I don't go to bars, and I live in a green lefty kind of city where it seems everyone bikes and juices and cleanses and does yoga and eats local. I live in a bit of a bubble. So it's surprising how many references there are to drinking in my day-to-day life. Yesterday, I nipped out to a local farmers' market to get out of my own head. There was a little booth selling homemade cordials, and I stopped for a taste. The woman at the booth makes the cordials herself, and she talked a bit about her flavours, ingredients, methods, that sort of thing. I chose a lemongrass-plum cordial (very tasty!) and the woman commented that it would be great with gin. Now I haven't been very public about quitting drinking, but I said, kind of without thinking, "Not for me, I quit drinking a while ago."
Well, the reaction! The woman selling the cordials said, "Oh, I love my drink. I'd never give that up." A guy standing next to me tasting a sample said, "No, I wouldn't go that crazy! Give up drinking! Sure, I'm cutting back on sugar, but booze? No, that's just nuts."
I'm not making this up. Two strangers, reacting to what I really thought was a throwaway line, while I was buying a no-alcohol beverage! And they were so adamant. Maybe I'm naive, but I really was surprised. I said I wasn't suggesting anything, I was just trying the cordials because I don't drink anymore, and that set off another round of exclaiming from the two. Holy! I mean, I wasn't ripping the gin from their cold dead hands or anything. I was in no way preaching. I don't care all that much who drinks what. I walked away with my cordial, leaving them raving to each other about not giving up drinking. Weird moment, that. Did I hit a nerve?
Then today at the grocery buying sparkling water and limes. (Hey, I sound like I'm always buying drinks. I do like having tasty drinks around!) It's a tiny store, and people bump into each other there enough times that eventually everyone gives up pretending not to see anyone and actually says hello. So the guy next to me in the lineup peered into my basket and said, smiling, "Let's see, looks like margueritas?"
I said no.
I shook my head.
"Plain old gin and soda with lime?"
Finally I answered, "Nope. Sparkling water and lime, actually."
He looked blank for a sec, and then said, "That's so healthy, yes, chelating, and the lime helps with the chelation, really really good for you, now I like a drink myself once in a while but yes, so healthy..." and proceeded to canonize me for buying water while defending himself for liking a drink. I tried to change the subject to the baking soda and sea salt he was buying, but it didn't take, and by then I was done at the till.
It's everywhere. The funny thing is, I was mostly worried about telling people I know that I'm not drinking. So far I've only told a few, but everyone has been amazingly supportive. (They're probably relieved.) But in both these conversations with strangers, I really did make the people uncomfortable, just by not joining in on the "I love booze" chatter! Sure, I could have just smiled and nodded, but I actually didn't want to pretend.
Later on, when I picked up come cooking wine (it really is for cooking) I braced myself for another round of the same, but the cashier just commented blandly on the weather. I smiled and nodded, "Yes, beautiful day." What a relief!