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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sober does not equal buzzkill

What three words can instantly stop a party?

“”I don’t drink.”” (Saying “”It’s the police!”” would be a close second, though.)

OK, that sounds somewhat extreme, but it’s not too far from the truth.

Straight-edgers, teetotalers, killjoys — whatever you want to call them, the majority of college students can find it difficult to imagine people who abstain from drinking alcohol, even when they are of legal age.

It’s easy to see why. We are constantly surrounded by the idea that you can’t have anything fun, funny and interesting happen without alcohol. How many movies and TV shows have you seen where everyone is heading to “”the party”” and the main characters are trying to get drunk, and they end up either walking the walk of shame or the walk to fame? When was the last time your friends talked about a great party and they didn’t mention drinking or someone being drunk?

Even research reflects the scarcity of nondrinkers. Four out of five college age students drink, according to a 2008 study cited by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and about 60 percent of them are between the ages 18 and 20. (This raises two interesting questions: Do these underage students believe that, because of what they’ve seen and heard, they need to start drinking in order to be accepted as adults? Or are movies, TV shows, books, etc., no more than a reflection of what is already happening — that is, they bear little responsibility for how acceptable and prevalent drinking is?)

Now, I must confess that I consider myself a nondrinker. Of course, I’ve been offered beer, wine, rice wine, hard liquor and homemade moonshine by relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers since I was 4 years old. I used to take a hard stance against all alcohol and drinking, thanks to my mom and to me being a studious graduate of the former D.A.R.E. program. For years, I condemned anyone and everyone for succumbing to such a vice and wasting their lives and money on it. I was not a popular kid.

But I’ve since learned to relax and not make an enormous fuss about drinking and alcohol, and I believe many other nondrinkers take a similar perspective. To deny the impact and importance of alcohol in most histories, societies and cultures would be plain silly. We would be denying the countless ideas, inventions and works of art that have been inspired and created across the world while under the influence of a strong brew or a fine vintage.

A few things irritate nondrinkers. First, anyone who becomes belligerent or violent when drunk is to be avoided. (Actually, most people wouldn’t want to be around any of them.) Same thing goes for anyone who binge drinks, or is an alcoholic or thinks it’s OK to drive home after more than a few drinks. (Mothers and Students Against Drunk Driving might want to share a few strong words with that person.) Self-pitying drunks are tolerable sometimes but fun, happy drunks are certainly welcome anytime.

The second irritant is people who insist that we drink during a celebration or party, regardless of our beliefs and personal history with alcohol; otherwise, we’re disrespecting them and the event. They might as well demand a Hindu to eat a rack of beef ribs at a barbecue or an AA member to take a wine tour through Napa Valley.

Finally, just because we don’t drink, please don’t assume we are judging you or that we don’t want to hang out with you when you want to grab a few drinks or go to a party after a stressful week. We’ll suggest doing something else to relax — watch a movie, take a scenic walk, enjoy a mug of hot chocolate at home — but at the end of the day, the most important thing to us is that we are there for you as your friend.

Our only request is that whenever we do go out with you, please don’t give us strange looks as we order our Arnold Palmers, Shirley Temples, Cinderellas and other mocktails. We didn’t name them.

— Steven Kwan is a nutritional sciences senior. He can be reached at

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