How to avoid pregnancy questions on my wife's upcoming business trip?
December 1, 2013 2:30 PM   Subscribe

My wife is very early into her first pregnancy (4/5 weeks). We are very excited and nervous and overjoyed and terrified. We also know it's extremely early, and as such at the moment we aren't telling anyone anything (not even family or close friends), other than her doctor. The issue is that my wife is going on a business trip soon for 4 days, during which time her small group of coworkers (including her boss) will be going out every night for dinner and drinks. My wife is typically a social drinker (glass of wine or a cocktail), and with no typical excuses available like, say, being the designated driver, it will be noticeable with her small group when she's the only one to decline a drink every night.

How have you or people you know managed situations like that? It may simply be impossible not to arouse suspicion - gossipers gonna gossip - but she'd like to at least mitigate it, especially given that these people are all wonderful but aren't her absolute best friends she might consider spilling the beans to, and even more so because of the nature of her work; if the pregnancy comes to term, it will be very impactful to her job and the community she works with. How can she decline drinks? How can she deflect attention?

At heart, though, we're pretty private people to begin with, and more than anything else she's worried about being exposed and vulnerable, even amongst people she likes a lot. Bonus points for dealing with the unlikely but still possible direct question like "oh, no drink? Is there something you're not telling us (wink wink)?"

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a flight to the business trip destination? It's really easy if there is, she just says she's afraid she'd caught a bit of a bug during the flight. Otherwise, just say that she is afraid of getting run down during the holidays. It's an exhausting time of the year, parties, indoors, people half sick, etc. She can combine the two, if need be.
posted by kellyblah at 2:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Antibiotics or other medication, cutting back as pre-Christmas prep, trying to lose weight, too tired, didn't feel like it. These are the excuses I have heard used for not drinking from someone who normally drinks.

No one else cares that much, the problem is feeling like you are lying. So pick an excuse (eg not feeling well, too tired) that is sort of true.
posted by plonkee at 2:36 PM on December 1, 2013 [16 favorites]

This time of year, it's easy to say that you're coming down with a cold/getting over a cold/still taking medicine from being sick last week.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:37 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

"My stomach has not been liking booze lately."
"Meh, just doesn't sound good right now."
"Oh I'd rather have a soda right now!"
"I feel a little dehydrated so I'm sticking with water."
"Oh the mango iced tea just looked too good!"

(Or ask the waitress to bring a virgin pina colada or something while others aren't listening?)
posted by Crystalinne at 2:38 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

If she can be the one to go to the bar to order, she can have the bartender make her something virgin but cocktail-looking (cranberry & soda, cranberry sour, tonic & lime, etc.). No one will know.

Even if she has to order in front of people, ordering a drink that is a combination of mixers (like a cranberry sour), might just be enough to deflect people's notice.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:38 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

"Can't drink on some made up medication I am taking"
"Having a blah blah blood/whatever test so doctor said no drinking this week"
posted by token-ring at 2:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

You might actually want to tell your wife to go ahead and have a drink if she feels like it (as long as it's just one), as the best evidence available indicates that it will have no adverse affects on the pregnancy (source).
posted by sashapearl at 2:46 PM on December 1, 2013 [19 favorites]

"No thanks -- no booze for me on this trip. Doctor's orders!" Airtight alibi.

Which also, as Kissinger would say, has the added advantage of being true.
posted by nacho fries at 2:50 PM on December 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

All of the excuses I favorited above got my social- drinking coworker through early pregnancy undetected for about 4.5 months (she had special issues and wanted to wait extra long to tell anyone). Congrats by the way!
posted by holyrood at 2:59 PM on December 1, 2013

"My allergies are really bothering me, and alcohol on top of benadryl puts me to sleep for two days!"

Worked every time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:59 PM on December 1, 2013 [15 favorites]

The key to this is to not refuse a drink, doesn't matter what excuse you give, as a woman of childbearing age as soon as you say you're not drinking, people will suspect. (Mother of two here.) So how do you get around it? Accept the drink, ask for a wine spritzer. Water it down even more, get them to put ice in it. Then have a sip, maybe two and nurse it all night. Top it up with water so it looks like she's set all evening. When she walks around the room, dump it in a pot plant or in the bathroom sink, refill with non alcoholic drink of similar colour. As long as she's have a drink in front of her, whether or not she actually drinks it is immaterial - no one will notice. They only notice the refusal. Oh, and congratulations.

(PS both my doctors told me a small amount (like, a glass) of wine will not do any damage, my GP actually told me she drank minor amounts through her pregnancy and her kids are doctors and lawyers but that the hardline is to say no alcohol because society doesn't trust the judgement of women to be able to moderate their own drinking so it's easier to tell them don't drink at all.)
posted by Jubey at 3:01 PM on December 1, 2013 [25 favorites]

Nthing antibiotics/medicine as the excuse.

Also, you can take a drink and just nurse it (or even have a little if she wants; as mentioned above one drink is really not here or there).
posted by smoke at 3:04 PM on December 1, 2013

I'm not a big beer drinker and have been known in the past to order a beer, occasionally put it to my lips, but not drink a drop of it all night. No one notices.

Just don't get a corona. Brown glass, that's the ticket.
posted by arnicae at 3:20 PM on December 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is not going to be an easy one, as I have an observer in this situation with a female coworker where several people figured it out pretty easily. Vague "I can't" answers will just fuel speculation, so if there is a way to fool them that's probably your best shot. My wife had this very same issue when she was pregnant with our first at a Christmas party. She made a wink-wink deal with the server at the beginning of the night, and each time she ordered a drink it came out as a club soda with lime, in a cocktail glass.

When her pregnancy became obvious a few months later, more than one person said "oh, man, but you were knocking them back at the party." So it was apparently pretty effective.
posted by AgentRocket at 3:28 PM on December 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

When I was in similar not wanting to drink situations, I found it easiest to order a cranberry and soda with lots of lime, or some special iced teas.

I think the trick is:

a) remember..nobody really cares whether or not you're wife is drinknig so don't overthink this and
b) lots of people abstain/save their calories over the holidays and
c) cranberry and soda with lime is a good drink, period.

And congratulations!
posted by kinetic at 3:30 PM on December 1, 2013

I was on Flagyl once, and had to go to a friend's wedding. Wine abounded. You can't drink on Flagyl, but absolutely everyone thought I was pregnant until I produced the frigging bottle on the table. Hope your wife's co-workers are less nosy and more civil.

I'd go with virgin drinks to avoid this issue entirely.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:40 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

In college, I went away with a few friends for a Girls Weekend. One of the women who was there somewhat conspicuously wasn't drinking. I don't remember thinking much about it, except for idly wondering why she kept turning down glasses of wine. A few months later she revealed she was pregnant. While it's possible some people on the trip knew, or speculated based on her uncharacteristic teetotaling, it wasn't a huge deal or anything. And this was when we were all around 21-22, where everyone was drinking all the time and pregnancy was a super huge thing.

Realistically, a four day business trip is like 4-5 meals to get through without calling attention to it (since I doubt people are going to be drinking during breakfast and most lunches). That's definitely within the realm of "nah, I'm good" being perfectly good enough.

If she's in a situation where people are going to the bar and ordering their own drinks, she could just get seltzer or a coke or something, which nobody has to know isn't a cocktail.

Pleading tiredness, a headache, etc. might work, too, if people give her the third degree about it.
posted by Sara C. at 3:47 PM on December 1, 2013

Ah, this is easy. I've been at events where everyone is expected to drink and didn't want to make a fuss. As long as you can drink something, here's what I do: Order a drink on the rocks. I usually do a gin and tonic, but a whiskey on the rocks works too. Drink half at normal pace, if a bit slowly. Then sit and wait for the ice to melt. The drink will look diluted. At this point you've only had half a drink. Assume coworkers are several in, since your drink looks watered down ask for another one. Repeat. If this is a heavy drinking even no one will notice after a second slow one and you can start asking for Diet Cokes at the bar. This assumes you're comfortable with at least a single serving, as you go through two halves. If this isn't a get sloshed type of group, you could easily order just one (half) or simply a lower alcoholic drink. Or just order a wine and sip half.
posted by geoff. at 3:54 PM on December 1, 2013

Some of you must not have the heavy-drinking work culture that I do. Sorry, but in some situations, a woman refusing drinks for several dinners during a business trip -- which are MADE for drinking, natch! -- is not something that will be looked past. And if your relationship with your coworkers is such that you go get drunk together regularly, chances are the relationship is such that they will feel very free to give you crap about it.

My coworker was recently in exactly this situation and took a ton of crap from another coworker with whom she's social, but not close enough to that she wanted to reveal an early stage pregnancy. He wouldn't let the topic go (despite her efforts to blame her teetotaling on antibiotics and doctor's orders) so finally she shut him up saying "You know, [coworker], I'm not pregnant. But if I were, I'd be at risk of a miscarriage early on and probably wouldn't want to reveal anything about a pregnancy to my coworkers in case something sad like that happened. So if I *were* pregnant, it'd be pretty assholish of you to be pushing me like this. How would you feel if your wife were in this situation?"

And he shut the fuck up.

Obviously this assumes a certain level of comfort with the coworkers in question, and convenient things like a coworker of a similar age with a professional wife who is also facing pregnancy in her near future, but. It worked.

As far as faking drinking: Magners cider in a brown bottle got me through 2-3 rounds of drinks at a bar during a pub crawl I was trying to limit my intake on. Keep tipping it up and keep not actually sipping anything -- worked for me!

Another coworker of mine stopped drinking at work events for about two months due to a stomach ulcer type thing. She was not pregnant, but it stopped people from questioning her (beyond the "oh no! What's the treatment? How long do you have to keep from drinking?" questions, so it's important to have answers ready for that).

Good luck to your wife, and congrats to you guys!
posted by olinerd at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Unless she wants to go to a LOT of trouble, it's hard to absolutely guarantee that nobody will take notice, particularly if she really prefers not to drink at all at this stage. But I sort of gravitate toward the medication excuse. "I'm on a round of antibiotics for a tooth thing," coupled with an appropriate wave at your jaw and a super-casual order of a cranberry and soda, is the sort of nonspecific, hard to disprove, easily plausible thing that might settle everybody.

Of course, people should not be such raging dipwads that they would inquire or gossip, since the approach you and your wife are taking is one that so many couples take and talking/asking defeats the purpose completely, but I acknowledge that good taste is not always something you can count on. Should anyone ask, I would recommend an outright lie, which I consider justified in certain cases in which something is indisputably none of anyone's business and they have been so gauche as to leave you no choice but to answer either with the truth or with silence that will suggest the truth. That means if they ask whether there's anything she's not telling them, I would consider a baffled look followed by, "Oh! No, no," a perfectly legitimate white lie.

But really, it's sad that she feels pressure at all, because there are enough reasons not to drink, many of which are personal in several different dimensions, that anyone who goes around prying into why someone suddenly stops is REALLY a super giant dope.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:24 PM on December 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I'm trying a new health regime." might work. She could site this article as her reason for experimenting!
posted by cecic at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2013

By the time she goes on the trip, it's quite likely she'll start feeling some kind of morning sickness. Actually feeling not-her-best will make it *very* easy to say she's "come down with something" and doesn't want to drink. She can claim she ate something that "didn't agree with her" - the symptoms would be nearly identical.

(Even if she's fine now, morning sickness doesn't start until week 6, usually. I was ok until week 7 and then wanted to become one with my couch.)

Congrats and good luck!
posted by sonika at 4:33 PM on December 1, 2013

IS this a business trip with an expense account? If yes, totally just order drinks and don't drink them / dump and replace in the restroom. Or have a glass of wine and nurse it / drink 3 quarters during the whole night.
posted by WeekendJen at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2013

I think a straightforward "I'm not drinking this month" would actually be the most effective response. When your friends press you on it you can explain that you're just trying to reset your tolerance/cut back/etc, which is something that a lot of folks can immediately internalize. It's also something that a lot of folks do from time to time, so the conversation would probably then veer into others relating their own experiences with a dry period. It's become such a shorthand in my own circles that none of us question it at all anymore.

Including a time frame ("this month") is also key to the excuse in regards to shutting down further questions, in my experience.
posted by greenland at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2013

I stopped drinking for a couple months due to weird acid reflux. No one wanted to know more about acid reflux.
posted by Maarika at 5:08 PM on December 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

I can testify to the effectiveness of accepting glasses of wine and taking just a few sips then either leaving the glass somewhere (if at some sort of reception/party) or pouring it out. The only time I ran into trouble with this was when a friend highly recommended a certain wine to me and we both had a glass. I had a sip or two and was like "mm, it's really good" (it was!) but then she noticed that I didn't drink the rest of it, and probably thought I was lying/being polite about her wine selection. Regardless, she had no idea that I was pregnant until I told her 2 months later.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:33 PM on December 1, 2013

I love having a drink or two and it pains me not to be able to when I'm out. So when I say I can't drink because I'm on antibiotics, I mean it. So she can just say that..."I'm on antibiotics". Period. No one will ask what for, and if they do just say "ugh, I don't want to talk about it". Forget pouring drinks in plantpots, life is not a Pink Panther movie.
posted by bquarters at 5:56 PM on December 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

It very much depends on the work environment and how much having kids is itself going to be socially acceptable and stuff in her position, but I've known several people who just went with "we're sort of trying so I'm being on the safe side," which leaves nobody particularly concerned if no baby is immediately forthcoming, but also doesn't leave anybody thinking you were hiding it from them later on. May or may not work in the situation, but it's at least worth considering before one goes to giant secret agent lengths to disguise one's beverages. But even when stuff about antibiotics or other meds is true, some people just will never believe it. (I've had meds with alcohol interactions and gotten a lot of needling for it.) And if someone does figure out that you're trying to fake it, well, the cat's out of the bag. A half-truth is sometimes easier than a complete falsehood.
posted by Sequence at 9:22 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with "oh, man, booze is NOT being friendly to me lately. Just. . . just no, no thank you." Wave gently around your torso and make a "yuck" face. If pressed, say "the details are too gross. my doctor and I are trying to figure out what's what, but for right now, it's better for everyone if I don't."
posted by KathrynT at 11:23 PM on December 1, 2013

Around the holidays it wouldn't be too unusual to say you are cutting back/watching calories because of recent past or anticipated future excesses. If she can allude to a nasty hangover leaving her with no interest in drinking for a bit, that's something a lot of people can relate to. Or she's trying not to overindulge around the holidays.
posted by ambrosia at 11:32 PM on December 1, 2013

On the off chance that this business trip is a ways off, she could always plead "Drynuary".
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 PM on December 1, 2013

FWIW, both pelvic infections and yeast infections can necessitate oral meds that preclude drinking, and no one EVER asks followup questions on either.

The antibiotics for pelvic infections will cause violent illness (vomiting) if you drink.

You can look up what types of antibiotics are for what purposes on Wikipedia, or memail me if you want to know what I was know, if she opts to go the med route. Bonus is they make you nauseated anyway, which could hide some morning sickness. good luck! and congrats!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:14 AM on December 2, 2013

"I'm doing a detox"
posted by mooza at 3:07 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

We're trying to get pregnant and I'm being cautious.
Jane, you must be pregnant. I wish.
Drinking ginger ale with lime or cran and soda looks like a drink. People often get up in your business, so she can order a drink, and you can order a non-drink that looks identical. Not too hard to switch them. You and she can order beers, and you can drink hers. Or drink Clausthaler or O'Douls in a glass. The O'Douls dark tastes decent, if you think of it as beer-flavored soda pop.

In magic, a great deal is accomplished with misdirection, so have some good conversation starters ready to throw into conversations that get too personal.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 AM on December 2, 2013

White lie of antibiotics is commonplace, vague, and wonderfully boring. For what? "Sinus issues" is fine. Those of us with complicated chronic sinus issues get prescribed antibiotics at the drop of a hat. Usually not the ones that interact badly with alcohol, but people react weirdly enough to various antibiotics that a handwavy "oh it's what my doctor prescribed" will suffice for even the most medically nosy/chatty friend.
posted by desuetude at 11:42 PM on December 2, 2013

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