Growing up as a preacher’s kid in a fairly conservative community my family didn’t keep alcohol in the house. Mom and Dad didn’t drink outside of the home, either. It wasn’t part of our life in any way for many years. Other church members would sometimes say it was a sin but I don’t remember my parents ever mentioning it at all. Even in their most evangelical, conservative days Mom and Dad were never that interested in telling other people what was right or wrong for them.
Cue the Fall Festival
Most of the people we knew were non-drinkers so it was surprising and a little daring as a young teenager to attend the annual fall festival that a local Catholic church hosted and see devout grownups drinking mugs of beer. For many years I had understood drinking in rather black-and-white terms. One either abstained or drank to excess. There was no middle ground in part because of my conservative religious upbringing and also because I was so young. It’s much more difficult to see social or behavioural shades of grey at certain developmental stages of life.
Over time I became used to their libertine ways, so to speak. Once I was old enough I even drank myself on rare occasion. Most of the people I associated with were still fairly traditional on this issue, though. It was just a little odd that my family was comfortable with this. The moderate people we hung around believe that alcohol, while not a sin in and of itself per se, was a slippery slope to the act of doing something wrong if one wasn’t particularly careful.
I’ve mentioned this story before, but while in college I took a fitness and health class in which a special speaker told us that anyone who drank any amount of alcohol while under the age of 21 had a drinking problem. She worked in the substance abuse field and was no doubt surrounded by people who started drinking early in life. On a certain level it made sense that she was so cautious; on every other level she was wildly misinterpreting what was generally a benign social activity for non-addicts.
These were the cultural influences and circumstances of my first couple of decades on this planet. Depending upon who was speaking alcohol was:
- Potentially Sinful, but Probably Ok
- Actually Sinful
- A Recipe for Disaster
- A Recipe for Fun
And then I thudded into adulthood. I’d tasted small amounts of alcohol before then but had never developed much interest in it. As friends began to very occassionally invite us to barbeques, the pub or other places where alcohol was regularly served I decided to give it another shot.
Drinking is boring.
I’m not uncomfortable if other people want to drink around me. Once or twice a year I might even join them for a glass of something sweetly flavoured. I really don’t understand the cultural tradition of going to a bar or pub for the express purpose of becoming intoxicated, though.
When a new friend suggests this once, no big deal. When they suggest it almost every time they want to get together I begin to think that we have fairly different ideas of what it means to have fun. In a city as large as Toronto, why go out drinking when there is so much else to see and do: festivals, parades, museums, restaurants, national parks and campgrounds, city parks (e.g. the kind with playgrounds and benches), beaches, the bluffs and a massive zoo to name just a few alternatives.
There are other rare-drinkers here but it seems to be much more common, at least in secular circles, for young people to go out drinking as a common method of having a good time or celebrating happy news. I don’t judge anyone else’s choices in this matter; it’s simply funny that I’m now just a little odd for not drinking enough instead of for imbibing at all. 😉