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“Can I Buy You a Drink?” A Loaded Question

Karen is from Connecticut. She has a degree in education. She loves game shows, animals, the beach, and her family.

"Can I Buy You a Drink?” a Loaded Question

“Can I get you a drink?” seems like a fairly benign conversation starter, but when I hear it I know I’m probably about to offend somebody, or at least lose their interest. I don’t want a drink. Not now or ever. From time to time maybe I’ll reply that I’d like a glass of water while most everyone else has beer or wine, and I feel like I’d might as well be asking for human blood, I’d rather just avoid the question altogether.

I’m pretty unwavering on my stance though. If you’ve ever tried to fall asleep over the sound of your alcoholic brother yelling and breaking things, my story may resonate with you. If you’ve ever made a cringy nervous face when a bartender or server asked your significant other if they want another drink, my story may ring true with you.


Drinking seems to be the norm, the default setting, and I never understood that. People choose not to drink for any number of reasons. I feel like people think they deserve an explanation if you don’t drink. It’s like a societal albatross I have to carry.


It’s not like I’ve never had a drink, but I haven’t had a drink in about fifteen years, and I haven’t been drunk since I was in college decades ago. I’m not a recovering alcoholic. I have no history of substance abuse. I made a conscious decision for myself.


Drinking is often presented glamorously. A smiling group of girlfriends gathered around a couple bottles of wine. It’s social and fun. A group of best buds with bottles of beer. They’re bonding and having a blast, the commercial leads us to believe. And drinking can be sophisticated too. Impressive business colleagues with highballs full of impressive dark liquors. Hard pass. I even dislike the smell.


For me, alcohol represented something darker, more in the manner of what I noted earlier. Alcohol meant anger, danger, and empty calories, an additional dealbreaker for me. I do feel like I’m sometimes pressured to drink. It’s strange when I meet someone new, and I feel like I have to explain that I don’t drink and why. I’m afraid it makes me a bad first date. Does anyone else feel like they need to get a drink and just put it in front of them, leaving it untouched, just to avoid an awkward conversation?


Drinking didn’t turn me into a better, looser version of myself, like I’d been promised. It didn’t make me have more fun. My ex-boyfriend would hunker down in front of the television with a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon, settling in sometime between three and six o’clock, in order to play video games with adolescents from around the world, growing more hostile as the hours passed. I’d often wake in the middle of the night, take the bottle out of his lap and the controller out of his hand, check to make sure the oven wasn’t on, burning some frozen pizza or what not. Bourbon was a big chunk of our budget while we were struggling with bills. Priorities: bourbon, video games, Carl’s Jr, fancy electronics, then rent. This was not the partner I wanted. And he disapproved of my sobriety, too. I was no fun. I was hiding something. I was the ever faithful designated driver, forever chided for failing to join in and desiring to keep everything alive.


My brother was a reckless drinker. The kind prone to losing his car downtown late on a Saturday night when he had no business driving. The type who needs the police to restrain him after he almost split his head open by attempting cartwheels in the middle of the street. He gave me my first sip of alcohol. Something that tasted like candy, but burned going down. I felt so grown up. I had wanted to be like him in so many other ways.


So no, I don’t drink. Don’t scowl at my empty hand, holding no glass, or maybe only a glass with water. I’ve paid for enough bourbon in my life. I’ve worried over loved ones. And for every group of high-end executives bonding over cocktails, I picture a homeless person holding a brown paper bag to his lips. He’s lost his job and family, and wishes that you had some change to spare. If my personal choice is making someone else uncomfortable, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be swayed at this point. No beer gut. No accidents. No fights.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Karen Michelle C