Last weekend, Chicagoans celebrated St. Patrick's Day early by dyeing the Chicago River green and having a big parade in the Loop. I didn't go to the parade, but I did see people all over my neighborhood dressed up like giant leprechauns.
Even though I had a lot of work to do (as usual), I agreed to go barhopping with a group of friends. I rarely drink alcohol; in fact, the last time I had a drink was a year and a half ago, when I attended my cousin's wedding in New Orleans. The night before the wedding, my younger cousins dragged me to Bourbon Street with them and made me have a cocktail; I drank a third of it and then secretly poured out the rest in the street when they weren't looking.
Last Saturday, I caved in to my friends' teasing about how I am a teetotaler and drank a few cocktails. I didn't get drunk, though; with each cocktail I drank, I drank a Coke, because I figured that the stimulant (caffeine) would counteract the depressant (alcohol). Each time I ordered a Coke for the first time at a different bar, the bartender would get this puzzled look on his or her face for a moment; one of them said, "Okay, but what do you want me to put IN the Coke?"
My friends and pretty much everyone else at the bars we went to, however, DID get drunk. I watched as everyone else's movements grew looser and more relaxed. I listened to their voices become slurred and louder. A lot of people became really rowdy. Some other guys at the bars got really aggressive, which happens at every club and bar. It's like, "Just because you're drunk, that does NOT mean you have the right to paw at me, so get your frickin' hands OFF me before I make you walk around with a limp for the next three days!"
I had been having fun hanging out with my friends, laughing and talking about what was going on in our lives and with our work. But the tone of the evening changed after they got drunk.
It reminded me of when I was in high school and attended my first "drinking party", which was held at a farm, and everyone got drunk in a field (what? I grew up in a small Midwestern town). No one was driving that night, because everyone slept over at the host's house. I was the only one who didn't drink any alcohol, and I watched as everyone guzzled beer, ran around, and yelled at the top of their lungs. I drove home early (I was sober, after all) so that I wouldn't have to watch them anymore.
When I was in college, I went to parties where there was alcohol. When I was in my twenties, I went with friends to bars and clubs that served alcohol too, of course. Occasionally I gave in to peer pressure and drank a cocktail, a beer, or a shot. I never had more than one or two drinks, though, and I never got drunk, only "tipsy". I didn't like the way alcohol tasted. I didn't like the way it made me feel when I drank it, because I knew that it lowered my inhibitions and it meant I wasn't fully in control of my actions. As a Type A personality, I am a total control freak and I HATE it if anything or anyone tries to control me.
I used to think that part of being young meant clubbing and barhopping; often, TV shows that feature young people show them drinking and having fun. For example, the characters on How I Met Your Mother apparently spend 90% of their time at a bar.
I used to think that I was "boring" compared to them, because I never felt comfortable in that kind of atmosphere. I preferred to hang out in a café or a bookstore, or go out for dinner with a few friends. Caffeine became my vice instead of alcohol, which is why I have become addicted to coffee and Coke (not "coke" with a lower-case C! I feel like if I ever did any of THOSE drugs I'd end up trying to climb the walls of my classroom and then my students would think I'm even MORE weird!). One of the reasons I moved to Chicago was because there are so many things to do here that DON'T involve alcohol.
So I stopped pretending to like alcohol, clubs, and bars. I still go to bars occasionally with friends, though I order soda 99% of the time. But I don't feel like I should have to apologize for the fact that I am a teetotaler, and I don't think it gives people the right to make fun of me or pressure me to "loosen up" and drink. I admit, though, that even though I resent people who judge me for being a teetotaler, I couldn't help judging people at the bars that night for getting drunk.
What about you? What do you think of the bar scene and drinking?
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