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Commentary Relays Edition

Don’t judge at happy hour

People raising up their glasses of alcohol This writer does not long for a hard drink at the end of a hard day’s work and rather wants a judgment-free zone to chill with friends with alcohol. Photo Courtesy of Canva

I think most of us at Drake know that Iowans like to drink — as can be seen in the fact that Iowa is ranked number two in the nation for binge drinking. I think we can also agree that college students like to drink even more than most. However, what seems to go over many people’s heads is that there are college students in Iowa who don’t drink or don’t like to. Moreover, according to a July 2023 Gallup survey, 38% of American adults completely abstain from drinking. 

Cue the shocks and gasp of horror. I know, I know, it’s hard to conceptualize, but there are those of us who don’t like to drink for various reasons. Often in social situations, I will get invited to get a drink after work, or to relax after a long week with a drink — even my workplace, Dotdash Meredith, often hosts happy hour after the work day. I respond to such inquiries with, “Oh, I actually don’t drink,” which cues a look of confusion, or the ever-common, “What? Why not?”

To placate such a reaction, I feel the immediate need to assuage their horror by explaining, “Oh I have this genetic mutation that means my body can’t metabolize alcohol, and this mutation is linked to increased risks for diseases…yadda yadda yadda.” 

Not only do I feel compelled to give a long-winded explanation, but I feel like I almost have to defend my reason for not drinking.

Many people don’t drink for various reasons, whether bad past experiences, addiction or a medical cause. However, having to “defend” myself every single time gets frustrating and annoying. It also makes that social interaction a little bit more awkward. 

Not only am I rushing to dispel any misconceptions or assumptions being made about me not drinking, but it also means that I can miss out on social interactions. Most social interactions, parties and events I’ve ever gone to or been invited to have some sort of alcohol component involved. It seems to be a cultural thing in the U.S. to hang out with one another over a beer or some other alcoholic beverage. 

While I don’t mind hanging out with friends who are drinking, it makes our interactions more challenging, and it’s not something I want to be around constantly. 

For those of you who might not understand or who might think, “Oh, what’s she complaining about, it’s not that big of a deal,” I compare this situation to when people automatically assume that I’m straight or that I want to have kids. Both are things I’ve had to deal with as well, and it frankly gets annoying having to explain the different facets of my life that fit outside societal conventions. 

Just like drinking recreationally, let’s just not judge people when their choice, any choice, for whatever reason, is different from yours.

While I don’t judge others who partake in drinking, stop making those of us who don’t partake in the activity feel awkward and defensive. My lack of drinking doesn’t affect your life, so please keep your feelings to yourself. 

Let’s just all be a bit more mindful that there are those of us who don’t like to drink, and that’s okay.

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