As a University of Toronto student, I spend almost all of my free time studying. My weekends generally consist of sitting straight from Thursday night (as I have Fridays off) until Sunday night, at my desk, immersed in hundreds of pages of readings, essays, tests and assignments. I always feel like I am drowning (although, in reality, I’m generally working about a week ahead) and typically, my family sees me on the weekend for no more than about 3 hours (all the fragmented times put together), despite the fact that I live and study at home.
Not surprisingly, then, I look forward to the social events hosted by university students. It is a great opportunity to reconnect with friends, relieve a bit of stress and meet new people. Its nice to get out of the house, and spend an evening in one of the most vibrant cities – downtown Toronto
I seem to have a recurring problem, however, which discourages me from attending university social events.
A snapshot of the majority of my social experiences at university go like this:
- You attend an organized social event (lets say, hosted by a student club, at a pub) with good friends. You’re having a great time – meeting new people, eating great food.
- Alcohol is served. Drinks are passed around.
- 7 minutes go by.
- You notice that your discussion companion starts giggling at everything you say, even when it isn’t funny.
- The music gets louder. You start to yell over the noise to keep your conversation going.
- People start to bump into you every 45 seconds. You start to suspect the room has begin to shrink.
Suddenly, your throat is sore from yelling, your head is pounding because of the music, and you are doubting your own sobriety – not because you’ve had anything to drink, but the people who have been talking with you have such a strong alcoholic breath, you suspect you might be tipsy off of their breathing. Suddenly, you have a hangover, and you haven’t drunk anything!
I get caught in this situation every time! Its a bit like the person who is too drunk at a classy banquet dinner where no one else is even tipsy – except, its the inverted. I’m the only sober person at a raging, drunken, university event, and I become the complete odd ball. Coherent conversation – the only thing left to amuse me – is almost impossible.
This post is not, in any way, to criticize those who drink. I choose not to drink for personal reasons – for religious reasons, health reasons, etc. but that bears no relevance on other people’s habits. Unfortunately, I tend to find that social events for university students which provide alcohol (in essence, every event) fail to really consider how the sober kid feels. Rumour has it, a diet coke is not half as fun as a martini!
Its a very frustrating position – you can feel very alienated when you don’t drink, and pressured to “just try one sip”. Its very difficult to have any sort of social life, because you get caught in the criticism, “why are you so uptight?!” or “loosen up, have a good time”. To be honest, I start to dread social events which I know I have to attend.
Okay, so what can you do when you get caught in this situation?
Bring a Sober Buddy: While so far, I haven’t found this to be effective, most ‘soberees’ swear to bringing a buddy to a social event. Not only do you have a common ally drinking diet coke instead of out of the the bouquet of booze, but you have someone to not laugh with you when the non-funny jokes are amusing to the ‘tipsies’. Most important to remember, don’t let a friend who says they will only drink one glass be your sober buddy. Even if they are your best friend and they stick through thick and thin with you, the alienating experience starts the moment they take a sip. Invite a friend who is really going to be sober!
Don’t Be Afraid to Leave Early: Some people have no trouble being sober at a drinkfest – but if you are like me, the mock hangover as illustrated above is enough to have you in and out of the event in an hour. If this is a common experience for you, then expect it to happen and prep your friends for it while they are sober. That way, you don’t have to attempt to excuse yourself a million times as they beg you to stay, bestowing alcholic breath on you. Make up an excuse to leave – and depending on how drunk they are, your excuse can range anywhere from “I have a paper due tomorrow” to “I need to go fight in World War II”. Trust me, both work. 🙂
Prep to for the Event in Advance: Sometimes you get caught somewhere, like a work holiday party, or interestingly, a work interview dinner (as my best friend attended, noted as the only person not drinking) and you simply can’t leave early. There is no need to panic – be prepared to attend the event and order something safe – like ginger ale. Be confident in your decision, and have a good time.
Find the “Sober Club”: There are a multitude of campus events which are void of alcohol, or at least, alcohol at minimalistic level – film screenings, theatre and movie viewings, recreational sports, guest speakers, etc. Try to put yourself in a social situation where you won’t feel uncomfortable with who you are. Getting involved with student clubs that don’t involve alcohol can make it easier to connect with friends. Try to attend events where, even if there is alcohol, there might be other things to focus on – such as a band playing, or a sports game. If the focus is alcohol (lets say, at a pub), then your uncomfortable feeling may become magnified as drinks are ordered around the table and you are the only one drinking club soda and a lime.
Don’t Let Other People Poop your Party!: I tend to notice that even when I am enjoying myself just fine, people around me don’t seem to enjoy themselves when I’m not drinking – a concept that simply baffles me. Don’t let other people make you feel like the party-pooper for not drinking, and don’t let them tell you what to do. Enjoying a party – meeting new friends, stepping out from the cocoon of academic, and having a good time can all occur without drinking.
I write this post fresh off of leaving a student event held at a pub, as I spent the evening awkwardly smushed in the middle of a round booth with 3 students drinking on my left, and 4 students drinking on my left. (Let me tell you, it was almost impossible to get out of that booth!) I really do understand that horrible, uncomfortable feeling, but I hope it remains backed up with pride for staying sober, and making a choice that is right for you. I hope that the above tips can help you (and me!) to be confident and comfortable in an situation of assorted alcohols.
Don’t be afraid to experience an event alcohol-free … the next morning, you’ll remember what happened!