You can be sober and social, it turns out
Who doesn't love happy hour? It's a time to socialize with your friends and coworkers, get out of the office on time, and relax. But if you don't drink, happy hours may not be so relaxing — though it's not because of your lack of a buzz.
The last time my team at Refinery29 had a happy hour, I scanned the bar's menu online beforehand. I knew everyone else was getting watermelon margaritas, so I noted the price before scanning the food menu. I decided that while everyone else ordered the margarita, I'd get a kale salad. (Since our director had budgeted a certain amount of money for the drinks, I figured it wouldn't hurt to redirect my margarita funds toward food.) When they went for a second round, I had an iced coffee.
There I was, eating a full meal, while everyone else nursed alcoholic watermelon slush. To most people, that might sound even more awkward than just drinking water, and I credit the fact that it wasn't to R29's nonjudgmental atmosphere. (It also helped that another member of our team doesn't drink, either, though she didn't order anything at all and had to leave early.)
It also wasn't a big deal because I've always been the person who doesn't drink at a happy hour, or at restaurants in general. It's not that I don't drink at all — that's a totally different (and tremendous) challenge, as Kristi Coulter outlined in a beautiful essay for Medium. I'll gladly enjoy, say, a cider at home or at a dive bar. But personally, I don't value spending money on alcohol. If I'm out with friends, I'd much rather buy an appetizer than a round of drinks.
You'd think that would be a personal decision — but when it comes to alcohol, other people get involved. Personally, I've been subject to both strange looks and judgy reactions ("Are you really not drinking?") over the years. I can't name another time when my actions have been so irritating to other people. I'm already there, spending time with you — doesn't that matter more than what I've chosen to imbibe (or not)?
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