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March 11, 2012 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Need a quick, simple response to "why aren't you drinking??"

Went to Vegas this weekend with some friends and decided not to drink. I still went to clubs and danced, was entertained and had fun, but was always stumped each time I was asked why I wasn't drinking.

My reason is that I knew we were going to be out late and I don't handle hangovers well at all. I'd rather be sober and exhausted the next day instead of hungover, nauseated AND exhausted the next day. This seemed hard to explain.

How can I put this into a bite-sized, acceptable answer? Any other clever lines I could use (true or not)?
posted by brynna to Grab Bag (71 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Why do you ask?"

"Because I don't want to."

"Because I don't feel like it."

"Because I decided not to."

Who was doing the asking?
posted by alphanerd at 8:44 PM on March 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


"I don't feel like it!"

*said with a happy smile, changes subject*
posted by jbenben at 8:44 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It never ceases to amaze that people ask this question so often. I have never had a single bit of discomfort by simply stating, "I don't want to".
posted by msali at 8:45 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've never been questioned any further about why I'm not drinking when I just answer with something like, "Eh, just don't feel like it...[SUBJECT CHANGE]" or "Not in the mood...[SUBJECT CHANGE]."

I generally feel that the key to not being poked further on a topic is to answer decisively (if vaguely) and then redirect.
posted by Aquifer at 8:45 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is "I don't feel like it" not sufficient? You're not obligated to explain anything. Were your friends making a big deal out of it?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012


Jumping in to say that I tried "I just don't feel like it"... for whatever reason, this was a conversation killer and I couldn't seem to recover from it. Any suggested follow-ups?

People asking were strangers and friends of friends. The girls I was with understood that I just didn't feel like it.
posted by brynna at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012


In the situation you describe, I would simply get a drink and hold it. Or be the person who goes to get the drinks and get OJ or some mixer with a piece of fruit in it. Easier to hold and not drink a drink than to answer.

Or, can say you are on medication or some other bs.
posted by AugustWest at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've started using 'You know how some people are happy drunks and some people are sad drunks? I'm a sleepy drunk, and I'd hate to miss the party...'

It has the advantage of being true in my case, and people seem to respect the idea that you're not drinking because it's more fun for you.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2012 [27 favorites]


Not that it's anyone's business but you can just say "It makes me not feel well." then change subject.
posted by bleep at 8:48 PM on March 11, 2012


"I hate hangovers"

"I don't handle hangovers well"

"Alcohol would kill the alien creature that growing at the base of my spine."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 PM on March 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


do you want me to barf on you? because I could...
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:49 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I'm investing in a tomorrow that is just as awesome as tonight" or "Tonight is pretty sweet and I'm all about having a tomorrow morning that is equally as awesome." Or "Because I want to remember what we're doing right now." ?
posted by ramenopres at 8:50 PM on March 11, 2012


Um, how about the truth? "I don't handle hangovers well at all." "I want to rock out tomorrow, too."
posted by J. Wilson at 8:52 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Allergic to alcohol."
"None of your business."
"I'm poor."
"Whiskey likes me too much."
"I prefer other methods of ending my sobriety."
"I'm documenting the stupidity around me for my next book, not participating in it for my rivals to document!"
"I've already had a fifth of Jack before this party started. You need to catch up, man!"
"I'm trying to score a hot Mormon and they don't drink alcohol! Shhh! Don't tell her about the coffee."

My cousin is allergic to alcohol. 3 beers he's smashed. He still drinks. I can drink like a fish and not get much of a hangover. I think we've both used the above excuses.

If I were doing this I would tell every person a different reason.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:53 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I've developed this weird allergy to alcohol. It's really not that uncommon. Look it up."
posted by item at 8:54 PM on March 11, 2012


"Amy Winehouse"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Options: medication, went out crazy the night before, or saving yourself to go crazy the next day.

"I crushed a case of Four Loko right before I walked in. Why aren't you drinking?"

"I accidentally took an Ambien that I thought was an Altoid -- I'm surprised I'm still on two feet!"

"Because I don't want to spill when I bust out my dance moves when the DJ plays my f'ing jam"

"I'm on my 99th day of Paleo, but if you can find me some fermented coconut water, I am down for some shots."

"I just donated my kidney to a sick child, and the doctor said I should avoid alcohol, but these pain meds are feelin' pretty good."

"I am drinking. There is a camelpak mainlining into my stoma. Though I think a cherry just got sucked in there because I suddenly feel a bit winded."
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding a cheerful "I just hate hangovers!" followed by "[cheerful change of subject!!]"

I also like the plan of an undercover alcohol-free beverage in your hand. Obviously you aren't required to explain your choices to anyone, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, get a sparkling water with lime, or whatever.
posted by pupstocks at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2012


I'm on antibiotics
posted by shothotbot at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


All of these are great, but, for variety's sake, I'll suggest, "I'm good with this (gesture to beverage you are drinking)." Only assholes will make a bigger deal out of it than it is. Of course, that is assuming this isn't a drastic change in behavior, you aren't making a big deal out of not drinking, and you are not being judgmental about others drinking. If you are chill and low-key about it, everyone else should be, too.
posted by katemcd at 8:57 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


How can I put this into a bite-sized, acceptable answer?

"I'm taking the night off."
posted by deanc at 8:57 PM on March 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


"Taking the night off"

"My carb day isn't until X"

I generally either plead pain meds/antibiotics or drink lime and soda. I don't really like club soda, so I can nurse one for ages and not look like I'm pounding drinks. Coke and lime works too; nobody knows it's not a cuba libre.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 PM on March 11, 2012


You're going to get a lot of clever responses here, but I don't think any of them are going to be able to resurrect conversations with people like these strangers and your friends of friends.

It's their social skills that are lacking here, IMHO.

If they had something worthwhile to talk to you about, they either would have brought it up instead of the question about your drinking, or would have gone to it after you gave your answer.

It's not you, it's them.
posted by alphanerd at 8:58 PM on March 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


Back to nth "taking the night off"! Good one.
posted by pupstocks at 8:59 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'm driving" should answer the question pretty dang quickly.
posted by maryr at 8:59 PM on March 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm pacing myself.

I've got something to do later.

I'm getting up early.

I'm rehydrating.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:00 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, on a more strategic note: get a lime with whatever you are drinking, whether it is water, coke, ginger, seltzer...and get the first round so you can hold that. Even if you aren't drinking and nobody knew or asked, it always seems better to have any kind of beverage in your hand. I think it would look odd to just stand there with your arms crossed or something. Props are good.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:02 PM on March 11, 2012


To clarify why I think the hangover issue is the answer to give, in addition to being true--

"I don't feel like drinking" is a conversation stop. More important, when you're out hanging out with friends in a drinking-type environment, a response like that is kind of a downer. It implies that you're blue and not wanting to have fun.

The hangover issue is a well accepted reason not to drink. Drinking impacts your ability to function the next day. For a variety of reasons, people often want to be able to function the next day.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:02 PM on March 11, 2012


I don't drink, and "I had a lot yesterday" by far works the best with people I don't know.
posted by phaedon at 9:02 PM on March 11, 2012


"I'm pregnant with a Mormon baby who is on antibiotics?"

To recover a conversation with a stranger, go with a self-effacing joke. Bonus if it is especially trite and topical. "I would drink but Rush Limbaugh hasn't told me it's OK..."
posted by fontophilic at 9:03 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does "I'm the designated driver" or "I'm the chaperone" not work anymore?
posted by quincunx at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2012


My usual one is "Sorry, but the hangovers started catching up with me."

Seconding the virgin drink stunt. I also find a good Virgin Mary excellent camouflage and yummy too! Barring that, a tonic with lime makes a nice G&T cover, especially as I am known as a gin and it drinker.
posted by Samizdata at 9:36 PM on March 11, 2012


"Dunno. Ask my liver."
---
"Why aren't you drinking?"
---
"I'm drinkin' Vegas in, baby! I'm drinkin' Vegas in!"
---
"Hit the road or I'll beat your brains in!"

Ok that last one sucks.
posted by mazola at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2012


My usual one is "I just don't want to tonight." Done.
posted by caclwmr4 at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2012


"It violates the terms of my probation"
posted by mazola at 10:09 PM on March 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jumping in to say that I tried "I just don't feel like it"... for whatever reason, this was a conversation killer and I couldn't seem to recover from it. Any suggested follow-ups?

Whatever you say, follow it up immediately with a cheerful redirect of the conversation. "I don't feel like drinking tonight. So, how are you/isn't this band great/where did you get those shoes/can you believe Rush Limbaugh?" Just ending your conversational turn with "I don't feel like it" is awkward because unless the other person is nosy enough to demand "why not?" it brings things to a halt.

When in doubt in almost any conversation, just ask a question.
posted by scody at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Ask me tomorrow"
posted by mazola at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I was visited by the spirit of Dean Martin... "
posted by mazola at 10:24 PM on March 11, 2012


If it's a chaotic party or a loud dance floor, I always find a cheerful, "I know, right?!" with a laugh and then you dance off is often enough. Also, "Maybe later!" works if, again, you are super cheerful, or "Don't need it!" It's all in your delivery -- you're telling them it's all good and you're fine and Whoo! Laser show!

I've found that people usually ask because what they really want to know is if you are having fun, and if you ARE fun, or if this is indicative of you being the person who is going to be a downer either now or if the night gets sillier, or if you are A Problem. It's part ice-breaker, part small talk because they don't know you and have nothing else to say, and definitely codespeak for "Are you one of us?"
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:25 PM on March 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


actually, yea, "I don't need it!" delivered with a big gesture and a big grin is perfect
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:58 PM on March 11, 2012


At a certain point, you stop caring. I've tried every answer in the book and none of it ever really takes. It's just this very weird thing that people can't wrap their brains around it.

There was a time where I would make up crazy reasons or say things to make them uncomfortable and amuse myself. Even that got old.

Now I just shrug my shoulders. Come to think of it, that's more effective than anything I've ever said. But not caring that other people care is my only salvation.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 11:01 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


actually, yea, "I don't need it!" delivered with a big gesture and a big grin is perfect

That's pretty much the worst thing you can say, honestly. It implies that they do.

I usually go with "I'm taking it easy tonight..." or "Still recovering from last weekend/yesterday/whatever"
posted by empath at 11:02 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much the worst thing you can say, honestly. It implies that they do.

good point. On the other hand, asking why she isn't drinking already kind of implies that she should be. Does one need to be totally tactful when answering a slightly rude question? damned if I know.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:21 PM on March 11, 2012


I'm on antibiotics.
posted by karathrace at 11:27 PM on March 11, 2012


Anyone that has ever told me, "I'm driving," has always gotten a thanks. Even if I were walking after.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:32 PM on March 11, 2012


Booze holiday.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:45 PM on March 11, 2012


"Oh, I have an early start tomorrow." It's usually true in my case, but no-one's ever pressured me to drink when I've said it.
posted by embrangled at 12:37 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm turning into a cranky old fart, but to me, if some variation of "just don't want to" is a conversation killer, then maybe that's a conversation that NEEDED killing.
posted by easily confused at 3:16 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Enh, not today," said in a friendly, off-hand way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:18 AM on March 12, 2012


"Nephalism"
posted by Segundus at 3:19 AM on March 12, 2012


I find that having a water helps. Or a coke or whatever you fancy that's non-alcoholic. Like This_Will_Be_Good said above, props are good.

I just tell people the truth - that I'm not a big drinker. The truth is always good, especially in these kinds of situations.

So in your situation I'd say something easy and short and true like "Yeah, it's too bad - I've started getting killer hangovers, and I don't want that to happen on vacation!" Smile, and continue the conversation you were having before they asked you why you weren't drinking.
posted by k8lin at 3:20 AM on March 12, 2012


"I got tired of the blackouts and the high body count."
posted by Thorzdad at 4:53 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


When people ask this question, most of the time what they want to know is: "Are you not drinking just tonight, or EVER?"

Why? Because if someone does not drink EVER, they feel silently judged, even if you do nothing and don't care. There's a social taboo to drinking in America, and thus also the pleasure of shared transgression.

So "I don't feel like it" does not actually answer their question, "do you EVER drink?" — next time try answering "I don't feel like it TONIGHT", this should put them more at ease.

Better yet: "I got completely wasted yesterday and just can't right now" puts you right in the boat with them, a fellow drinker, transgressing together.
posted by Tom-B at 5:45 AM on March 12, 2012


I gave it up for Lent
posted by lizbunny at 5:49 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


For various medication-related reasons I gave up alcohol and coffee, and I recently started trying to dress better, so I tell people I've gone the full-Mormon.

In your case, it seems like the truth is both plausible and nonconfrontational, why not go with it? "I want to do [x] tomorrow and don't want to be hungover for it."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:07 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So maybe I'm kind of an asshole, but whenever a female friend of mine declines a glass of wine at dinner or doesn't grab a beer at the bar like they normally would, and their only excuse is "I don't feel like it", I jokingly congratulate them on their pregnancy. You'd think after exposing two couple's pregnancies "early" that I'd stop doing this, but I just can't help myself.

Excuses that lead to me not being an annoying schmuck are ones listed above like: "I'm on anti-biotics", "I'm avoiding a hangover", "I gave it up for Lent", and "Fuck you, buddy."
posted by Grither at 6:25 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why is it your job to make up for rude people's lack of conversation skills? "I don't feel like it" is a perfectly reasonable response. Maybe if they're left with an awkward silence every time they ask that question, they'll learn to stop asking it.

Yeah, didn't think so. Just say something scary like "oh no I couldn't... you *wouldn't like me* when I've been drinking" accompanied by a Hulk-like microexpression.
posted by tel3path at 6:36 AM on March 12, 2012


"It's so much more fun to watch you guys get drunk while I'm sober."
posted by Leezie at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2012


-"What?" (I would keep repeating this every time they asked the question.)
-"I'm pregnant." (This would only work if you were a man)
-"I'm training for [insert athletic event here]."
-"I'm riding the mechanical bull later."
-"I've got an early meeting."
-"I've got an early workout."
-"I have a hot date tomorrow."
-"I have a duel tomorrow."
posted by emilynoa at 7:32 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you have a drink in your hand at all? Make it look like something alcoholic. Sprite and cranberry juice with a lime is a good one.

Otherwise, antibiotics is always a good one. I haven't had a drink in two months and no one has questioned me about it at all. You may have been in the midst of particularly rude people.

So maybe I'm kind of an asshole, but whenever a female friend of mine declines a glass of wine at dinner or doesn't grab a beer at the bar like they normally would, and their only excuse is "I don't feel like it", I jokingly congratulate them on their pregnancy. You'd think after exposing two couple's pregnancies "early" that I'd stop doing this, but I just can't help myself.

Yeah, stop doing that.
posted by amro at 7:37 AM on March 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


Probably over the top for your purposes, but I can't stand the idea that fun = alcohol, so my answer to this is generally "Because fuck you."

Or something stupid, like "My brother was killed in a drunk dolphin accident." And then they'll be like "what?" but they'll have the courtesy to not ask again, and then all night they'll be pondering "Did she say a drunk DOLPHIN accident? Was he riding the dolphin? Was the dolphin drunk? How many shots would THAT take?" Etc.
posted by TomMelee at 8:33 AM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


The truth sounds good to me. And something that they will be able to relate to, albeit not until the next morning. Just tell them hangovers suck. Then you can also have the satisfaction of knowing that they are thinking of you and how right (and smart) you were last night.
posted by Vaike at 9:41 AM on March 12, 2012


You can drink non-alcoholic drinks with a silly umbrella, or a slice of orange, lemon or lime, and most folks won't ask you. For those who ask what you're drinking, or offer to buy your next drink, you can say you've had enough alcohol for the night.

Or if you don't want to carry around a glass, you can say you've had enough to drink already.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:45 AM on March 12, 2012


"Because fuck you" seems not really appropriate for a simple question. I think that if you usually are drinking and people know that, then the truth is best. "I don't want to feel like shit tomorrow." Boom. A joke answer is annoying because I'm asking a normal question and a hostile answer will just make me think there is something wrong with you.
posted by josher71 at 9:49 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most of the people asking are likely at least somewhat tipsy, so giving them a rational, consistent, coherent answer isn't likely to matter much. They probably wouldn't understand it if you gave them one, and they likely wouldn't remember either way. Any of the noncommittal answers above should do fine. The point is not to give a good answer, it's to get the asking party to leave you alone and become interested in something else.
posted by valkyryn at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Because carrying around a virgin cocktail that I don't want so I can fit in with a cool kid who wants to know why I'm not as cool as he is as he feigns interest while he looks at my chest isn't as fun as it sounds" is a much better answer than "Because fuck you." I agree.

If you know me, and we're friends, then "Not tonight, bud" will suffice. If I don't know you, and you're up in my kool-aid without knowing my flavor, then "because...fuck you" is a fine answer.

In hindsight, this may be why some people find me abrasive. fuck those people.
posted by TomMelee at 12:41 PM on March 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I used to be teetotal due to heart problems, and drinking was one thing that might put me in hospital and possibly threaten my life. And even when I told people I couldn't drink for this reason, they still usually tried to get me to have a beer. The reason itself didn't seem to satisfy anyone, them asking why was just an indirect suggestion I stop being so uptight and join in, for christ's sake! People are just really really uncomfortable with those who aren't drinking IME, they don't wan't to be letting go and making a fool of themselves in front of someone who isn't (although, context: we were 23, in London and drinking is much more of a culture in the UK).

Sometimes there really is nothing you can say that will appease people, especially acquaintances/strangers. It's nice to be non-committal and polite when you want to be out having a good time, but they could still very well be dicks about it and the only thing you can really do is try your best to ignore it/them.
posted by everydayanewday at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2012


we were 23

Important detail. You don't see this kind of behavior as much as you get older.
posted by amro at 1:01 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to say what amro said. I'm 37 and no one has asked me why I'm not drinking in at least 5 years. I'm not sure it matters so much what you say as your tone in saying it. "Oh, haha, I just don't feel like it tonight!" is way different than *cold stare* "I just don't FEEL like it, okay?"
posted by desjardins at 4:14 PM on March 12, 2012


... this was a conversation killer ...

Sounds like a feature to me.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:13 PM on March 12, 2012


My own grandfather was highly annoyed because I generally didn't drink alcohol in my 20's. To his generation, it was rude to not take a drink when it was time for drinking. Some people find it rude when all I want is water (which is very often the case).

Consider saying "Because I hope to make insane good love, later tonight", if the asker is someone you'd like to take to bed. ;-)
posted by Goofyy at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2012


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