As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t been going out much recently. But on Friday night I put my new dress on, got my hair done and forced myself out the door.
And… it was ok. Not great, not terrible, just alright.
The night started with drinks at someone’s house – a friend from work who I don’t know particularly well. I arrived just as she was pouring glasses of champagne. She pressed one into my hand but without skipping a beat I said, “no thanks, I don’t actually drink”. She looked mortified and was so apologetic it was quite sweet. However, everyone heard this and it meant that straightaway, there was no hiding the fact that I wasn’t drinking.
At first I didn’t mind talking about it. People are bound to ask some questions, especially when they know you used to drink. But my god, some people would not let it go, including a so-called friend of mine who promised to get me “nice and drunk by the end of the night” because “you’ll never meet a man if you’re sober.”
After a while we moved on to a party at the bar of quite a posh hotel. It was lovely there and for a while, all was good. There was chatting and mingling and laughing and I thought “Hmmm…. I can do this.” I like people-watching and I particularly like watching how people drink. It’s interesting who gets drunk quickly. Some knock back the drinks quietly whilst others linger over a glass of wine for hours.
I was standing there, minding my own business, when a man I know from work said to me, “Is that orange juice you’re drinking?” (Note to self: next time order a more subtle drink or at least get it in a wine glass). So I gave this guy Graham the usual spiel. (I normally tell people I stopped drinking in April as part of a health kick and I felt so much better I haven’t gone back, blah blah blah. Some people are happy to leave it at that, but others are much more nosy and ask lots of questions.)
After I’ve stopped talking Graham says, “Well that is funny, because I seem to remember that this time last year we were at a party where you were so drunk you spent most of the night with your tongue down someone else’s throat.” I groan internally, do my best oh-you’re-so-funny-laugh and say “well that’s another reason why I don’t drink anymore.” At this, Graham pauses, looks around and says, “but isn’t life all about those kind of moments? You’re missing out on so much.”
Now, my logical head knows that the best moments in life do NOT happen when you’re drunk, anesthetized and half out of it. But at that moment, in the middle of a busy party, with people hugging and laughing and being a bit merry, it felt true. Was I missing out? The question bugged me all night.
Recently I read an interview with the actor Simon Pegg, who stopped drinking at 40. He said “when I go out with my friends now – and this was a revelation to me – round about 10 o’clock I start looking around me and thinking, ‘Everyone’s an arsehole! When did this happen?'” On Friday night I looked around me and thought exactly the same thing. In fact you could argue some people had been arseholes the entire night. By 11pm they were slurring and repetitive and I knew it was time to go.
The original title I gave this post was “Is there a magic formula for a fun, sober night out?” Then I realised that actually I kind of know what makes a good night out for me these days and Friday night just wasn’t it. The real thing I struggle with is how to handle other people’s idea of a good night. I can’t hang out with sober people all the time. But when alcohol is considered by many to be an evening’s entertainment, what is a single, sober girl supposed to do?