No, I'm Not a Wine Drinker: 3 Social Tips from a Teetotaler

It's Wine Week here at The Kitchn and it's always a rough time for me. You see, I'm one of the few folks on the planet that refrains from the consumption of alcohol (with an occasional exception for cooking wines). It always results in slightly awkward conversation in mixed company but there are a few tips and tricks I've learned along the way for making things less awkward. The last thing someone who doesn't drink wants to do is spend the next half hour explaining to dinner companions why they don't drink. When people see you not drinking they usually assume one of three things:

1. You're pregnant: No, no I'm not pregnant. Seriously. But you assuming makes me feel awkward for a whole new set of reasons, so thanks.

2. You used to hit the bottle too hard: Although I did drink in my past, just because I choose not to now doesn't mean I used to over indulge. There's no 12 step program involved; I'm not doing it to live a better life than I used to. I just don't.

3. You think you're better than everyone else: These days everyone needs something to cling to. Yoga, dietary restrictions, clothing choices, you name it. We all have something. Just because I choose to drink doesn't mean I wear it as a badge of honor and I need it to define me. Or you for that matter. It doesn't make me better or worse than anyone; it's a simple choice. End of story.

Over the years there are a few things I've learned in order to slip under the radar without discussing my decision not to consume alcohol. It's not that I don't want anyone to know or that it should be kept a secret; I just don't want it always called to attention when it's such a social habit for most adults. I'd rather talk about how your kids are doing in school, how work is going or what color your socks are. Life is too short to dissect my drinking habits. For reals.

• 1. Have a drink already in hand: Forget waiting for someone to serve you, and don't be afraid to help yourself. Although there's usually a non-alcoholic option at a party or gathering, you know water will always be on hand. Add a garnish from the bar (fruit, herbs, whatever) and you're good to go. No one will really question you.

• 2. Don't make a big deal out of it: If you're having trouble tracking down a glass that doesn't resemble a highball, try grabbing your host's attention out of the way. Just ask and keep it under the radar. In the middle of dinner when all eyes are on you makes it awkward and you deserve all the odd looks you will in fact receive.

• 3. Know what's up without imbibing: It can be weird to hang out in bars or social clubs if you don't drink. But although you're not two-fisting shots, it doesn't mean you can't know what you're around. It will help you talk the talk without walking the walk. In new social circles it can be easier than explaining. Even though I don't drink I can still tell you what wines to pick up from Trader Joe's and what's new out there on the market. Food is fascinating, just because you don't eat pork, it doesn't mean you shouldn't know how to prepare or use it. Wine is the same way.

Do you drink? Do you refrain like me? Are there tips and tricks you'd like to add to the list above? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Related: 15 Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Have With a Meal

(Image: Flickr member tnarik licensed for use by Creative Commons)

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