Birthday girl not into binge drinking
November 14, 2008 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I politely decline 21st birthday drinks?

I am having a gathering of friends and some family tomorrow evening at a local restaurant with a bar/lounge. It is my 21st birthday, but I do not plan on getting anything beyond tipsy.

I may have 1-2 drinks, but I am not down with the "you're 21 so you MUST have 21 drinks" theory. Reason: Low tolerance, anxiety when I'm not in control, body generally doesn't enjoy it.

How do I deal with the people who insist in buying me drinks, and then call me no fun for not partaking? I'm assuming most, if not all of them will be drinking.
posted by rachaelfaith to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Thanks, but I'm taking it easy tonight."

Anybody that doesn't drop it at that point is a jackass and not worth your time.
posted by indyz at 8:00 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're really worried about it, drink your alcoholic drinks slow, and then have something non-alcoholic in your hand the rest of the time. If I'm in drink-buying mode the first thing that I look for is an empty hand.

But perhaps there's a more interesting idea: Ask for rainchecks with individual friends who offer you drinks. Then you get numerous 1-2 drink nights for free stretched out over a comfortable time period.
posted by adamk at 8:03 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

" No Thanks..." might work... Those people are idiots, that is soooo outdated!
posted by femmme at 8:04 PM on November 14, 2008

Oh, and if people buying you drinks without asking is a problem, just keep a drink in your hand. Booze, Coke, or water, it doesn't matter as long as you have a full-ish drink in your hand.
posted by indyz at 8:04 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let them know before they ask* that you don't want to get drunk. Tell them what you just told us: that your goal is to get tipsy slowly, not plastered immediately. If your friends are like mine, it won't be much trouble. I've been a teetotaler for a long time now and all of my drinking friends are understanding most of the time (even on my 21st birthday). Even the ones that pester me to taste stuff or have a drink or two have never tried to get me plastered. The presence of family (especially parents) will probably help to mitigate the desire of your friends to get you hammered (unless your family is the problem). Also, you can nurse a large, weak drink over a period so that people can easily tell that you're not waiting for another one. Heck, you could nurse a soda to similar effect. Nothing's guaranteed when you're dealing with people who are already drunk, though. A lot depends on how your friends behave when they're drunk. If they tend to get a little sloshy and then hit the dance floor, you shouldn't have much trouble. If they tend to get their amusement by chugging from beer bongs and downing as many shots as possible, there's probably not much you can do to keep them from trying.

on preview: rainchecks are a good idea.

* More importantly, let them know before they get drunk. It's hard to reason with someone who's already three sheets to the wind.
posted by ErWenn at 8:06 PM on November 14, 2008

I agree with adamk's idea: keep a drink in your hands throughout the night. It doesn't have to be alcoholic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2008

Thanks and roll your eyes - "I had way too much last night, but definitely another time."
posted by filmgeek at 8:26 PM on November 14, 2008

"Thanks but I'm having a birthday breakfast with my folks tomorrow morning and have to keep it in line somewhat. Rain check?"
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

"I'm on some medicine right now. Can't drink much."
posted by Askr at 8:28 PM on November 14, 2008

Laugh when you refuse. "Hahaha, I've had enough, thanks!" If they continue to pester, continue to laugh. "Hahaha, you think I'm no fun now, I'll really be no fun after another drink!" Big smiles. It will defuse their persistence and reassure them that you really ARE having fun.

and happy birthday!
posted by desjardins at 8:32 PM on November 14, 2008

"I just got my four-year chip."
posted by troybob at 8:48 PM on November 14, 2008

So far this advice looks pretty good. I highly recommend you do not fall back on acting as if you're already extremely drunk, bouncers will pick up on you and you'll be the 21 year old who was kicked out of a bar on the third drink. Pretending to be buzzed and not wanting to get out of control is cool, entirely believable, and sustainable over an evening, just don't take it too far.
posted by Science! at 8:50 PM on November 14, 2008

Response by poster: adamk: I like the raincheck idea, thanks!

ErWenn: You are quite right about talking to them before they drink- I'll keep that in mind. And yes... some of my family is the problem. But there are at least two other family members who are understanding, so I'm banking on them for backup if needed.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:52 PM on November 14, 2008

indyz had the first and best answer. Truly, only an asshole or someone with a huge asshole streak will actually pressure someone to drink more than they want.

Also, don't bother making up flimsy excuses -- many people will continue to hassle you to drink despite the fact that you're "on medication right now" (and they may ask you "for what?"), or despite the fact that you're "meeting your parents tomorrow", or whatever. People who goad you into drinking do not care about your health or family obligations; they want you to validate their behavior and attitudes by acting the same way they do.

The answer to how you politely decline drinks: You politely decline drinks. That's as far as you have to take it. Anyone who wants to argue about it needs to end up talking to themself.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2008

(With a smile.) Thanks, but please don't buy me a drink! You'll be wasting your money, because I won't drink it. Save it for some time when I'm really thirsty.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2008

As others have said, there may be people who simply will not understand where you're coming from. Encourage the persistent ones to have a drink themselves, on your behalf. I'm sure they won't mind.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 9:36 PM on November 14, 2008

Best answer: A quick word to the bartender might help. If someone is a total butthead about buying you a drink, then give the bartender the signal to pour you a diet coke or something.

Bartenders are your friend. Especially if you tip well.
posted by 26.2 at 9:50 PM on November 14, 2008

Tell the bar tender to make you virgin drinks - tell him he can keep the money as a tip.

You can also go to the bathroom with your drink and just dump it out.

These are a little devious, but when dealing with drunk people subtlety and deviousness often get you farther than direct confrontation.

Good luck and happy birthday!
posted by JpMaxMan at 10:02 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

A few people here have had it right (IMO). There is no need for any awkward, "thanks, but no thanks," moments... you can really just take your time with the drinks you have and avoid being empty-handed. Then you're set. If someone begins to offer a drink, you can hold up your non-finished drink and be done with it.
posted by kosmonaut at 10:13 PM on November 14, 2008

Act like you're already really drunk. Kidding. Say you feel like you've had enough and don't want to get sick that night, but ask them to buy you a drink next week! Might as well take advantage of people wanting to buy you drinks, tell them they can buy you a birthday drink next time you guys go out.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:16 PM on November 14, 2008

As the kind of person who would be likely to pressure you to have more drinks than you'd want (not because I'd be trying to sleep with you, or any other purely jack-ass reason, but simply because if I'm partying the first thing that happens, even after one drink, is that I want to keep the party going strong) I'd say that your best line of defense against, well, people like me, is to make it clear that you're having a good time. You can nurse one drink in your hand all night long, as long as you keep things fun (it is your party, after all.)

If anyone persists anyway, just say what you've told us - you're okay with being a little tipsy, but anything beyond that sucks for you. I happen to have a VERY high tolerance, but I agree. Buzzed = fun; drunk = shitty. So at least for me (and hopefully others like me) your logic in this regard will carry some weight.

The rain-check idea is also awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:31 PM on November 14, 2008

rain check idea is definitely brilliant, and it's easy to play that off with friends who have had a few drinks in their system too ("Hey, don't think you're getting off the hook. I'm definitely holding you up to that free drink next weekend/next time we go out!"). If they're still pushy, use the family as the scapegoat.
posted by mittenedsex at 1:36 AM on November 15, 2008

As a non-drinker I come up against this from time to time. My trick is to make sure I always have my own drink to hand then when someone asks me if I want a drink I indicate my glass and say "I already have one, thanks".
posted by essexjan at 2:18 AM on November 15, 2008

Better than just talking to them ahead of time (which in a group mentality can be taken as a challenge), do that and get a "wing man" to help cover for you.
posted by plinth at 4:47 AM on November 15, 2008

Keep an eye out too for drinks that just happen, unsolicited. On my 21st birthday, I went out with friends, intending to only have 1 or 2 drinks, since I had work and an exam at school the next day. A friend of mine told the bartender (without my knowledge) to just keep refilling my glass/giving me new drinks (she was friends with the bartender). I was chatting, so I didn't really notice that my glass never got below the halfway point.

The next day SUCKED. My friend probably thought she was doing me a favor/doing her "friend" duty, but it was really the worst thing she could have done. (I'm not friends with her anymore, btw.)
posted by AlisonM at 5:18 AM on November 15, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, lots of great feedback here. I think my plan of action is as follows:

1. Have a drink that I'm nursing in hand at all times.
2. Smile and request rainchecks.
3. if those fail, talk to the bartender or have a friend back me up to diffuse pressure.

posted by rachaelfaith at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2008

"wow,thanks, but i just had my 21st drink!" might work later at night.
posted by lester at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2008

"Thanks, but I just want a soda" or "thanks, but I don't drink" work for me.

You may have to repeat these phrases for the hard of thinking.
posted by zippy at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2008

Yeah, nthing the "keep a drink in your hand and nurse it" suggestion. That way if someone insists on buying you something, you can hold up your mostly-full glass of whatever and say "I'll come find you when I'm done with this." And just happen to never be done with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:29 PM on November 15, 2008

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