Jolie from Tunbridge Wells is wondering why turning down a festive tipple causes such a to-do
I’VE JUST HAD another email inviting me to Christmas drinks. It’s my third this week. They all start the same – some jovial message about how we must have a catch up in Tunbridge Wells over a tipple, and a joke about heading to work the next day with a hangover. From colleagues to friends, everybody is in full-on festive mode, where lunch breaks have evolved from an M&S salad to a mulled wine in a pub, and business meetings have moved from a coffee in the boardroom to Prosecco in a bar.
When you’re a non-drinker, as I am, Christmas socialising becomes a bit of a minefield. Throughout the rest of the 11 months of the year, on the odd occasion you get an invitation, it is usually completely acceptable to sip on a lime and soda without a second thought, but over Christmas, when you turn down a cocktail in favour of a Coke, heads swivel, eyes roll and you’re immediately labelled a scrooge.
The reasons behind me not drinking are personal, and I don’t feel the need to justify myself to anyone, but I’m constantly being eyed with suspicion when I tell people I don’t drink, especially between November and January. Sometimes, they look at my stomach to see if I’m pregnant; other times they’ll look at me with sympathy, as though I’ve just accidentally chucked a winning lottery ticket in the toilet.
The thing is, I don’t feel like I am missing out. What’s so great about spending ages planning a night out, only to have huge memory blanks the next day? Is having a few wines really worth spending the whole of the following day in bed, or, worse, having to take care of the kids while suppressing the urge to vomit in the Christmas tree?
The trouble is, drinking to excess is expected at Christmas – everything revolves around a tipple or two. It’s even in the music that’s incessantly pumped around shops at this time of year and blaring on the radio every time you get in the car – ‘Christmas time, mistletoe and wine’. From fizz deals in the supermarket to brandy butter to ladle over the mince pies, everything is a booze-filled bonanza, but one that can be very isolating if you don’t want to indulge.
Unlike being vegan or vegetarian, where Christmas can understandably be difficult, being teetotal is a whole other ball game. Family and friends will begrudgingly serve you a nut roast when you tell them you don’t eat turkey, but turning down a post-lunch port induces raised eyebrows and mutterings.
Most of my friends and family are understanding, and for 11 months of the year they don’t bat an eyelid when I opt for water over wine, but even they, when it comes to December will still try and encourage me to have a drink ‘because it’s Christmas’. Would I force them to eat Brussels sprouts if they didn’t like them? No. So why do they think it’s acceptable to try and ply me with Prosecco?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and most of the merriment that comes with it – I’d just rather stick to orange juice and avoid getting too merry at Christmas.
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