For the past 13 years, my drink of choice has been a seltzer. Throw a lime wedge in there, hold the bitters, but if you want to splash some homemade juice, go for it. As a sophisticated woman of the (prepandemic) world, quite often I would find myself in a bar just because that’s where people go to socialize. Bars are easy hangouts with a sort of revolving door – the kind of place that makes it easy for you to break free in a situation. They are simply the place where many first dates take place (used and will happen again). And even now, when you can’t (or shouldn’t) go to bars, ‘having a drink’ is still the default framing, whether it’s cold cans of something on a porch or drinking from hot, spiked mugs while trying not to shiver in the wintry air.
I’ve lost track of how many dates I’ve been at a bar, all sober. You might be wondering why I don’t insist on another venue, but considering how many first dates, especially through the app, are just a driving mood control, I learned that committing to the duration of a full sit-on-low meal is often not the movement. I imagine my matches also feel the same. You can have a nice, friendly chat with someone and if that’s not your vibe, you can split up after a drink and that’s it.
Some dating apps like Bumble, Hinge, Match, and OKCupid even have profile features where you can indicate which vices you participate in and to what extent. Nine percent of Hinge users marked ‘no’ next to the drink consumption icon last year, up from eight percent in 2019. (In that sense, the percentage of users marking ‘sometimes’ is increasing then that “yes” decreases.)
This does not mean that everyone necessarily registers your preference. In fact, 99% of my matches will suggest meeting up for a drink, completely forgetting the fact that I scored that I’m not. This happens often enough that it sounds like a reckless misstep on their part, but I imagine if sobriety was new to me, it might at first seem awkward. Which is also totally okay and normal! It is okay not to drink some things! But sometimes people don’t feel so normal on this subject.
There are also variations on “Oh, uh, you should have said something and we couldn’t have gone to a bar,” as a single drop of sweat makes its way into the temple of my date.
Refusing to imbibe causes a strong reaction from people, which can be quite telling. Not necessarily a red flag, but a flag. And, I understand. Having a declined drink offer can be a bit of a hiccup, especially when alcohol easily eases the social friction surrounding first dates. It’s like you can do without lube, but why would you?
If you know yourself well enough to know that you can’t resist any temptation, perhaps you should skip bars altogether. If you are on apps and (safely! Responsibly!) Hang out with new people, having coffee or hot chocolate in a beer garden and going for a winter walk is cute and very appropriate for the season. Doing an activity that doesn’t even revolve around drinks is ideal, but as I mentioned, if you want to set up a date without dedicating a meal or a day to it, choose an unconfined place and activity, like watching people in the park.
I have noticed a handful of Tinder profiles that include a disclaimer saying they don’t drink (sometimes adding a sentiment like “but you don’t mind if you do” to make delivery easier) as an alternative. warning. This is a great way to put the cards on the table so that is not a problem. But if you don’t prefer to lead with your sobriety because you don’t necessarily see it as a defining characteristic (I don’t, personally), you can take the initiative to suggest a date that doesn’t happen in a bar. . Instead of having a drink, you can suggest having a cone (ice cream) or perhaps going without searing altogether. (Gummy bears at the dog park?)
Now, if you’re on the other side of the slide and want to go on a date with someone who doesn’t drink, that’s even less. If you know right away that they are not participating, you can just ask them what they prefer. If you agree to hang out in a bar and find your order date in Shirley Temple after Shirley Temple, the best answer is also the easiest: don’t mention it. The easiest way to deal with this dynamic is to make it normal. Of course, maybe don’t become a total blotto if your sober date has to drag your ass out of the bar and in a cab home.
First dates can be really intimidating and nerve-racking – no matter how cool and casual, there is always an air of expectation. I understand that I can often alienate dates by not reaching their blood alcohol level. Culturally speaking, I am at a disadvantage when it comes to the natural bond that sharing a beer or a glass of wine can cement. But for me there are just as many benefits – getting to know someone rather than a Virgin Mary or a Cosmopolitan can give you a much clearer idea more quickly of who they are and if you actually love them as. that no one. And if you realize that you just can’t hang out with someone who never wants a drink, that lowers the settings for you as well. (I’ve been dating a vegan for years – I know how you feel.)
Personally, I happen to be so experienced that my effervescent personality doesn’t require any release of inhibition at this point. But – as I sometimes say icebreaker dates – I still make a lot of sober questionable decisions.