The origin of the handshake is often attributed to the desire to display the absence of a weapon. It was a gesture of peace, but also of trust. Showing a new friend that your right hand was weaponless was like saying, “Hello, how are you? FYI, I am NOT going to attempt to harm you in the next several minutes. You do the same, k?” As the gesture gained popularity and became downright perfunctory, humankind was forced to invent an even better show of good faith and good will. Happily, someone finally came up with the idea of communal drinking, and ever since, there have been no wars or conflicts of any kind (O.K., but probably fewer than there would have been otherwise?).
Really, it’s only over drinks that strangers become acquaintances and coworkers become friends. You sit down at a table or at a bar and prepare to knowingly imbibe a substance that will slightly alter your mind. It will make you happy, and slightly maudlin. It will slow your reflexes. It will lower your inhibitions. The very act of sitting down to have a drink together is like saying, “You are someone who I trust will not rob me, rape me, or tag me in unflattering photos.” And that’s a nice thing to say to a person, isn’t it? I think I once saw a Hallmark card like that.
Which is why teetotalers are THE WORST.
They are worse than sidewalk-cyclists, worse than multiple-flavor-tasters at the ice cream counter. They are even worse than those people who refuse to get cell phones.
I am not talking about folks who are pregnant, or taking meds that interact badly with booze. That’s fine. I mean, yes, we are all just waiting for you to finish your goddamn juice and leave, but at least we won’t talk badly about you afterward. Ditto if you’re a recovering alcoholic — you do you (although maybe you should be doing you somewhere other than at a bar?). But do not be the asshole who does this:
“I’ll just have a Coke. I don’t drink.”
“Why don’t you drink?”
“I just don’t like the way it makes me feel.”
As soon as I hear that, I think that you, the unrepentant, excuseless teetotaler, are one of these things:
1. A person with a problem unrelated to alcohol that you have attempted to treat, unsuccessfully, with alcohol. Maybe it’s anger issues. Maybe it’s sex stuff. Whatever it is, it has probably already polluted the innermost depths of your psyche and made you toxic to everyone in your life. Kindly keep away from me.
2. A control freak of the highest order, and probably a judgmental shit to boot. You are never the first to laugh. You are always the first to side-eye. You are the one who can’t wait to see people the next morning just to say, “Ooooh, you must be so EMBARRASSED after last night!” I’m not embarrassed. I had a good time and so did everyone else. You’re the one who should be embarrassed, because we all quietly hate you.
3. You once imbibed two cocktails and then leaned in close and whispered, “You know, I really hate fat people.”
Here is the thing about those of us who drink recreationally: We all KNOW that drinking can make us do or say something silly; we all KNOW that a night out drinking can turn into a dance on the knife-edge of self-control. Communal drinking requires a level of willing vulnerability and self-revelation (side note: I strongly suspect that’s why so many companies arrange happy hours for employees).
Anyone can pretend to be a functional human being when they are stone cold sober. I want to see what’s left when that shiny finish is washed away by tequila. I want to see what you say when you stop paying attention to what you’re saying. I want to see what song you pick when we end up at that Chinese karaoke bar. And I want you to see all those things about me, too. Otherwise, I’d probably just be inviting you for coffee, you know?
So bottoms up, ‘fess up, or GTFO.