Dating Without Drinking That Much Is Normal & Apparently Inconvenient

When I was 16, I got drunk for the first time. I sipped on Manischewitz wine at my family's Passover seder (it's customary to refill your glass four times), and threw up during the meal. Ever since then – I'm now 24 – whenever I have more than one glass of whatever alcohol, I get sick. Because I don't like throwing up and feeling an uneasiness in my stomach, I've learned that I don't really enjoy drinking all that much. So, I usually stick to my one-glass maximum, and enjoy my un-sick self during social occasions. Dating without drinking can sometimes raise some obstacles for me: people typically suggest first date ideas that are centered around a bar, or many bars. And it's not like I don't like them! I'm such a fan of speakeasies and fancy bars where I feel like a million bucks and simultaneously like I don't belong. But it's not my first choice to center a date around alcohol when I don't drink that much.

Sometimes I'll counter-offer something like coffee, which is much more casual than meeting at a bar, and is more of a daytime date, too. Day dates are the best because you may wind up having an adventure by doing more activities after the first scheduled activity (instead of just a string of bars), and I usually find that they're generally more relaxed than a nighttime date. And yes, some people prefer the atmosphere of drinking to loosen them up a bit, but if I'm going out with someone, I'd rather them not feel the need to kick back several drinks just to have a conversation. Coffee dates don't have the pressure to "keep up" with the other person by ordering multiple drinks, and I don't get sick! Win-win.

But sometimes, after a dinner date, I've gone along to a bar afterwards, and it doesn't go so well. On one occasion, I matched with a guy on a dating app, and we had dinner at a nice Greek restaurant, then walked to a bar (that was in a bookshop actually! I'd have much rather meandered around the bookshop, but anyway...) and I politely ordered my one drink. Other than the fact that when I do drink, I try to drink slowly as to not hasten the sickness, I drink slowly so my one drink order isn't questioned so much when we finish up. "I'm just a slow drinker," I'll sometimes say, to not bring on a conversation about getting sick and how much of a "bore" I am because I don't really drink. Fun stuff, right?

Well this guy, Greek Restaurant Guy, wasn't having it. At the first bar, he gently suggested I have another drink, I said, "Nah, I'm good, one's fine for me." He wanted us to meet up with his friends at another place (I wanted to go to bed), and I felt badly because I had already rescheduled this date, like, two times. At the next place, Greek Restaurant Guy asked to get me a drink. I said no again. The place after that, he got a little bit more than gentle with his offers to get me another drink. And he touched my butt. So I pulled the whole "I'm tired" card, ordered an Uber pool (Greek Restaurant Guy ALSO ordered an Uber pool, and was in the same car), and went home.

In my experiences, men seem uncomfortable with the amount I drink. (I date people of all genders, and this problem seems worse with men.) I know on some end I should probably be honest about not drinking a lot from the start, but on the other end, why is it such an awkward thing to not drink? I don't need social lubricant or liquid luck to bring personality to the table, I bring that from the get-go, so why is it so weird? I'm fine going to bars on dates, really, I just don't want to be encouraged to have more alcohol when I don't want it, and don't want to be looked at differently because I don't.

But I guess there's something to be said about going on dates to bars anyway, and seeing how the other person handles my ~controversial~ stance on having a drink or Diet Coke. If they're not an assh*le, then they've passed my mini test. On a recent date, I confessed while we were at a bar that I don't drink much. We then split this pink lemonade-like cocktail, which was a perfect amount of alcohol for me to consume on a Sunday afternoon, and he shined brightly in my eyes after that. It's so much better to just not be a jerk, you know?

And anyway, there are plenty of ways to have fun on dates that don't revolve around alcohol. Here's a few:

  1. Food markets.
  2. Theme parks.
  3. Museums.
  4. Sports games.
  5. Outside stuff that isn't hiking. (Pumpkin picking, Christmas window shopping, botanical gardens, etc.)
  6. Mild hiking. (A stroll through a park.)
  7. Haunted houses.
  8. Pottery-painting place.
  9. Karaoke sing-a-long of The Greatest Showman.
  10. Browsing Costco and scoring free samples.

See?

There's so much fun to be had that can be accomplished sans alcohol, and I won't get sick. Maybe it's on my end to be more upfront from the beginning that I don't drink much, but I don't think it's my responsibility to go into a long explanation about subverting drinking culture in life and in dating. I feel like my not drinking is as inconsequential as not being a smoker, but unfortunately smoking isn't a cultural norm that is sort of expected in social settings. So let's all be a little more mindful that not everyone partakes in drinking, be respectful of people's boundaries, and understand that the somewhat-sober dating life can be fun, too.