by MELISSA KOUTOUKIDIS
I drank diet coke on my 18th birthday.
Unlike the majority of my peers who awaited the chance to guzzle down alcopops, I shunned the teenage rite of passage like an egregiously high pair of heels.
With Aussies knocking back 10 litres of pure alcohol each year each year, approximately 2.2 standard beverages per day per person, we possess a national drinking culture so pervasive that beers and booze are as customary as beaches and barbeques.
Me? I would be lucky to consume 2.2 alcoholic beverages in one year let alone 24 hours and it has nothing to do with God, an ailment, or a bun in the oven.
I was just never interested in drinking. Contrary to many others, I didn’t grow up in a family where social situations were fuelled by liquor. Even as an adult engaging in gatherings which involve alcohol, I’m still not up for it.
Although girls hiking their skirts up to their ovaries kind of repelled me from the drink, it’s just not my thing. The taste, the effects, nor the empty calories quite do it for me.
Though, admittedly, the romantic idea of viewing a foreign film with a glass of red always tempted me, as did the mimosa which has something wonderfully ‘ladies who lunch’ about it.
But with a mimosa equating to a small donut in calories (and not tasting anywhere as delicious), I’m more inclined to wolf down the baked good. Unless I find myself along the white sands of a Caribbean island in the height of summer. And there are no patisseries within a 40 km radius.
According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education:
61 per cent of Generation-Y drinkers consume alcohol with the intention of getting smashed
95 per cent of all Australian drinkers are unable to correctly identify safe levels of liquor
The Windex of legal drugs, we invent a multitude of excuses to indulge in the hard stuff. It helps us unwind at home and to loosen up on the dance floor. It’s a nightcap as well as a party starter. It can leave us depressed, bubbly, aggravated, reckless, and lustful all in the same evening.
Unfortunately, if you don’t subscribe to this cultural more and choose to give liquor a miss you are often deemed a social pariah. Decline a second round of ABC shots? You’re branded a party-pooper. God forbid you attempt to make a toast with San Pellegrino – you won’t be invited out again!
Just writing this article proved somewhat of a struggle for me. I kept anticipating reader reactions, expecting a few people to cast off my perceptions from the very outset. Especially since many find it difficult to accept that someone could choose not to drink which, in turn, makes it difficult for non-drinkers to share their choice.
Too many times in the past have I attended a party and refused alcohol, only to be ogled at like a celebrity with botched botox.
What’s even worse is when the million-dollar question is asked and you’re forced to endure an unappetising selection of ignorance. Variations include, “Is it a religious thing?”, “Do you have some sort of medical problem?”, and a bewildered, “But…Wh-, WH-WHY?!”
Nowadays, I savour instead of dodge the reactions of those around me when I admit that I’m not really a drinker. Some people glance away awkwardly as if doing so renders them invincible, others’ eyes can’t help but outwardly boggle in a Looney Tunes type fashion (picture the moment before Wile E. Coyote is about to be hit by a safe), and my personal favourite: the slow, repeated head nod.
But in all honesty, what is all the hoopla about? A segment of society shouldn’t stumble across eggshells or have to justify a personal choice for the benefit of others. A choice is a choice regardless of whether it is in relation to shoes, hairdos, or booze.
This column wasn’t intended to be a non-drinking sermon to convert the population into soft drink sippers or mocktailers. However, the fun in describing to a friend all their shenanigans from the night before isn’t to be underestimated!
There’s nothing wrong with drinking responsibly or not drinking at all. You could quite easily crack out the platforms for a couple of hours or trade them in for ballet flats once in a while. After all, not only can you shimmy for much longer in flats, you avoid some icky side effects.
Plus, you won’t forget a thing!
How much do you drink? Do you think Australia has a culture of binge drinking?