of drunks.

      I once had the following IM conversation with a friend of mine, who was abroad in Tokyo for a semester:

      Her: Argh, I have to go now. I have to take a drunk Australian to the hyaku-en [100 yen, about a dollar at the time] store.
      Me: (quick math) …wait, isn’t it like 2pm where you are?
      Her: Yes. And if I don’t go with her, she’s threatening to go by herself.

      Said drunk Australian later teamed up with some also-drunk Michiganders, and a Kazakh girl who had been taking belts straight out of the vodka bottle before they left the dorms, to clear an entire train car of natives, by generally being loud foreigners on their way to a nightclub in Ageha. When even the Japanese are awed by your drinking prowess, you know you’ve really got a talent for it.

      On the other hand, the Ozzie girl also brought her Tim Tams. Pepperidge Farms has recently started carrying them as a seasonal item around Christmas, but at the time, they basically didn’t exist in the US. So you may be drunks in the Antipodes, but you’re friendly ones. 😉

  45. Everyone has great feedback/recommendations…if you do want to make excuses (which you shouldn’t have to, but sometimes when I’m out with people I don’t know well and I just feel like nodding along), I have a lot of luck with “oh, I’m driving” or “I have X in the morning” (even though I never drink enough to have any after effects/real effects, but they don’t know that!)

    Also, as someone who didn’t drink at all through most of college and was involved in founding a club that offered substance-free events and housing on campus, if you DO one day end up wanting to drink, in any quantity, that’s totally okay too. Everyone gets to change their mind! And wanting to have a beer (or a fancy girly drink, which is all I ever have!) doesn’t invalidate your prior refusal. People will probably poke at you and go “I thought you didn’t drink!” Just smile and toast them.

    1. I confess; I have a friend I’ve known for over a decade who just recently started drinking, after mumblety years of being vocal about “Don’t drink, don’t like the taste, don’t care if you do, that’s fine, but I’m not interested.” The first time this friend ordered and drank booze in front of me, I was boggled (because I had not realized the wagon had sailed). Seriously, “wait, let me taste that,” boggled. Fortunately, friend was amused, not annoyed. And then I got over it and haven’t nagged this friend about it since — friend is well past the legal age where friend can drink if friend is so inclined, so NOMB.

  46. I just tried a new cocktail recipe tonight and was thinking how my friend (who normally doesn’t drink for exactly the same reason as you) might like it. Will probably stop offering her every new drink I try, I guess it can get pretty annoying. (Even though annoying each other is the basis of our friendship.)

    Anyway, telling your friends it bugs you might help. Personally I can be pretty oblivious, but if someone says how much something bothers them I’ll try my best not to do it. (But it’s soooo gooood, you just want to share the goodness, even though goodness is completely subjective and it probably wouldn’t be good to you or my friend.)

    1. I say: Offer your nice cocktail. And when the person says “no thanks” say “Okay!” and talk about something else. It’s the repeated offers or demanding an explanation (that you then argue with) or insisting they try something that makes someone an assbag, not offering.

    2. You can also try…offering without offering? Like, “oh, I made X cocktail the other night and really liked it! It reminded me of [thing you like], let me know you ever want to try one!” It communicates your willingness to share without putting pressure on friend to say yes/no in the moment – she can just say “thanks, I will!” and maybe she will take you up on that sometime or maybe she won’t.

  47. As someone whose answer to “Why don’t you drink?” is “Because the last time I drank I blacked out and was raped by someone I thought was my friend, so drinking is still intensely tied up with trauma for me,” I have very, very little fucking patience for anyone who pushes me on the subject.

    I feel like the less explanation, the better, because respectful people don’t need an explanation and wheedlers are always going to try to find a way to wheedle their way through your boundaries and decisions no matter what answer you give them. You don’t like the taste? Well, they have just the thing they’ll like! You need to drive? Don’t worry, you’ll be fine by then, or you can crash on the couch! You’re on medication? Does that really matter? You’re a recovering alcoholic? Gee, lighten up!

    My typical script is this:

    Them: “Do you want a drink?”

    Me: “No thanks, I don’t drink.” (I personally like giving this firm boundary so that well-intentioned people don’t just keep offering me drinks all night – or for, like, years – in order to be polite. Some people do get sort of embarrassed by the “I don’t drink” part, though, so I try to give them an easy conversational way out if I see them start feeling awkward.)

    If they answer, “Okay!” and change the subject, great!

    If they ask me why, I say, “I don’t want to talk about it,” or “It’s personal,” and change the subject.

    If they try to pressure me to talk about it, they have proven to me that they can 100% fuck off and I go into shut ’em down mode and either tell them it’s none of their business, sharply change the subject or physically leave the conversation.

    For the visual learners amongst us, I also drew this in bad, bad MS Paint flowchart form because flowcharts are how I express my raaaaaage!


    1. I’m so sorry, that’s awful. You should never have to explain that.

      You might be saying “It’s personal” as a firm boundary setting to see how others react or because it’s painful or any other reason. That’s totally cool. However, a more nosy person could see that as an opener to pry like there might be some cool, hidden story. So if around someone who seems to not respect boundaries, to make it less interesting you could just repeat yourself:

      You: I don’t drink.
      Them: Why?
      You: Because I don’t drink.
      Them: Yeah, but why?
      You: I don’t drink.

      Hopefully they’d get the hint. Use whatever works, obviously. But maybe that’d make it less interesting? And if it’s less interesting to them, then maybe they’d bother you less and you wouldn’t have to deal with trauma/memories/triggers or whatnot. I only say this because for me, if I were to say “It’s personal” it would come out in a certain voice tone which revealed I’m not okay and might trigger my nasty memories. So, if that doesn’t help you, please ignore my assuming and overly generalized suggestion. Absolutely do what’s most comfortable for you. I really wish I could magically kill all of the “But why???” invasive types of questions.

      Jedi hugs.

    2. Yeah I don’t like cheese on crackers, or too much cheese in general, because my abusive ex used to put thick slices in my sandwiches when I asked for plain [x]. It’s how I figured out he was locking me in the house when he went out because I went to throw it out. A lot of my friends are really into cheese but generally accept a “no thanks”; once I decided to bluntly explain why I didn’t like it to someone who wasn’t that otherwise-awesome, resulting in a very awkward “….” response. It was great but normally it’s not something I want to bring up.

    3. Me too, and I’m sorry. With my current group of semi-friends (I dropped/was dropped by the last one when they decided he wouldn’t do that, I must be overreacting, and have I heard their sex-positive theories on how that was actually consent), I seem to have reached a point where they’ve pretty much stopped asking, but only after I explained it to them in gruesome detail and then, when some new guy showed up late to the party and started everyone on rape jokes, freaked out, lost three days sobbing in a corner, and then didn’t come back for scheduled hanging-out times for several weeks. I suppose this got it through to them that if you want to see Anon around, don’t be an ass, but I can’t honestly say I recommend that as a strategy.

      Alcohol is one of those subjects you shouldn’t ask about if you don’t want the answer.

  48. LW, if you’re comfortable with a little white lie now and then, the phrase I always used to use to instantaneously get people off my back was:

    “Sorry, I don’t drink. Alcoholism runs in my family.”

    This is widely accepted as being a Big Deal, so it’ll make people who would otherwise push you shut up nine times out of ten. For me it actually happens to be true (which is why although I do drink now, it’s only very very VERY sparingly), but to be honest I say do what you have to do to make people back off. They’re the ones being rude.

    Obviously this could cause issues with close friends, but if someone keeps pushing and pushing they probably don’t deserve to be a close friend anyway.

  49. LW, I’m in the same boat as you – alcohol is bitter, I hate the taste in any way, shape, or form, and I used to be badgered to try (and occasionally tried a sip to have confirmed that ugh, it’s horribly bitter and I hate the taste; total waste of time.)
    ‘I’m driving’ works for me most of the time – that’s being _responsible_ and only total arseholes will try to get you to drink when you’re driving.

    I found that the pressure to drink got less with age, but that’s not helping you right now 😦

  50. Dear LW: Hi, are you me? Because you sound like me about 5 years ago. ^_^

    I don’t drink, never have, never will. But being in your early twenties is the absolute *worst* time for stuff like this – it does tend to ease off a bit as people grow up and get out of uni and into adult life, because by that point drinking for some people stops being the main focus of their social life – or so I found with my peers.

    However, there are still always those handful who insist you should drink. It stems from a few things; for starters, the offer of a drink might be used as an opening line from someone trying to chat you up (which means they will *leap* on your ‘no thanks’ as a chance to ask ‘why?’ and prolong the conversation), or it could come from people who cannot believe that someone could have a good time sans alcohol, or even worse, the people who are so insecure they can’t allow themselves to unwind and get drunk unless they know everyone else is in the same boat, and having a sober person around, even if they’ve been told they’ll be looking out for them, makes them uptight and like they’re being judged.

    My experience is that when you get someone who falls into the latter two categories, no amount of ‘no, go away’ will get them to leave you alone unless something else serendipitously distracts them. It’s an insecurity in themselves which they, more than likely, do not want to address, so they Will. Not. F*cking. Drop. It until/unless you give them a reason they find ‘acceptable’. The one I end up using is:

    “Yeah, I’m alcohol interolerant. Makes me ill. Sucks, right? So, [subject change].”

    There we go, job done.

    There have been a couple of times this has failed. Once was I was having a chat with a new friend who I let in on the fact I was NOT, in fact, intolerant…and was overheard. But someone who fell into category number 3.

    I may have lost my temper, and read him a very loud, very expletive filled lecture on how arrogant he had to be to assume he knew my tastes better than I did, that he was NOT some magical pixie who was going to produce some elixir that I’d never heard of in all my 28 years that would somehow change my mind, and to stay the crap away from me.

    On the upside, no one else in that bar gave me any difficulties for the rest of the evening….

  51. Oh man, this sounds familiar. I’m also not particularly fond of the taste of alcohol, and when I was younger I got really apologetic about it. I used to say “Sorry, I have the taste buds of a five year old, so I brought a *soft-drink-of-choice* instead.”.

    These days, I mostly do as the Captain said, and just say “no thanks.” If someone presses me, I’ll just say “no, I’m just not fond of the taste.”
    I almost never have anyone ask more after that, but I still have some back-up things for people who do, depending on HOW they are asking.

    Because I’ve had some people continue the conversation as a chit-chat thing. So if the response is something like “Oh, ok. Is it too bitter, or…?”, then I won’t consider that rude. (My usual response: “I don’t know exactly how to describe it, really. I just don’t like the actual taste of the alcohol, it doesn’t really matter if it’s in wine or beer or rum and coke.”)

    I’ve also tried changing the conversation to How Things Taste in general. I think most people have something that they don’t enjoy eating.
    “It’s like you and olives, I guess, I just don’t like them.”
    You could even contrast it with something that you do enjoy, but that most people don’t: “On the other hand, I AM fond of anchovies on pizza, so who knows WHAT my tastebuds are doing.”

    If someone pushes you to taste something a third time, then “No.” is really all you need. No explanations. If they keep pushing after that? They are being rude and unpleasant, and no answer you can give them will make them less rude and unpleasant.

    Thankfully, I almost never get further in these scripts than the first “No thanks.”

  52. I’m the opposite of the LW – I love the taste of alcohol. Never met a drink I didn’t like. But it turns out that drinking is very bad for me, physically, emotionally, and particularly in the decision making area.

    So I stopped. I can have all the drinks or I can have no drinks, but I can’t have just one drink. I am missing that part of my self that allows people to have just one drink. This was *INCREDIBLY HARD* for people who knew me to accept. It’s like I took something away from them when I stopped drinking.

    And it is true: I am not the same person I was when I was having All The Drinks. But the person I am now is better and healthier and happier. When people push me hard on why I should have “Just One” I ask them, “Why don’t you want what is best for me?” and that question has stopped all but two people, one of whom insisted that what was best for me was to get over myself and have a drink (that he bought me). So I poured it on him. He was very much not happy about that, but I was very much not happy with how he was acting either. That incident now lives in our friends’ group as Proof Positive I do not want a drink. But maybe that is not a good solution all of the time.

    1. Your opinion reminds me of Sam Vimes. I approve.

      (And the pouring sounds like it was certainly the right decision for that circumstance, even though perhaps one might not generalize.)

      1. I’ve found Sam Vimes super helpful in dealing with my now-ex who was an alcoholic, and they found being able to identify with a character who had the “one is too many, two is not enough” problem really useful as well. So, I pretty much have Pratchett to thank for that 5-year dry stretch. =)

        (Too bad it didn’t stick, but they were some good years.)

  53. Ugh, people like this annoy the heck out of me! Whenever I think about a situation like this it makes me all flabbergasted because I absolutely can’t imagine why someone would want to be in any way invested in whether I drink alcohol or not.

    Granted, I’m not specifically social so I have not yet had that particular situation happen to me (also, as much as all my peers at school loved getting drunk and apparently had nothing else to talk about, from what I hear most were actually very accepting) and I also tend to come across as very firm and not like someone whose mind you can change, but boy are there situations not revolving around food or alcohol where the exact same thing happens.

    Just a few days ago I had a bizarre e-mail conversation where X recommended I read story S by author C and upon my answer that I’d looked into a few stories by C and the style wasn’t to my liking at all so I wouldn’t want to read anything by her promptly went all “Oh no, can’t have that, I’ll convince you to read stuff by her ha ha”. Now I realise this isn’t anywhere near a situation that might be potentially dangerous to the person refusing, but it still annoyed me. I already knew I wasn’t going to love that story (and also, I didn’t at all feel like reading it) and said so, but you still decide to go on trying to convince me. Nope. I wrote back with a firm “No, THANK YOU” and apparently X misunderstood and thought I had tried all the stories by C and hated every single one of them and thus was so kind as to let the topic go because apparently she deemed that an acceptable reason (although I was already prepared to tell her that I do not appreciate things like this).

    What I want to say is, people seem to get all up in other people’s business all the time and over the weirdest things, I’d really love if more people acknowledged that this is not okay behaviour in any kind of situation. It’s the same with e.g. gay marriage (not other people’s business!), body shapes/fat (not other people’s business!) or shaving (not. Other. People’s. Business!). I just find that so, so weird because, argh, how would it have any positive effects on them if you did as they please? You don’t want to drink alcohol, they push you to do so, so you do so, and then…what? How did that positively contribute to their life? I really can’t say any more to this because it makes me so, so angry.

  54. Now that I think about it, the whole drinking culture is kind of weird. I am currently not drinking because I can’t afford it, but then it seems like the people around me feel obligated to provide me with free alcohol. At parties they’ll offer me some of theirs (and it doesn’t feel weird for me to accept because we’re all students and I think they understand that I just can’t afford it right now) but I was at the bar with a friend (watching a band) and I accompanied her to the bar where she got a drink and I got a water, and she came up to me later and was like “I’m so sorry, I just realized I was so rude when I didn’t offer you a drink. Did you want one?” and I just wanted to be like, YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL OBLIGATED TO GET ME ALCOHOL IF I SAY I CAN’T AFFORD IT. I’m worried people think I’m not drinking solely so I can mooch of others, which is not the case.

  55. This is basic human bonding behaviour that people need to rewire. If Person A has something that they find delicious, they want to share it with Person B. If Person B can’t partake in deliciousness for health or moral reasons, Person A will understand. If Person B just doesn’t want deliciousness for the sake of not wanting it, Person A suddenly feels an alienating gap or guilt for indulging in deliciouness in front of ‘an outsider’. We herd over our vices. We like to share our patterns and rituals. I find this especially true with things that we know are bad for us or alters the state of our minds.

    And we need to get the fuck over it.

  56. I will say, on the ‘Are you JUDGING me for my alcohol use?!” front, one thing they might be used to encountering is not drinking for religious reasons. There’s a number of religious groups (Like Southern Baptists) who do not drink, and some who will happily lecture you on how ‘wine’ in the Bible was a mistranslation because until modern times humans didn’t know how to ferment and make alcohol. (Yes, really!) These people will go to events and stand around loudly or passive-aggressively Judging everyone is partaking in SatanJuice.

    So as a survivor of far too many family gatherings where I went “You know what? I am 25, I am going to have a glass of champagne for New Years and you can take your huffs and loud sighs and ‘aren’t you setting a bad example for the kids?’ and loud comments to each other about the ‘moral decay of America’ and just shove it, along with your sparkling grape juice!” I will say that Judgy McJudgypants do exist.

    But I still managed to survive it with respect for others food/drink choices intact. And then that side of the family disowned my father’s side for being heathen pagan satan-worshiping Episcopalians.

    1. It depends a lot on where you are, especially in the US. I don’t drink coffee. I grew up in Arizona, where there are a couple of well-known churches whose members abstain from all mind-altering substances, including caffeine, so I’ve gotten used to preemptively explaining that it’s not a religious restriction, I just don’t like the taste. This confuses the bejeezus out of people here in Boston, many of whom have never personally clapped eyes on a Mormon, and wouldn’t know about the caffeine thing even if they had.

  57. Before I came to University, I was absolutely terrified that people would try to force / pressure me into drinking – thankfully it didn’t really happen.

    I’m still at uni four years later and it still does happen from time to time that someone tries to encourage me to drink alcohol. The best defence I’ve got against this are friends. If you have just one or two friends you hang out with who can just say “Yeah, he doesn’t drink” like they’re saying the sky is blue and don’t make a massive deal out of it, most people will take that as a cue that they shouldn’t make a big deal out of it either.

    And with the persistent jerks, sometimes a friend can say “Look, he already said he doesn’t drink. Why are you making a big deal of it?”

  58. I am another non-drinker (for taste reasons) who has no problem with others drinking. When I was in my twenties I worked in a corporate setting with many off-sites and work parties where “work hard play hard” was the rule of thumb.

    This made it key that I shut down any drink pushers without causing lasting drama. I never had any big problems and I think, as others have said , saying “I don’t drink” as opposed to “Not tonight” or “I don’t like the taste” was most effective.

    (Though obviously those should be just as acceptable.)

    When I did get pushback I found saying “Why is it so important to you that I drink? What about your evening will my having a drink fix?” Shut them down every time.

    I think the fact that I was was very firm and confidant about it helped to. I used to be bothered to see how the people who said “not tonight” would continue to be hassled while I got left alone.

  59. I don’t drink either, and I’ve had similar conversations. I have found a good tactic is to say something like “When I was younger I used to try to choke that stuff down, because everyone expected it of me. Nowadays I can’t be bothered. It is such a relief to have outgrown that, don’t you think?” Me and the person who wants me to drink, are so much more mature than those childish people who expect me to drink. Forced teaming, but for good instead of evil.

  60. Thank you for starting this conversation! I have felt alone for a lot of years because I don’t like the taste or effects of alcohol. When I was younger I tried to find drinks I could stand, but it never happened. Eventually I intentionally sought out social groups that did not get drunk, but I still felt like the odd one out. Reading this thread soothes that little part of me that (despite knowing it’s wrong) always wonders “What’s wrong with me?”

  61. Just a quick comment on the starter statement:
    ““There’s this thing that sometimes happens when people break up but still care about each other: they want to continue working on things that were problems in their relationship. Don’t do that. My opinion on it is that if you break up with someone, then you are done working out the problems in your relationship.”

    Sometimes you end one relationship, but continue another – for instance after a divorce you may still be co-parents. And sometimes that sucks. But still you have to work out a viable way to make it work.

    1. I agree that you might still have to work on things with your ex – and the co-parenting thing is a good example. However, that doesn’t mean that you should work on the same issues that you worked on when you were together. The co-parenting issues might be different.

      Is it more difficult to set good boundaries when you’re still connected to your ex as co-parent? For sure. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to.

      There is a good example in the article the Captain links to, where one ex is still using the other ex for emotional support on her health/money issues. Even if they had a child together, it would still be ok to say “I’m sorry, but I can’t be the person to support you through this. Maybe call xyz.” and then segue into co-parenting stuff instead.

      I don’t think the original quote should be interpreted as “Once the relationship is over, you get out of there.” Rather, I think it’s about aknowledging that once you’ve broken up, even if you’re still friends, your relationship dynamic is different, and gets to be different.

      1. This is something I’m dealing with right now. My former husband and I were married for six years, and in the process had a child. At this point, we have been divorced for 11 years. When we divorced, he moved in with his mom, which lasted until she passed away last fall.

        Well, she didn’t do a will, and didn’t leave him any money to speak of, and he didn’t have any money of his own to speak of (between his nature, being a musician, and being to some degree disabled). And he didn’t really do anything, and he’s not that great at dealing with bureaucracy anyway. On the other hand, there are literally two dozen family members in this area he could call on for help, and yet he is constantly hitting me up for rides to the doctor, loans, and so on.

        Most recently, it was $80 to see an attorney regarding his mom’s estate. That turned into $500 to pay for probate. After that, he said he was due to get his dad’s pension, but they claimed they’d overpaid him by $2000 and he’d have to repay that before they could start sending him the pension. At that, I put my foot down, and he actually got tears in his eyes saying he didn’t know what he was going to do. He’s also been hinting that if he could just get $300-$400, he could take care of the current bills…but that would just be this month.

        It’s also not clear, even after he goes through probate, whether the bank will be willing to work with him on refinancing the mortgage, and he was hitting me up to co-sign it with him, pay the mortgage for a few months until things got straightened out, etc. And at this point I’m not real inclined to. It’s just going to be one fuckup after another.

        Interestingly, his family won’t give him any money either. In some cases it’s because they don’t have it — one of them was uninsured and broke his leg, and they had to raise $5000 themselves before a doctor would even look at it — but I wonder how much of it is that they know he’s a fuckup and don’t want to lose the money. And I figure, if his own family has no compunctions in telling him no, I shouldn’t worry about it either. My main question at this point is when I should go for full custody of our daughter.

        1. If it helps hearing it from a stranger on the internet, from what you say your decision to decline any further financial help to your ex sounds 100% right. Especially when it comes to not financially entangling yourself again by co-signing a mortgage or anything like that. With someone with a proven track record of financial flakiness, that would be such a terrible idea.

          My dad used to say it was a terrible idea to lend money to family. Give it as a gift, or not at all. Even with people who do honestly mean to repay loans, it can lead to all kinds of trauma and hurt feelings. It sounds like the rest of him family have also learned that the hard way, and you should definitely feel absolutely okay about following their example.

          1. I go for “don’t lend money you can’t afford to lose” too – or at the very least get a basic contract sorted and consider the possibility you might have to resort to The Law.

    2. I think she means, “Don’t rehash the fights you used to have and try to get to a resolution about them.” Don’t bring up old issues, focus on the future and finding something workable.

  62. I have had a lot of practice with this kind of thing. I don’t drink and I don’t do other drugs either, not even caffeine or sugar. I’m a vegan and I also suspect I’m gluten intolerant, so I have been avoiding gluten for a while.

    When first tried to quit drinking I was about 19. My friends, especially my closest friend, gave me a really hard time about it. So much that I caved in and had one beer every time we went out just to shut them up. Finally, though, came the day when I was ready to really quit and not care about what they thought about it. I was 20 and it was Christmas day. I had been reading and hearing a lot about straight edge around that time and it had made a big impression on me. That Christmas day my family had dinner with our neighbors, who also had a relative visiting who was a recovering alcoholic. The adults were all drinking a lot of wine and schnapps and singing drinking songs. I thought it all very disrespectful to the guy who was struggling with abstaining. I didn’t take part in the drinking and while going out the door to go out clubbing with my friends on one of the nights when people get the most drunk around here, I decided that from then on I wouldn’t drink anymore. I would be straight edge.

    After that I found it way easier to stand up for my decisions. When I was more sure in my convictions and that I wouldn’t let other people affect this decision any longer, it made them stop pushing. When I said “No thanks, I don’t drink” or “No thanks, I’m straight edge” they could hear it was not up for negotiation, but if I chose the latter I usually got the question of what straight edge was and I’d give them the short answer that it means staying away from all kinds of drugs. Sometimes I got the “why?” question, sometimes by people who felt insecure about it (especially combined with being vegan and not eating sugar, that was very provocative to some people), sometimes by people who were curious. Usually I’d just say that I don’t like the effect. As others have mentioned the pressure to drink has lessened considerably with age, as I am now 30.

    I also don’t like the taste of alcohol, but most of all I don’t like the effect of it, on me and on others. I don’t like it when people change because of substances. It makes me uncomfortable, unsafe. I felt super uncomfortable about the blackouts I had had when drinking a lot. I don’t like the effect even small amounts have on my balance, timing and sense of rhythm. I did however appreciate the “social lubricant” part of it, but it wasn’t worth the price and I’d rather actually learn the social stuff. Even though I prefer not being around drunk people I still go out to places where people drink a lot, because I just love dancing and while some of the dancing I love is in alcohol free environments all clubbing includes alcohol and sometimes other drugs.

    Unlike you, LW, I would prefer it if my company didn’t drink alcohol and so my close friends never get drunk around me, but they do drink and it’s fine by me as long as they stay themselves. Living in a culture where getting drunk is what people do to socialize I have had to often choose between staying at home by myself or going out to hang out with drunk people and since that would sometimes be the only chance I had to socialize I’d go rather than isolate myself. Not my ideal situation, but the lesser of two evils.

    Nowadays I usually just say a nice “No thanks” if someone offers me something I don’t drink or eat. The second time I’d say “No thanks, I don’t drink/I’m vegan/gluten intolerant/etc” so they don’t have to ask me a thousand times. I also tackle the hospitality issue as best as I can by asking for something that they might have, perhaps red tea or juice. Water always works, but I have found that often they’ll be disappointed if that’s all they can offer. I sometimes have caffeine free tea bags in my wallet just in case, but people are so much happier to be able to offer something.

    I guess if I were you and I didn’t want people to bother me about my choices I’d go about it the same way and make sure there’s no room for negotiation in my “I don’t drink”. If they ask why, I would say “I just don’t like it” without specifying if it’s the effect or the taste I don’t like, or as someone suggested “It’s just not my thing”. If they’d keep asking why, I’d do the broken record. With certain people you might feel like going into detail, but don’t feel like you have to. I would also make sure I always had a glass of water or whatever other drink I might want, because that creates social balance when other people are sitting or standing with glasses. You will probably also get bonus points for your drink looking fancy or tasty or special in some way and for seeming happy about it. I don’t really bother with that anymore, but when I was younger and there was more pressure, that did help me. People also sometimes love to try new things, such as your fantastic juice cocktails or whatever.

    Good luck!

    1. I don’t like it when people change because of substances. It makes me uncomfortable, unsafe.

      Yeah, me too. Especially people I know well–I feel like they’ve become a different person, someone I don’t know anymore. I don’t mind people having a drink or two, but once they get really drunk I just want to get out of there.

      1. Ditto. People with a mild buzz are pleasant to be around. Any more than that and I get uncomfortable for reasons I can’t articulate.

        Funnily enough, even though my reaction is closer in appearance to “judgmental” than the LW’s, none of my friends have cared that I don’t drink when they’re drinking. I don’t think they’ve given it a second thought.

        1. Interestingly, I have a similar low tolerance for very intoxicated people, and I do drink and used to do a fair bit of other fun but illegal substances.

  63. *delurks* Another non-drinker here who mainly just doesn’t like the taste and who hasn’t felt like it became a big social issue for me. Thought I’d hash over my experience, in the hopes something might be helpful.

    I’ve actually never noticed a huge difference between “I don’t drink” and “Not now”. The former has felt more effective for long-term relationships and the latter more effective for not making a big deal of it at the time. Maybe confident manner matters even more than words? Or I’ve had dumb luck with my social circles? I don’t know.

    Agree that “no thanks” is the quickest route, but often my autopilot takes me down Justification Road instead. When this happens, I’ve had the most success with: “Eh, no thanks, never acquired the taste for it, and doesn’t seem like something I want to work on right now.” The operative word, I think, being “work”, since it can help short-circuit the anti-fun thing? Suddenly you’re the one who wants to relax and have fun, and if they push you, they are pushing you to work on an unpleasant task. Even you’re the only one who notices that it’s framed like that, it might give you an extra boost of confidence that they’re the ones being weird here.

    And then if they start getting apologetic or defensive about liking a drink themselves, I usually offer some kind of reassurance that I’m not judging them. (For me, enthuasiastic subject change to my beloved relative’s awesome brewing projects is often helpful here.) If I can defuse the idea that I’ve just laid claim to some kind of moral high ground regarding the Evils of Drink, sometimes the entire issue goes away and never comes back. (At least in the social circles I’ve moved in.)

    But if they’re pushy? Or even apologetic/defensive in an annoying pushy way and I don’t want to talk about it? I also go straight to the increasingly testy “No thanks”. And maybe the Stare of Doom. If they don’t accept Justification One, that’s their problem. Even if I get flustered and autopilot through Justifications Two and Three, that does not create some kind of contract that suddenly gives Pushy Person authority over whether my reasons/choices are good enough. Even if Pushy Person is convinced that it does. It is never too late or too early to break off diplomacy or to deploy the Stare of Doom.

  64. Excellent advice. I’m going to add something I don’t think was mentioned: watch your drinks at parties.

    That’s good advice, regardless, but as a fellow non-drinker I discovered that people were often so pissed/annoyed/defensive about my non-drinking status that they had to do something about it. Because they were so convinced that I was just “making it up” that I didn’t like the taste, they would (for instance) spike my Coke with some rum. One girl, Shelia, discovered that I *did* actually taste it when I did a full-fledged spit-take, spraying rum and Coke (and saliva) all over her.

    Needless to say, I never went to any parties with her again.

    I honestly have never understood why people found this aspect of my personality irritating but I got a glimpse at it one day at dinner with a friend of a friend. (This was, oh, 13 years ago, when I was 27.) The waitress was taking drink orders and I said, “Just water, please.” Friend of a friend said, “No! Go ahead! Drink! We’re not driving!”

    When I explained that I abstained, he blinked at me and gaped and finally said, “I don’t understand. What do you *do* then?”

    “Uh, what?”

    “What do you do, then? For fun? If you don’t drink, what do you do for fun?”

    We goggled at each other for a while.

    1. Wow, that mindset confuses me so much! I mean, I bet even your friend-of-a-friend did more for fun than just drink – usually people don’t just sit with a bottle, they drink + dance or drink + talk to friends. And one can also dance and talk to friends without drinking! And like, he was out with you for dinner – surely that’s a certain kind of “for fun”! Or would his dinner have been ruined had there been no alcohol?

  65. I totally feel your situation. My parents are wine lovers. They have a wine celler, for crying out loud, go to wine dinners with their friends, and are totally bummed that neither of their children drink.

    OTOH, now that I’m in my 40’s and my brother is in his 30’s, they’ve gotten used to it. When we were younger, there would be a lot of pressure.

    “This wine is sooo good. Just taste it.”
    My response would be either “No” or, “Ick. It may be good wine, but it still tastes like wine.”

    Luckily, either because I’d had lots of practice at refusing my parents, or was just lucky in my choice of friends, I didn’t really have a hard time in college. My friends would sometimes get a giggle at the face I’d make when I tried their drinks, but were pretty darn accepting of my “No Thanks.”

    These days, I’ve found one drink that doesn’t taste too bad (Malibu Pineapple), and when I’m in a social situation where I really want to drink, I’ll get one Malibu Pineapple and a large glass of water and mostly drink the water. OTOH, that kind of situation happens about 1-2 times/year. Mostly, I just say “No Thanks.”

    If you don’t pre-judge yourself by offering unsolicitied explanations, most folks are not going to care enough to seek them out.

    Also, the older I got (at least for me), the less I gave a flying f*ck what anyone else thought anyway.

    1. Heh, my parents are into wine too, and in high school my mom always wanted me to try it – to share in their enjoyment, but also to learn good drinking habits before I went off to college. But I just found the smell really gross! I found this situation funny – I know other kids try to find ways to sneak alcohol past their parents, while I was repeatedly turning down offers of alcohol from my mother.

      I do really appreciate my mom’s behavior on this point, though, because (a) she did respect my no when she offered (though she was a bit pushier than I liked – but way less than in other aspects of my life), and (b) it meant that when I did start drinking I was perfectly fine with telling her all about it. (Whereas I never tell her what I eat because the food policing is atrocious.) Now I like wine just fine and get tipsy with my parents sometimes 🙂 but I still have little idea what wine is good wine or bad wine, so I still can’t quite relate to their love of it.

  66. Why can’t people just be like, “okay, more for me!” if you don’t want to eat/drink what they are eating/drinking?

    1. I always point that out!

      Me: “Yeah, sorry, I can’t stand cheesecake.”
      Friend: “What?! It’s delicious! Are you possibly a space alien??”
      Me: “Hey, it means more cheesecake for you.”
      Friend: “Oh hey, good point. Okay, you’re forgiven! Hate cheesecake ALL YOU WANT.”

      I didn’t do this back when I didn’t drink, because “more for you” is not necessarily the way one wants it to work with booze. (I, too, used to hate the taste. I did eventually discover a couple of kinds that I liked, and then from there acquired broader tastes in alcohol, but that doesn’t mean I expect everyone to do so.) Luckily, I never caught much flack for it, and at bars I’d get a cranberry juice or whatever. “No thanks, I’ll just have a juice,” followed by “Nah, I just don’t like the taste” worked with all my friends and relatives, fortunately. And even as a shy kid I was pretty good at polite smiling immovability.

  67. I can sort of relate. I’m a non-drinking drinker (in that I drink alcohol so rarely doctors characterise me as non-drinker). Mostly no-one has ever questioned me on this and I’m trying to work out why. Partly I think it’s because I always have a fallback non-alcoholic drink. So when someone says, “would you like some of this wine?” I usually respond with something like, “no thanks but I’d love a lemonade if you have one”. Usually the offeree then becomes completely sidetracked in finding me the drink I want.

    Another thing I do is offer to go and buy the drinks if I’m out with friends. That way I get what I want and no-one questions me if I’m sitting there happily with the lemon, lime and bitters I ordered.

  68. Someone on a forum had a boyfriend who was too “caring”, forced everything on her but she never said no. For example his family asked her whether she wanted some more of the lunch, she said “no, thanks” but they put onto her plate anyway. And she always eated it because leaving it would have been rude. Everyone gave her advices how to stand up for herself but she kept saying her upbringing didn’t let her. My charisma may have helped, though, when I got annoyed and questioned whether she had a free will on her own and she stood up to him just to prove me wrong.

    1. Heh. Reminds me of when I was visiting my boyfriend’s parents (I had a summer internship in his town, while he was attending summer school before having a fall internship elsewhere) and they were having lunch, of liver.

      “Would you like some?” No, thank you.
      “It’s no trouble.” No, thank you.
      “It’s really good!” No, thank you.
      “Here, why don’t you just try it.” No, thank you.
      “I’ll just cut you a piece so you can taste it,” No, thank you.

      And she cuts off a piece and extends it to me. No, thank you.
      “Well, I’ll just put it here,” she says, and sets it on a napkin in front of me.

      So far as I know, it’s still there.

      1. Someone was even vegetarian but her boyfriend forgot to tell his mother before she went there to dinner. Naturally only meat was the menu, but who was the bad, rude guy there? Not the boyfriend.

      2. This reminds me of when I go overseas and I have to visit Certain Relatives for dinner. They don’t get ‘no thank you’ very well. Seriously, I’ve visited at ages 25 and 27 and had a) my hand opened and things put into it despite polite declinations, and b) had my spoon GRABBED and dipped into some noxious looking dessert despite me insisting I didn’t want any, as politely as I could.

        The good news, somewhat, is that after b) happened my aunt finally got fed up and told the offender, “look, when Mina says she doesn’t want it, LISTEN TO HER.”

  69. I’m 24 years old and don’t drink.

    I know peer pressure is annoying. Late nights with drunk friends can get annoying too (tired faster/drunkness isn’t that funny to sober you/band sucks/etc.) but I commend you and want to say you’re not alone. Yay you for sticking to what you want.

    I had anxiety re: puking when I was younger and therefore, just never got into it. Later on, I didn’t like the burny feeling of alcohol in my tummy/having a buzz and I just didn’t love the taste either.

    I simply say, “Oh no thank you!” SUPER nice.
    They say, ‘Why? not drinking?”
    I just say “No, not tonight. But thank you for offering!”

    If it gets further to the point where they insist/push/ask why I say, ‘Never have, just never loved it.”

    If they are rude I say, “Well, I have a ton of fun sober. I’m lucky like that. I don’t need alcohol to have fun with my friends.” …. note that I save that sorta small jab for strangers who are being idiots/people making me feel guilty “Common! Just one shot!” style.

    It gets easier, I promise 😉

  70. Any good scripts for the innocent bystander? I’m part of a club where after a game we buy each other drinks. If I feel someone else at the table is getting pushback from the initial ‘No thanks, just soda,’ then I want to show my support for the nondrinker by telling the other person to back off. I’d be happy to see some changes in the drinking culture here in the US.

    1. I usually go with, “Dude, you’re being an asshole. Stop it.”

      But I’m contrary.

  71. Late reply is late, but as a non-drinking adult I feel compelled to chime in.
    I’m in a drink-happy culture of after-work rounds and have managed to never drink anything I didn’t want to (which is everything with alcohol). Specifically, the culture is Japan.

    So yeah. Everything the Captain said, plus:
    -Make sure your actions match your words. –
    That means things like, don’t accept a drink and then not touch it, they will see “accepted the drink” and not “didn’t drink it”. Also, don’t have “just a taste” or otherwise let yourself be compelled to do a little bit. You won’t push away the prodders, you’ll just have shown them that you DO drink, if only a little bit. Consciously or not, this will be taken as an invitation to make you drink more.
    I have seen people get pushed way past their stated boundaries on this topic out of politeness. There is nothing good down that road.

    It may help to have another drink in your hand, like ginger ale or tea or something. Hands full = Doesn’t need a drink, so at least some people will be discouraged from offering.

    Lots of people are well-meaning, just trying to share their fun and favourite drinks. You absolutely don’t have to participate, and if they keep trying to trample your choices, you might want to selectively not join them, or start leaving early, or whatnot.

    Good luck!

  72. LW, I feel you! I’m also a non-drinker (though for specifically religious reasons) and I’ve very rarely had the obligatory “No, I don’t drink, I mean it, I *really* don’t drink” conversation go down completely smoothly.

    In general, the way the conversation seems to go for me is this:

    Person: Hey, Del! Try this drink!
    Me: No thanks, I don’t drink.
    Person: But you gotta try it! This is really amazing!
    Me: I’m sorry, but my religion strongly discourages it.
    Person: Oh, um, well, I don’t drink *much.* Like just socially, you know. Hardly ever really. And I never get roaring drunk, y’know. Just one or two drinks.

    People get very weird about their drinking when dealing with a non-drinker, even if they really, legitimately don’t have a problem. I’m a little hesitant drawing any broad generalizations, but the number of times I’ve had the above conversation makes me think that there might be an element of the drinker feeling subtly criticized by someone else’s refusal to drink, as though it’s an implicit accusation that they’re overindulging.

    I’ve settled on just saying something jokey and non-committal, like, “Hey, look at it this way, it means more for you, right?” or “Hey, see, I’m a cheap date!” Obviously, that would depend on your comfort level, but it seems to dissolve a lot of the defensiveness when I make it clear that to me, as a confirmed non-drinker, the general social atmosphere of drinking is No Big Deal to me, and I’m really, seriously not sitting there silently judging everyone around me with their booze.

  73. My script (for things other than alcohol though) involves a very casual “no thanks” and then a very friendly “no, seriously, that’s not negotiable”. A “why not” might be answered with “I just don’t” (that “not my thing” answer also sounds good) and “but why don’t you want it” with “I don’t like it, and seriously, let’s not even talk about it”.

    The thing is, if after two of these responses they push a third time, I stop being friendly. I give them a cold look and I change my tone, or maybe just go quiet and let it sink in. Works like a charm for me.

    People mostly go into this assuming I’m just being negotiably reluctant, or I’m in a bad/sad mood that would be improved by alcohol, or they’re playing their own cultural-nicety script where it’s actually polite to offer a few times and maybe insist. They’re likely not being assholes at that point. My normal friendliness can easily be misread like I’m not very serious about the rejection, and it can encourage the insistence. I understand that, and pay that and the occasional tiny bit of resulting hassle as a fair price for keeping good cheer around friendly people (and it’s perfectly fair if anyone else in the same situation decides the price is too much).

    But if my message doesn’t get across with a couple of simple verbal rejections, that hassle is actually not tiny anymore, so I can let it get awkward for them for a moment too. In the rare cases that people are still pushing after I’m visibly and audibly annoyed and directly demanding that they drop the subject, then they’re reframing the situation quite a bit and it’s actually much easier (psychologically and socially) to deal with it.

  74. I didn’t drink from 20-35, and I got a lot (a LOT) of questions about it. If someone was particularly pushy or nosy, I gave them a tolerant, amused look and said, “Don’t worry about what I’m drinking.” It seems like a pretty mild thing to say to pushy people, but it usually worked.

  75. Ugh, this reminds me of what I’ve faced with pot. I’m sorry you’ve been put through this OP and I love the title of this post.

  76. And to be honest, yes, you may lose entire friend groups no matter how polite you are; it is something one has to face and realize that the RIGHT people are out there. A lot of people do indeed compromise themselves just to fit in and some of those people also come to regret it. The way I look at it is that at least you have control over yourself, and you DO have a right to choice, which includes, “No.”

  77. Actual quote from jackass:

    “But if you won’t budge, that makes things really difficult for me. How am I supposed to get you to do what I want if you just say no?”

    1. Wow. I can’t read that in anything but a comical, joking tone, which I think makes me happy about my life.
      Alternate responses to alphakitty’s excellent one:
      “I (and the rest of the world, incidentally) do not actually exist for the purpose of doing what you want.”
      “Pro-tip: not being a jackass makes it more likely for people to want to do what you want.”

    2. “My goodness, that is a tough one, isn’t it? Maybe you should stay here and think it over for a spell, while I go be somewhere else.”

      Best delivered in a tone of light mock-conciliatory sarcasm, also associated with the Southern gentlewoman-ism “bless your heart”. It helps that friends describe trying to get me to do something I don’t want to is like hammering your head on a brick wall — you hurt yourself a lot, and the wall doesn’t even notice.

  78. My husband has the LW’s dislike of the taste of alcohol. As someone above noted, it is an acquired taste, and since he had had bad experiences with people who drank irresponsibly, he refused to touch the stuff for years.

    I actually had to reassure him that just because I liked to have a drink now and then, it did not mean that I was going to get absolutely blotto, nor that I would pressure him to drink with me. (In fact, I like having a reliably sober person around just in case I overestimate my limit.) That, and attending parties at which some people drank while others abstained and nobody batted an eye about it, made him ease up a little.

    My well-meaning mother took a while to figure out that this dislike generally includes foods cooked with wine, brandy, etc. “Really? But the alcohol cooks out!” she’d say. (Turns out that’s false.)

    Humourous digression time:
    While Mr. ShifterCat still dislikes the alcohol itself, he’s lately developed a fascination with the culinary aspects of booze. So there’ll be scenes like this in our household:

    Me: (drinking a small glass of liquor) Mmmm.
    Him: How is it?
    Me: It’s quite nice. Kind of fruity, but also creamy.
    Him: Can I try a sip?
    Me: Are you sure? It’s got a lot of alcohol.
    Him: I’ll just try a teeny bit. (I hand him the glass. He sniffs carefully, then sips and looks thoughtful.) Hm. It’s… interesting… GAAAAAH AFTERTASTE! (Quickly hands the glass back)

    And then I laugh at him while he takes a swig of water, because I am a cruel spouse.

  79. To people who pulled that on me over and over again, I’d take the glass offered, smell it and then recoil violently. To me, all alcohol smells darn near like skunk. I’d cover my nose in horror and say “That has got to be the NASTIEST stuff I’ve ever smelt!” If they were puzzed by it, I’d say that it [truthfully] smelled like skunk to me. It never failed to shut them up.

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