Thursday, August 19, 2010
I don't drink. I have been of legal drinking age for more than twenty-three years now, and I have never been drunk. I don't feel as if I've missed out on anything.
Maybe it had something to do with being a band geek in high school. Or maybe I was just that much of a goody-goody while growing up. I never had to deal with that kind of peer pressure (or in this case, beer pressure). But I have never liked the taste of any alcoholic beverage, not even wine coolers or champagne.
"You've never been drunk?!" Steve was incredulous. He was the DJ on the first cruise ship I had worked on. "We've got to find something you enjoy drinking, and get you drunk for the first time."
It's almost a shame that I didn't drink. As crew members, we were given an alcohol account to get drinks for free on the ship. The purpose of the account was to get us to socialize more with the passengers, to offer them a drink on the house, in any of the ship's bars and dining areas.
The account had a set limit, though, and was renewed every month. My coworkers came running to me regularly. "Can I put my drinks on your account? I've maxed out mine." They knew that I was barely using up my minimum, even when getting drinks for passengers, with the juice or soft drink beverages I was ordering for myself.
Back home, on land, my roommates loved me. "Let's go out!" they would suggest, knowing I would be more than willing to drive. Even though I didn't drink, I loved to go out dancing, any night of the week. "Okay!" I agreed. "You guys drink and I'll make sure to get us all safely back home!"
"You don't drink?" the Japanese would ask me when I worked in Kyushu. "And you don't smoke? You're not Japanese." No, I am not. Well, I am only half, on my mother's side, but I knew what they meant. I am American through and through when it comes to the cultural norms of social drinking in Japan.
In a small attempt to assimilate, I would have one glass of shou chu (or chu hai ) whenever I went out to dinner with friends in Japan. It is a very mild, clear alcohol, usually mixed with a fruit-flavored (artificially flavored) concentrate. My favorite flavor with shou chu was "Calpico," a high fructose soft drink that is kind of milky and lightly citrusy at the same time, kind of yogurty, really. I learned to love it when I spent part of my childhood in Japan.
I could make a Calpico shou chu last throughout an entire meal. On some nights, during special occasions, I would get really wild and order a second drink - a Kahlúa and milk, which tastes like flan pudding to me. Yum!
Drinking wine is supposed to be healthy for you, even having a glass a day. But I still don't drink. I have never been drunk, not even once. So, tell me: what's the fuss all about? What am I missing?