Saturday, December 31, 2005

One Teetotaler's New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve = major bummer for somebody who is shy and doesn't drink. I've had a few good New Year's Eves in my life - most notably, a balmy night swing dancing outside at a dock-side bar on the Florida Keys - but most of them should have been slept through, if they weren't.

Let's take New Year's Eve 1999: that year my favorite aunt died, my dad died, my lover left me, and on December 31, I had a tooth crowned. The dentist shot me up with so much Novocaine that hours later the world was still whirling. My daughter was having a riotous teenage-type party in the studio and I was too woozy to check up on her. I was laughing: how could anything be worse? The year 2000 would surely be an improvement. And it was, until my son got brain cancer in June. (He's ok now.)

Why don't I drink? My mother was an alcoholic. Her mother was an alcoholic. I have an addictive personality - the only way I know to keep from eating things I like UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY GONE is to keep them out of the house.

Putting those facts together, I realized long ago that were I to start drinking, I would become an alcoholic. I read a lot, so I know the outcome would be years of disaster, culminating in some calamity which would finally make me see it was time to join Alcoholics Anonymous. And then I wouldn't drink any more.

Why not just skip the awful years in the middle and go straight to not-drinking, bypassing alcoholism and not embarrassing myself and ruining the lives of people around me?

So that's what I did. I didn't drink, and I still don't. I'm going to be reading and watching tv tonight.

Extracts from
New Year's With a Twist
by Kevin Helliker for the Wall Street Journal
December 31, 2005

When light drinkers -- those who consume 12 or fewer drinks a year -- are combined with nondrinkers, they represent nearly 49% of the U.S. population, according to a National Institutes of Health press release.

Yet in a nation that prides itself on tolerance, teetotalers sometimes face pressure to drink. It can happen in any situation, but no day of the year poses more difficulty than New Year's Eve, whose icon is the champagne glass.

Once a powerful-enough force to bring about Prohibition, teetotalers faded into near-obscurity following that debacle, their presence visible only in regions dominated by abstention-promoting religions.

As Hollywood increasingly portrayed the quintessential American as cocktail-sipping (or beer-guzzling), the nondrinker came to be regarded as a peculiarity. Having nothing to sell him, marketers didn't bother tracking his numbers.

Some researchers have, however, and teetotalers turn out to be a much larger group than nearly anyone realized. About 35% of Americans in telephone polls call themselves nondrinkers.

Adjusting for the fact -- well established in drinking research -- that people underestimate their alcohol consumption, the polls still suggest that one in four Americans over 18 doesn't drink.

But culturally, the impression persists that teetotalers are isolated and troubled anomalies.

"Don't you know that a drink a day is good for you?" my best-educated uncle used to ask when I declined his offer of a drink. Out of respect, I didn't point out the devastation that alcohol had wrought upon certain other members of our family.

In drinking situations, nondrinkers are often advised to say they drank too much last night, invent a morning duty that will require total alertness -- or accept a glass of wine and leave it undrunk (or tossed into a flower pot).

Teetotalers could unite, of course. But the problem is that they're a disparate bunch. Many don't drink for religious reasons, others for reasons of health (a medication, for instance, that is contraindicated with alcohol). Some people simply don't like the taste of alcohol. Others tried it and ran into trouble.

Collectively, these nondrinkers barely know about each other's existence.

Any other non-drinkers out there care to tell what they're doing (or did) for New Year's Eve?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,


At 7:41 PM, Blogger kenju said...

I am not a complete teetotaler; I have 1 beer a day and an occasional glass of wine. Tonight I am babysitting 4 of my grandchildren, so I will not have anything until after they go to sleep!

Happy Hew Year!

At 12:23 AM, Anonymous Kimberly said...

I can tell we're going to get along just fine. :-)

I am a very light drinker because I just don't care much about alcohol. I'll occasionally have a glass of wine or port or a margarita. And I like the flavor of some alcoholic beverages, so I keep them around for cooking/ baking/ making preserves.

Paul and I are watching a Law & Order: Criminal Intent marathon on cable. We may watch a movie later, but probably not. We may even stay up 'til midnight this year.

Happy New Year!

At 9:08 AM, Blogger coturnix said...

I rarely drink: a couple of glasses of wine and a few beers per year. Last night, I had, as always, Coke. At midnight.

At 6:18 AM, Blogger ciao said...

Had some wine. I live in Key West so I had to drop a line after reading one of your best Eve's was in the Florida Keys. Don't know why you ever left?

At 1:14 AM, Blogger NietzscheDanced said...

So wise. I stumbled in off a Google link and read the teetotaler piece.
Both parents were alkys so the missing p brain wave in the child was a given. I hid filched liquor by age 7. Knew I was an alcoholic by 23 but other than a few briefly sober I was 50 before I found a way. 14 years in a few months but the mementos of so much drinking stay with you.
For us booze is crack and nothing to mess with when forewarned. Smart lady!

At 6:00 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Thanks, all. Wonder what I'll try this year...


Post a Comment

<< Home

Find me on Google+