My 21-year-old son, who can sometimes surprise me with his level of maturity -- I still think of him as a goofy 8 year old far too often -- has opted out of a 21st birthday celebration in Las Vegas with some of his friends.
"I just can't keep up with them," he said.
At first I was dismayed -- why would any fun-loving 21-year-old man not want to go on a trip to Las Vegas -- especially when the room is paid for? Having just spent his 21st birthday there, I thought he'd jump at the chance.
Then I realized -- I would have done the same thing. Score one for the son. Though he likes to drink and party, he knows his limits, and these friends can party far longer and harder than he can.
It dawned on me that we have a lot in common. He likes to drink, but not like his friends do.
In my case, I don't drink at all anymore.
Before we go any further, I must tell you that I have never had a drinking problem.
When I was around 16, my father began giving me a glass of wine at dinner on Sunday nights. Almaden Mountain White Chablis.
He felt it was important that I learned to drink responsibly. He obviously didn't know that when I was 14 a bunch of my friends and I got blotto drunk (my first time) on vodka and Coke while watching Night of the Living Dead on TV.
There are a variety of reasons why I stopped drinking. Primarily it's because I don't like the way I feel afterwards -- drinking keeps me awake at night, it gives me headaches, and I get tired too quickly when I drink alcohol. Every so often I'll have a glass of champagne or two, but for the most part, I stick with club soda and lime. That way it looks like I'm sipping on a drink.
What's so surprising to me is how indignant friends and acquaintances become when I'm not drinking along with them at a party or when we're out for dinner.
- "What do you mean you don't drink! Come on, have one!"
- "We have to change that."
- "Are you ever going to drink with us again?"
- "What's wrong with you?
Believe me, if I could drink, I would. If I wasn't sure I would start drifting off in the middle of dessert, longing to be home and in bed, I would join in by ordering an Absolut® on the rocks with a lemon wedge (my long-time cocktail of choice) or two. I used to drink, pretty much whenever anyone else was drinking. But then, three years ago, I just stopped after one particularly awful night and morning after. I was done.
I wish I could enjoy a glass of wine or two without my head pounding afterwards. Wine, on every level, appeals to me -- the discussion of the bottle to order, the big, sexy glasses, the delicious aromas, the dark red or pale yellow of the wine as it's decanted and sipped. At the grocery store I sometimes walk down the wine aisle and admire the pretty labels, the great names of the wineries, and sigh a little. It looks good to me -- it just doesn't feel so great.
I don't care if others drink. Why do they care if I do? I'm still witty and engaging (I think).
I don't miss it at all, really.
Score one for me.