Being teetotal in a teenage drinking culture
How often does the question ‘Do you want to go for drinks?’ come up in everyday conversation, especially when trying to make plans. It’s almost become the norm that since turning 18, all of us HAVE to go somewhere that provides alcohol: as if you can’t have fun without it.
As someone who doesn’t drink (primarily because I just don’t see, nor understand the appeal), this can be pretty difficult. I’m pretty much teetotal all the time, with the only time I’ve had a drink is on holiday with my family (and even then, it’s never been more than a small shandy!) I’ve felt as if I’m on the outskirts of ‘normal’ life; like I’m not a proper teen, nor able to relate to my friends at times.
Before I go any further, I’m not attacking people who drink – nor am I trying to criticise in any way. Instead, I’m merely sharing my thoughts from a different perspective.
I think this ‘issue’ (in inverted commas because is it really an issue? I don’t know!) is more prevalent and at the forefront of my mind come Christmas time. It’s my first Christmas age 18, and already, I’m aware of how many times ‘Christmas drinks’ have come up in conversation. Whether that’s a trip to the pub, or just the general love of mulled wine, alcohol and festivities often go hand in hand.
For some, pubs are one of their favourite places. But for me, if I’m honest, pubs cause a well of anxiety to emerge – I’m just not comfortable in them. That may be because of my lack of exposure to alcohol, but also I’m not a fan of large crowds and the effects alcohol can have. I’ve never been a party-girl: and on the odd occasion I’ve been, more often than not, I’ve left early. I don’t know what it is – but they’re scary. And don’t get me started on clubs.
But what happens when my fear of alcohol stops me from being a good friend, or being left out because I’m seen as ‘boring’ or ‘uninteresting’? Is that a challenge for me to embrace it, regardless of how I feel, or do I try and challenge the norm?
Throughout the last year, 18th birthday parties were rather common (unsurprisingly). I think I was one of the rare and unique people who had a party without alcohol, yet people still had fun. I think the idea that it’s hard to have fun without alcohol is one that definitely needs challenging – and often I believe that you can probably have more real, genuine fun and enjoyment when you haven’t drunk anything.
Drinking at university
I’ve got a similar worry about university. I’ve just sent off my UCAS application for the second time (and received my first offer! Yay!) – but the realisation that ‘oh wow, I’m definitely going to uni next year’ was both exciting and scary. While I’ve loved learning all sorts of tips and tricks from my friends who have gone this year, I know it’ll be an all new chapter in my life. One of the things that’s been most noticeable is the number of ‘nights out’ and evenings of alcohol that my Snapchat have been littered with. It’s almost like uni is a few hours of studying, but more hours of clubbing, partying and drinking. Is there a life outside of that?
It feels unusual, and sometimes lonely, to be a non-drinker in today’s society. Whether that’s because I’ve just not come across many others, or I’m just strange – either way, I think it’s an important point to raise. Even if I don’t drink, I can still be relevant. I still know how to have fun – it just may be that I don’t go clubbing.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what can be a really divisive topic, so please get in touch!