Gentle Reader: No one should socialize with tabletop bullies, neither the kind of bullies who try to force people to eat more than they want, nor the even worse ones who try to force others to drink. That is the social error, no matter how it seems to be disguised with conviviality and hospitality.
The gracious manner of declining food or drink is, “No, thank you,” and the gracious, not to say decent, response is to let it go at that. Miss Manners
We were talking last night about what to say when someone asks you if you want a drink. Oftentimes it is in the form of an either/or question such as, “Would you prefer red or white?” or “Would you like wine or something stronger?” Those kinds of questions imply the asker does not know you very well (or the fact that if you drink the proffered adult beverage, it just might turn the dinner party, business retreat or book club meeting into a “night to remember”…).
The alcohol drinking culture is so prevalent the world around, it is almost always assumed you will drink something booze-based if you are over the age of 18. It is a bit of a sticky wicket to figure out the best way to break the news that you will be drinking gassy water, or a soft drink…
It is my natural inclination (you might have guessed) to say, “I don’t drink,” and if I’m questioned further to say, “I’m an alcoholic.” But it seems kind of aggressive and in-your-face, and per usual Miss Manners is correct (if a bit priggish and intolerant). The best response is a simple, “No thank you.”
Here’s the problem. Sometimes people do want to know, “Why?”. The host of the tailgate party might not always be up on his excruciatingly perfect decorum, or the hostess might be worried that if others drink you will be uncomfortable, or worse feel forced to tipple …
When I lived for a short time on a Georgia mountaintop, I was invited by my neighbor to a dinner party. When he asked whether I would be drinking red or white (a legitimate question if one’s wine cellar is not bottomless) and I lowered the non-drinker boom, he overreacted the way sensitive people often do. There began, a flurry of emails from him and other attendees (who had heard the news), asking whether they should eschew drinking altogether. One let me know he used to have a drinking problem, but had it under control (he did not have it under control, by the way…).
It was embarrassing. I found myself exaggerating the drinking habits of my friends and family, selling them down the river with protestations of, “Oh my God, everyone I know drinks like dying dogs! They drink so much they are like overly-wet sponges dripping across the floor! They are a bunch of drunken slobs!” I exclaimed that I loved to watch people drink. It was like, “My FAVORITE THING ever!”
Don’t let this happen to you.
Do not lie. Do not exaggerate. Say these words (practice them in a mirror), “Oh, don’t worry about me – I’m easy – I don’t drink alcohol.”
If they persist, pause meaningfully and say, “I just don’t drink.”
Today I’m not drinking because, “No thank you. I just don’t .”
How come you’re not drinking?