Social Drinking: How do you handle it?

I have about 5 part-time jobs.  For one of them, I work as a freelancer for a television network.  As part of my job, my company flies me all over the country to cover sporting events.

During this past presidential campaign, I remember reading several articles first published in the Boston Globe, and reprinted in the Deseret News, regarding Mitt Romney’s upbringing.  I was surprised to learn that Mitt’s father, George, kept alcohol in their house to entertain non-LDS friends.  The article was sure to state that all of the Romneys obeyed the Word of Wisdom, and never partook of the alcohol.  I found this particular stance unusual.

There have been several attempts in recent years by former Salt Lake City mayor, Rocky Anderson, to have Utah’s liquor laws changed.  Utah’s laws are quite strange to out-of-staters, and require anyone who drinks alcohol to purchase a membership.  Alcohol (greater than 3.2% beer) can only be served by clubs, so many restaurants and bars have become “private clubs” in order to serve alcohol.  Rocky’s take is that the prevailing religion (LDS) needs to allow that other people don’t have the same morality, and that liquor laws need to be modified.  (Anything stronger than beer can be purchased at a state liquor store.)

While I agree that some of Utah’s laws are odd, and should probably be changed, there is always a public-safety issue which needs to be addressed.  Certainly, Utah has a much lower rate of drunk driving deaths, and much of this can be attributed to the tough liquor laws.

Now, I have been to sports bars in other states, and quite enjoy the atmosphere.  Usually, I would go with my brother and other LDS friends.  None of us drink, (which annoys the waitress), but we really had a fun time viewing all the different sporting events.  It felt like sport’s heaven.

On the other hand, I recently worked a game in another state.  I was offered the opportunity to have a drink with some of the other tv crew after the game.  On this occasion, I had some friends from out of town, and politely declined the invitation to be with my friends.  However, this weekend, I will be free to attend.  On the one hand, I would like to get better acquainted with the tv crew, but I have absolutely no desire to drink.  During our company meal, before the football game, I “socialized” with others, but found I did not have much in common with them, because they often talked about drunk karaoke parties, and alcohol quite a bit.  I’ve done karaoke, but it didn’t seem to be nearly as “fun” as some of their stories.  I just found I didn’t have much in common with them.

My wife works for an airline, and works with plenty of non-LDS.  I asked her how she would handle the situation.  She said that when she was single, she would try to socialize with co-workers.  But now that she is married, she has no desire to talk endlessly about drinking, so she just goes to her hotel room, while the rest of the crew goes down to the bar.

So, for those of you who live outside of Utah, how do you handle these situations?  Any advice for me?


12 comments on “Social Drinking: How do you handle it?

  1. It can be somewhat awkward. I have generally found that most people don’t drink to get sloshed and therefore going to a bar with them is not really all that painful an experience. In fact it is the same as socializing pretty much anywhere. I would say you should at least show you are game for a try. However, it turns out drunk people are actually a real pain to hang around. On the one hand you can be valuable for public safety as a designated driver. On the other hand, when things turn obnoxious, as the designated driver, you can’t just pick up and leave.

  2. I’ve almost always been the only Mormon in all social situations througout my life, but the drinking has never been an issue for me. Here is how I’ve handled it:

    In high school and college, it was all about getting smashed. It wasn’t “social drinking,” it was getting wasted. I had no interest in it and even after I turned 19 (drinking age in Canada), I never went to the bars. Part of it was the atmosphere and the other part was the smoking. (There has since been a ban on smoking, even in bars, both in Canada and Norway, but back then places like that were always a cloud of smoke.) My friends always knew it wasn’t my thing, so they never really pressured me to go out with them. I did however go to restaurant-bars, which I was ok with. They ate and drank, and I ate. No big deal.

    When “social drinking” is done in a civilized manner (i.e. when people want to have a drink for the purpose of enjoyment and NOT for just the sake of getting smashed), then it’s really not an issue for me. I find that most don’t really care that I don’t drink, much like I don’t really care that they do drink. Since I’m always around non-members, I’ve found that the best approach is to be honest. You don’t have to broadcast that you don’t drink, but if they ask then I’ll be honest and say that no, I don’t drink. If they ask why, I just say I never have and have never had any interest in starting. If appropriate, I’ll say it’s because of religious and health reasons.

    One thing that I always want to be careful about is not alienating people because of our differences in regards to drinking. If people sense that their drinking bothers you, even when it’s done in a totally responsible, civilized manner, then they’ll start to feel funny around you and they tend to interpret that vibe as your feeling superior over them. They’ll start to wonder why you’re making a big deal over it. And really, if they’re behaving themselves and just want to have a beer or a glass of wine, then it shouldn’t be a big deal, in my opinion. Most intelligent and mature adults will understand that not everyone wants to drink and as long as they’re free to do so without being looked down upon for it, they won’t really care that you don’t. On the other hand, if they resort to mocking you or mobbing you for not drinking, then I would make it clear that I don’t really need to put up with immature, childish behaviour, and that would be my cue to leave.

    I also read that about the Romneys and it surprised me as well. I don’t think that I would keep or serve alcohol in my home myself (I won’t even serve meat to my friends since I don’t eat it myself :), but if someone brought it with them (like a bottle of wine or a beer) for their self-consumption, then I don’t think I would deny them that as long as they were being responsible about it. Just like I wouldn’t deny a smoker the right to step onto my porch for a cigarette. If I had coffee drinkers staying with me for the weekend, I don’t think it would be a terrible thing to buy them a jar of coffee to make them feel more at home. I once went to a baby shower for the daughter of my branch president and since most of the people there were non-member coffee drinkers, they had a jar of instant coffee for those who wanted it. Coffee is like a staple food in Norway. 🙂 I thought it was the hospitable thing to do. I have seen good, strong members here allow non-member friends to bring a can of beer into their home for their own consumption, even with the Elders present, and that didn’t seem to be a big deal because it was just like he was having a can of soda or something. He wasn’t being rude or creating a bad atmosphere in the home because of it. I guess they wanted their guest to feel that he was free to be himself and that we weren’t going to judge him for it. As for buying alcohol to serve to guests who want it, I think that’s where I would draw the line. Not only would it feel a bit strange to buy it, but alcohol is crazy expensive in Norway. 🙂

    So really, calm and responsible social drinking, like having dinner with friends and their having a glass of wine or beer, is about as big a deal to me as if they were having a cup of coffee. I think maybe us non-Utah Mormons living in places where we are a small majority are more comfortable with others drinking because we have to be. We can’t just live under a rock and avoid all social situations because there might be alcohol there. But wherever I’ve been and no matter how small a minority I’ve been, I’ve never really felt any pressure to drink and I’ve never really been criticized for my decision not to.

    If all else fails, you can always say you can’t because you’re pregnant. LOL. 🙂

  3. This is an issue I deal with all the time because my wife is not a Mormon and is a modest drinker. When we got married I had to get used to having alcohol in the house. I don’t drink and my parents never had alcohol in our home so it was not something I was comfortable with. But I hardly felt like I could tell her how to live her life or what she could or could not have in her own home. When we had children, I was worried about having alcohol around but I told myself I just had to relax and let them see that one parent could abstain from alcohol and the other could use it responsibly. I have mostly come to terms with it now but I still have moments of discomfort. Last weekend we had friends over that are not Mormons. In fact, the husband is a German and the wife is Japanese and they understandably think Mormons are a little hung up about the whole alcohol thing. My wife asked me go to the store to by a few things for dinner and on the shopping list was beer. I have never purchased beer before and it was a strange putting a box of beer in my shopping cart. I was a little worried about someone from the ward seeing my buy beer. But I told myself that it wasn’t for me and that I was just being a good host and people could draw whatever conclusion they wanted.

    In the bigger picture, I have issues with Church members using the word of wisdom as a barometer of righteousness but I don’t have time to jump into that one right now.

  4. Thanks to all for your responses. FD, I think you have hit the nail on the head, and helped me crystallize my thoughts better.

    A few weeks ago, I was in Hawaii on vacation. Another family was there, offered me a beer, I declined, and we had a very pleasant conversation. He was a fine fellow from California, and I didn’t feel odd for not drinking, nor for his drinking in front of me.

    In relation to the tv crew, it is somewhat different. In the past, I have been the designated driver. One particular fellow had 4 or 5 tequilas at a bar. When we returned to the hotel, he went to the hotel bar to have some more. He was slurring his speech, and hopelessly drunk. It wasn’t fun for me.

    The talk was about wine, beer, tequila, wild parties, etc. Many tv crew are divorced, drug users, porn users, etc. Now, I won’t say they try to force me to drink, and they were glad I was the designated driver, but it just really isn’t that much fun for me. I know nothing about wines, tequila, or alcohol. What can I add to the conversation?

    With my friend from Hawaii, on the other hand, we talked about Steelers, Red Sox, Eagles, Celtics, vacations, schools, taxes, and all sorts of things. I have opinions on all of those subjects, and was happy to participate in the conversation.

    Sanford, I agree that mormons use the WoW as a barometer of righteousness, and I think that is a poor barometer. I am trying to avoid that, and am trying to be more accepting. I heard a quote once about Jesus from a Presbyterian seminary teacher. He said, “If Jesus were alive today, he would hang out in bars.” He went on to say that Jesus “did not come to call the righteous to repentence, but the sinners.” Where else can one find sinners than in a bar?

    So, on the one hand, I want to be a good example, and let my light shine before men. On the other hand, if they are just going there to get drunk (as it seems many do), I just can’t see much of a redeeming value in going. What would Jesus do? It seems they are in great need of a physician…..

    I don’t know this particular crew, so I guess I’ll go along for the ride, and see if it is a good or bad experience. Thank you all for your perspectives!

  5. Utah’s governor, Jon Huntsman (a prominent Mormon) has been pushing the Utah legislature to change the states drinking laws to be more in line with other states.

  6. I say no thank you I don’t drink.
    I’m a Mormon.
    I’ll take some coffee though. 🙂
    Then order a diet coke.

  7. AE, thanks, but what if it was a sports bar with a bunch of games you were interested in watching? Is it ok to go, not drink, and enjoy the company, rather than sitting in your room and flipping channels? Can’t you order a diet Coke there as well as your room?

    As a post-script, I didn’t get invited for drinks, and just went back to my room and wrote the priesthood ban post. I guess that was a better thing to do, anyway.

  8. I love to shoot pool and a lot of the time i have gone to pool halls that serve beer. In Salt Lake. I still don’t drink and I have fun. It probably isn’t the wise thing to do but it can be done.

  9. i just tell everyone that i’m in aa. it’s just easier =)

  10. lighten up and have a beer!!!!!

  11. My wife is a Mormon and I’d rather not be. But she’d leave me if I stopped going to church, and I’m concerned about our children having two parents at home. So I do go to church, and I do have a temple recommend, but drink coffee and beer on occasion, and I don’t pay tithing. The church simply isn’t what it claims to be. A lot of members are like me.

  12. I saw this article from a guy who quit drinking alcohol and coffee for 15 months, and I totally relate.

    Less gossip

    If there is one thing I noticed quite early, then it’s the lack of social interaction my new diet brought with it. Here is what happened:

    You don’t really go out anymore. It’s exhausting to explain again and again why you don’t drink and NO also one drink is not okay.

    When a group of people asks me to join them for drinks, I mostly default to answer with NO because I just don’t want to deal with gossip as a sober person.

    If I do go for drinks, I last max. 1 hour because this is how long my attention span as a sober person lasts in a group of drunk people.

    While I was never a party animal anyways, completely stopping with alcohol made me go out even less. It’s amazing to see the culture of drinking slowly fading away from your life. It made me realize how many friendships are actually based mostly on your drinking habits.

    “Let’s go for a drink” is so engraved in our lives, because who says “Hey, let’s just meet up as sober people and talk about stuff” – Why the fuck would you do that? “Let’s get a drink” needs no explanation. It’s a thing, everyone knows what happens next.


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