Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Column: Don't pour one out for the non-drinkers

August 28, 2017
alexea-summer-mug-new

"Are you, like, sober right now?" 

Yes. The answer is always "yes." The answer to that question has and might always be "yes,” for my college career and life — even though I still go to parties. And, even more surprisingly, still get invited to them. 

"Um, why?"

Good question.

Full disclosure, when The State News asked me to write two columns — one on how I don't drink, and the other on my heavy distaste for fraternity culture — it was initially pitched as a joke. A joke that I am often found at the butt of. Which is fair. 

Among my college friends, I found I'm an outlier in a lot of things. I'm from a mostly poor family, as opposed to the average middle class student. I'm also the first to attend college from my particular familial line. This means that the only thing my parents know about university is from movies, so they are no help with anything like financial aid, or college living, or even college sports, all of which I've navigated on my own for two years now — albeit sometimes cluelessly.

But the drinking thing is the most obvious. And, glaringly, the one that comes up most in conversation.

I knew I wasn't going to drink coming into college. And though I am religious, it's not a "religious thing" like so many people often ask — most religions aren't specifically "anti-alcohol" anyway — it was a personal decision I made years ago. To be honest, there's not some traumatic or cool background story. My parents drink more than I do. And they, like my peers, also tease me about it.

Arriving at MSU, I was afraid I wouldn't make friends because of this personal life decision. Somehow, I was worried that by depriving myself of being the token "Way Too Drunk Girl at Random Frat Party," I could not function as a happy, healthy Spartan. 

I was very wrong. 

Another confession: when this column was pitched, another editor said, "Yeah, you could talk about how you play board games instead… Or whatever you do." I laughed. How can you not? 

I'm always enthused when people think I'm playing Yahtzee alone in lieu of getting drunk off my ass or that I sit around like a middle-aged woman knitting scarves for kittens or something. Which, realistically, sounds great. 

And I could tell you what I "do" instead, but I don't "do" anything in the place of alcohol. I exist as a human and coexist with other humans, which means I breathe and eat and take up space and watch Netflix and ride bikes and, well, exist. 

It is boring, in my opinion, to explain what one does in the place of a general life enhancer such as alcohol. Very easily the question is turned on its head: What do college students do with alcohol? 

Answer: exist and coexist alongside other humans. Shocking. 

Basically, the point of all this is to say: to those of you who are not fans of alcohol when walking into life at MSU, you are not alone. You are not especially rare, and you are not especially strange either. A lot of my friends, though not all, are equally non-prolific drinkers. 

In a college as big as MSU, I urge you to understand there are people of many paths walking alongside you. 

People will tease you, but they usually mean no harm. You will be offered many more free drinks than you may ever have the appetite for. Your drunken friends will be jealous, but it is okay to turn them down one after another after another — the world will not combust, nor will you.

In my mind, every friend group needs a faithful and loyal designated driver to get everyone home safe, which I am. In my mind, life is still awfully exciting and awfully wonderful all the time. 

And I remember most of mine just more clearly. 

Plus, it's kind of fun to be the only one who remembers the party. Makes for much better, and more accurate, storytelling.

This story appears in The State News 2017 Welcome Week Edition. The issue can be found on MSU's campus at various dorms and buildings. To read other Welcome Week stories, click here. 

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