Yesterday I attended an event for International Women’s Day. The theme of the day was to celebrate strong, empowered women and to encourage us to speak up when we felt we were marginalised or judged for our gender.
As a female non-drinker I listened to the speeches and raised my glass (of water) to the toasts. All the while feeling somewhat excluded and judged.
Having pre-arranged an alcohol-free cocktail before the event, letting them know when I arrived (they told me they had catered for my ‘dietary requirement’) I went and sat with my friends, who were served their alcoholic drinks immediately. Over the next hour my dear friend and I asked multiple times for my drink. My friend also asked for a bottle of champagne, which arrived imminently, but still no AF drink for me.
Over the course of 3 rounds of alcoholic drinks served and 2 toasts to speeches I left my seat 4 times and asked politely for my drink, to no avail. Finally, l lost my shit and spoke up.
To be clear, I was not remotely tempted by the pretty glasses of ethanol, BUT, 18 months ago, it would have been torture. Maybe I was a woman who had just committed to quitting or cutting back, perhaps I was an anxious newly sober woman who was trying to stay social and connected, I might even have been pregnant. Had any of these been the case, what are the chances that I might lose my resolve? Given in to the ‘one won’t hurt’ voice in my head? I’d say pretty high. We only have so much grit.
As most people know, changing a habit is HARD. It takes time and commitment but most importantly, and especially in social situations, it needs support. That support can come in many forms, but, in a venue, at an event like this it’s simple. An easy, compelling, healthy choice is imperative. Not only can it ease anxiety and discomfort in the moment, but it could also, and I know this sounds extreme, save a marriage, an accident, or even a life.
So, in keeping with the theme of the day I raised the above in my big girl’s voice, to the staff. Finally, I got a result, and they promptly delivered my drink. I felt no shame, after all why should I? and I have a lot of practice. But I write this piece for my old self, the terrified woman, who stayed home instead of meeting my friends, who scanned the menu, desperate for something that would help me fit in with the drinkers and who cringed inside when asked ‘why are you not drinking?. Is it too hard to provide a drink with no alcohol in it? To the people in the room who might need it the most?
More and more people are becoming aware of the negative effects of alcohol and all of us need support to change. So, here’s my message.
HOSPITALITY VENUES. PLEASE CATER FOR NON-DRINKERS WITH THE SAME COURTESY YOU GIVE TO DRINKERS. WE WILL SPEND WHATEVER IT TAKES TO PROTECT OURSELVES. DRINKERS CAN WAIT. MANY OF US CAN’T.
Better options = better choices.
I shall hop of my soap box…for now.