Why I Stopped Drinking on Dates

Julia Bainbridge | October 14, 2016

Embrace the awkward (it’s really awkward)

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First dates normally present an awkward moment or two. To buy myself a little time in order to deal with the awkward moment or two, I reach for a glass and sip. The contents of that glass, after around ten such sips, normally help dilute this particular kind of anxiety, thus removing the need to buy a little more time, thus stimulating the flow of conversation. Normally.

After twelve legal years of drinking alcohol on dates, though, I’ve stopped drinking altogether. “Normal” is gone with the wine.

The challenges of hopefully romantic evenings spent with strangers aren’t gone, mind you, but my coping mechanism is. A cocktail or two is the way many of us soften the edges of evenings spent looking for love in all the wrong places. We rely on alcohol such that, upon hearing that I endure dates without it — yes, at bars and restaurants, and yes, while the men drink if they want to — people’s jaws unhinge.

The first couple times out of the gate were admittedly wonky, but with some practice, my level of discomfort waned, and I even grew to accept the presence of a little wonk. I learned to get in front of the problem, suggesting walks in parks or brunch instead of dinner, which most men found refreshing.

Then came someone I thought I might like. Let’s call him Jason*. Jason invited me to his apartment for a third date. He seared trout and steamed couscous, and, once we were full and our feet were up on the couch, he tried to kiss me. This was a plausible thing to try to do at this point, but I stiffened up. As he hovered over me waiting for my body language to change, my lips, I swear, curled into my mouth, like snails retreating into their protective shells. While I didn’t quite understand what was going on, I kindly explained that I felt a little uncomfortable, which was the only thing I knew to be true at the time. Jason froze, and I could tell the night was over. I thanked him for dinner, took myself home, and didn’t hear from him for days. When I asked for an explanation for the silence, this is what I received, via text message:

“You seem to be going through a transition in your life — not to mention that was one of the most awkward kisses I have ever experienced — and I just don’t know if I have the patience or the want to support you through it.”

That’s fair. I was — I am — going through a transition in life, one that makes me unsure of how to paint my portrait for others, which is what you’re supposed to do on dates. Courtship is a chess game of personal information sharing. His move: What are you looking for right now? My move: Are you close to your mother? His move: What do you love about writing? My move: How long have you had your dog? And so on. Right now, many of those question marks are met with more question marks from me, which makes gauging interest in this woman difficult for the man seated across from her at some cozy two-top.

The comment about the kiss, though? It had been an embarrassing moment for both of us, and Jason turned it into an embarrassing moment for me. With his language, he torqued our shared experience into something that he was subject to at my hand. What a bully. What a baby!

And there’s the thing: I know that’s why I seized up when someone whose lips I wasn’t so sure about letting touch mine advanced towards them. I sensed it already, Jason’s dickishness, and I was able to listen to that sense because I was sober. If I had been two drinks in, I might have indulged him a little; I might have even sailed a hand up his thigh. Alcohol tends to put me on a kind of vixen autopilot in situations like that. Remove it, and you get me: a little awkward, very much in transition, but me. Things may be confusing, but I’m honest about that, most importantly with myself.

I’ll drink again at some point, and I’ll drink on dates again. I’ll enjoy it, too. But right now, I’m leaning into the discomfort. The wine is gone, but so is the haze it brings with it.

*His real name is Jason. Fuck you, Jason!

Photo by Krista Anna Lewis.

  • Amelia Diamond

    “Fuck you, Jason” made me lol. I THINK THIS IS GREAT.

  • that was the best use of an asterisk i’ve ever come upon.

    also you are truly very brave, thank you for sharing your courageous exploit with us.

  • Aggie

    FUCK YOU JASON!

  • Lauren

    “His real name is Jason. Fuck you Jason!” Best. Ending. Ever.

  • Eva Mooiman

    CHEERS TO THAT! (apple juice, that is) Being sober make you ever funnier and sober kisses are most special. <3

  • Taste of France

    This is a good idea. It isn’t that a drink is always bad. It’s that a drink is bad at certain times: before driving, when working, and, as you point out, on first/second/early dates.
    Also: great way to stick it to Jason!

  • Molly D

    Can Fuck You, Jason! become Man Repeller’s next mission statement?

    But what a novel and smart idea!! Weird though when almost every date I’ve had is a result of being not sober somewhere.

  • Andrea Raymer

    Jason is the WORST.

  • Lilli

    Jason is a dick hole. GO YOU!

  • Jul Mara

    Excellent article, legitimately laughed out loud at the footnote

  • Iva Quint

    I love this. Your “vixen autopilot” is very relatable, and your advice is VERY sound. Thank you!

    • Iva Quint

      Oh ya and fuck you Jason!

  • Julie

    Ay! I feel this. I love this. I totally also just went through this.

  • Sabletoothtigre

    Anotha one here for “His real name is Jason. Fuck you, Jason!”

  • Paula Jones

    Well if a guy can’t woo you sober, he is a bullet well dodged. Smart lady dating without the beer goggles. Jason is a dick. *Fuck Jason xx

  • Ellen Hawkins

    i’m so glad i read this to the end. ye, fuck you jason!

  • Madison Grace

    Hahaha! Yes. That asterisk? Yes

    MY BLOG: http://www.bymybedside.com
    yo check it out, free cookies for everyone that does (jks no cookies)

  • Adardame

    I love the comment about courtship being a chess game of personal information sharing.

  • Áine Hegarty

    This is one of my favorite reads so far on Man Repeller! It made me think about how different your outcome was because you were sober. If you had kissed him fully you might have spent another week, month, maybe even year working with something just because it happened at all. But it was all avoided because you were fully there to realize your body was speaking loudly and you listened. It makes me realize that sober or not, listening to any small voice or physical reaction is so important. It can be a time saver and the fastest way to the truth.

  • Marion A.

    I Love this!! Ultimately you want someone who likes the real you quirks and all!

  • gret mackintosh

    what a great read – and agree with all the others, best use of an asterisk EVER. “Fuck you, Jason”

  • tmm16

    Julia, we are so alike! I also tend to “loosen up” when I drink. I’m going to try not drinking on dates from now on. As a matter of fact, I had a date yesterday that was alcohol-free and it went really well. Kudos to you, and Jason, boy bye 👋

  • Maithe

    Juli

  • Maithe

    Julia, I have stopped to drink since I had a bad accident and a seizure. And for the rest of my entire life I won´t be able to drink again due to the treatment. I also was anxious on my first dates with guys, but all of them were polite and gentleman in a way – either they drank very little (like a beer, max 2) or also nothing, just to be polite with me. I was very pleased to see this sign of respect to me. Later, when I told my story, they got to know – the real reason why I don´t drink – nonetheless even if I hadn´t a reason at all, it´s my body my decisions to make. I just can say to you is refreshing! I enjoy more the conversations, the touch, the smell and sex without any drop is the best because is more intense!. I just got pickier and if a guy cannot have fun with me without me drinking, he´d better run. I don´t tolerate now so much tipsy people around me and would never date a drunk guy too, it´s not worth my time.