If you still drink alcohol, you may not have thought much about going out and not drinking. But you are more than likely to come across people who, for many reasons, have decided to go sober. And there is one situation where this may become a particularly awkward discussion: going on a date. We asked our friend and Club Soda co-founder Dru Jaeger to share his top tips on how to date a non-drinker.
First dates are nerve-wracking. A glass of wine, or something stronger, at the start of the evening, is so much a part of the experience of going on a date that you probably take it for granted. But if you’re the kind of person who instinctively orders a bottle of wine to share, and your date doesn’t drink for whatever reason, first date awkwardness can quickly reach epic levels. After all, who wants to hear someone they fancy say the words, “Actually, there’s something I need to tell you…”?
Through Club Soda, the Mindful Drinking Movement™, I’ve recently heard some real dating horror stories from people who don’t drink. Sometimes their experience has been awkward because they didn’t want to have a big conversation about their drinking with someone they’d just met. Other times, they were basically bullied into having a drink because their date felt so uncomfortable about their glass being empty. I shouldn’t need to tell you that these dates did not end well.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As someone who likes a beer, and who has dated someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I’ve had some experience in this area, which I hope you’ll find helpful. Here are my top tips:
1. Don’t be a dick about it*
Actually, do you know what? That’s my only tip. If your date told you they were a vegetarian, you wouldn’t order them a steak. If they said they couldn’t eat gluten, you wouldn’t offer them a bread roll. If they were lactose intolerant, you wouldn’t suggest sharing a cheese board. It’s no different if your date doesn’t drink alcohol, even if you meet for drinks in a pub.
But I admit, it does feel different. So let’s be honest about what might be going on. I’m sure this isn’t true of you, but sometimes, my desire to share a drink with a date has been a cover for my own insecurity. I feel more relaxed when I’ve had a drink, so my date will too. And relaxed people are more likely to get on. And people who get on are more likely to… you get the picture. As I say, I’m sure it’s just me that thinks this way, and you’ve got your dating shit together.
Dating someone who doesn’t drink might feel different, but it’s not an impossible challenge. And it’s important to remember that the challenge is much bigger for them than for you. Telling someone you don’t drink, especially in a situation where that’s the expected norm, takes real courage. So instead of sticking to the plan in your head about how you think your evening should pan out, and trying to pressure your date into having a drink with you, try this conversation instead:
YOU: What can I get you to drink?
YOUR DATE: Oh, erm, I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment, so…
YOU: Oh, fair enough. Any ideas about what we should we have instead then? **
Some people who don’t drink, especially if they’re newly sober, might appreciate your solidarity. Others might not care if you have a glass of wine. The person I dated didn’t mind, though often I drank what they were drinking because I didn’t want to get drunk if they were sober. The most important thing is that you have the conversation, and you don’t make it weird. Because it really doesn’t need to be.
Look, if the worst happens on your date, you have a dull evening and an early night. But if the best happens, you could be at the start of something really interesting, because you’ve met another person with honesty and a real sense of respect. And that has to be a good thing, surely?
* If this sounds heterosexist, I’m not presuming that it’s men who put women in these situations, though the stories I’ve heard did fall into this category. First date awkwardness can happen between people of all genders and sexual orientations. Remember: having a dick is not a requirement for acting like a dick.
** Actually, if you really want to win first date brownie points, check out Club Soda’s drink suggestions in our blog. You could also find a great place for your date on the Club Soda Guide of best pubs and bars for mindful drinkers.