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15-08-2013, 18:00
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From time to time, you come across articles by non-drinkers claiming that drinking has become the norm in society, and that non-drinkers are ridiculed, ostracised and portrayed as party-poopers. The latest example I have seen is this one: The incoherent ramblings of a tee-totaler (http://www.itsthedrinktalking.co.uk/the-incoherent-ramblings-of-a-tee-totaler/) (sic) - which I think is hosted by an astroturf anti-drink group, so might have something of an axe to grind.
However, in recent years my experience has been that, in the context of general adult socialising, drinking has become less and less commonplace, and no stigma whatsoever is attached to those who choose not to do it. Obviously there are some gatherings like Burns night suppers where alcohol is core to the experience, and non-drinkers may choose to avoid them, but even if they did attend for whatever reason I doubt whether they would become the butt of ridicule.
Indeed, it sometimes feels as though the person who does have a drink is the one who attracts funny looks and an element of disapproval. I will offer two examples from my recent experience. First, I attended a social gathering of a non beer related organisation which was actually held in a pub, and a very good pub too. I would say that fewer than half of the adults there had an alcoholic drink. And I attended a funeral where the reception afterwards was held in a hotel with a licensed bar. There were maybe twenty adults present, and I was the only one to have a drink.
And the steep decline of drinking with work colleagues, whether at lunchtimes or after work, has been widely noted.
The complaint may have some relevance in the context of student life, but even there I would say you have a wide choice as to which social contacts you make. When I was at university, I knew a number of people in the Methodist Society, which I very much doubt was a focus of alcohol-fuelled revelry, whereas the Chess Club was often just an excuse for a piss-up. Universities host a huge range of cultural, sporting and religious societies – some undoubtedly are boozy, most are not. If you don’t like drinking, don’t associate with boozers, it’s not difficult. It might also help your cause if you don’t ostentatiously make the point that you never drink every time you refuse one.
All the statistics show that in recent years there has been a steady decline in both the proportion of young people who drink alcohol, and the average per-capita consumption. This social world in which people are being constantly subjected to peer pressure to drink alcohol and ostracised if they don’t seems to bear very little relation to reality.

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