"You're in college. What do you mean you don't drink?" I received this question a lot, and there were times that it was really awkward. People often proceeded with funny looks and nosy follow up questions. Thus, I'd be lying if I were to say that it was easy. Unfortunately, I've even lost a couple of friends in college because they thought that drinking was synonymous with fun. In other words, if I don't drink, then I must be no fun to be around. As a person who waited to drink until I turned 21, I thought that this post was important to share for those who don't want to drink but feel like they have to in order to fit in.
There are two tips that made it easier for me not to feel pressured to drink in college. For one, I found people who enjoyed similar things as me. This made it easier on weekends when I didn't feel like going out because I could just hit them up to watch a movie, go to dinner, attend a concert, go for a late night workout, chill and talk, etc. My other tip is that if you want to go to parties but also want to avoid nosy questions, you could always just hold a drink but not actually drink it. That way when people aren't looking, just pour the drink in the sink, lawn, or closest plant (sorry plant, but sometimes you have to take one for the team!) I say all of this to say that if you don't want to drink, there are ways that you can avoid it.
For people who don't want to drink, we all have our different reasons. For me, there were two. First, I didn't have a huge interest. My parents and older sister didn't drink often, so it was rare when alcohol was around growing up. This leads me to the second reason. I think that it is important to remind you that I am a woman of color. When you're raised by Black parents, they instill in you the reality that the world sees you differently. There are things that your friends might be doing that you cannot do. This is especially true today. I go to college in the most segregated city in the country in a time where racism is blatant and not always denounced. While this is unfortunate, it's real. (And for my skeptical readers, look up the "arrest of Martese Johnson"). Before we turned 21, a lot of my friends and I didn't drink at parties because at the end of the day, if the cops are called, we know that we are the first ones looked at, and that is something that we should not risk.
Now that I enter into a new chapter of my life (my 21st birthday was yesterday), I'm excited for what's ahead. But I felt like I should share this for the people who have been in my position. My best advice is to do what makes you feel comfortable. If you don't want to drink, then don't. While it may be awkward at times, I guarantee that you are not the only one at your school who doesn't feel like drinking, so don't be afraid to have those conversations with others. In fact, those initially awkward conversations led me to meet some awesome people in college who I now consider some of my closest friends.