OK, I know -- bragging about how much you drank in college puts you one degree lower on the Sad-O-Tron than that high school friend who never moved out, gained 40 pounds on Chili's happy hour apps and tries to pick up perimenopausal social workers.
So rather than telling you the (albeit awesome) story of the time a campus security guard bodily hauled me out of a cherry tree in my underpants, I'm just going to leave it at this: I was a bit of a Notorious Partier in college. Which is why it surprised everybody when, junior year, I started seeing a straight-edge guy.
Things started out pretty great. Comparative fondness for Wild Turkey aside, we had a lot in common. We both loved "The Last Starfighter," Merzbow, the color black and bitterly hating our exes. We'd hang out, watch really awful horror movies and talk about comic books.
But ultimately, my constitutional inability to say no to a drinking contest drove a boozy wedge between us: One night, I knocked on his door around 2 a.m. He opened it slowly, like a butler at a haunted mansion.
"Feel like gettin' lucky?" I enunciated perfectly, careful not to use any sibilant consonants.
He gave me a straight-out-of–"Angela's-Ashes" look of torment. "You're drunk, aren't you?"
Uh, of course I'm drunk
, I thought. It's Thursday
Alas, our breakup was not a friendly one, so you'd think I'd have learned my lesson. But here I am, almost a decade later, still partying like I'm in a Brett Easton Ellis novel ... and still trying to make Dating Sober Dudes happen.
It's not like I seek them out or exclusively date non-drinkers -- I've definitely gone out with my share of Bukowskis. But -- and I'm not sure why or how it happens -- Sobey McSobersons keep popping up hither and thither. Some of them abstain because they Have a Problem, and some just choose not to drink because they don't like it. The weirdest part, I think, is that I often meet these guys at work events or at parties or even bars when I've, oh, let's call it "clearly been drinking."Why We're Into Them
You wanna know why I think I'm into sober guys? (Ha ha, I asked you like you had a choice, but you don't.) I'd say that it's because there's often something very controlled and together about them, a 7 a.m.–Sunday-jogger yin to my where-are-my-panties?
yang. I've noticed that a lot of them also tend to be healthy eaters and professionally ambitious, which most of the drinky types I've dated are not. (Apparently you have a lot of energy when you're not channeling it into not dry-heaving in your early board meeting.) There's also something appealing about someone whose days of drunken mistakes are already behind him.
On a somewhat less empowered note, it's possible that I also like recovering alcoholics because they tend to have that hobbled-baby-deer thing going on. Oh, you no longer have a left eyebrow because you rode your Vespa into a Chipotle one night? Come here and let me hold you. I want to hear all about your dad.
My friend Annie*, 29, who's dating a girl in "The Program," also makes a great point: "AA types are really self-reflective and insightful, and we don't get into drunk, screaming fights on the street. Also, dinners are super-cheap without booze."
Fortunately for me, my current sober piece doesn't mind if I drink on our dates. (I suspect because having three glasses of Gigondas before my dinner salad tends to make me extra-slutty during the movie.) If I know I'm going out before I see him, I keep lots of mouthwash and cinnamon gum on hand. It's my way of trying to make up for the fact that he has to be seen with me in public when I'm sporting domestic-violence-y bruises because I literally walked into a door.
Why Are They Into Us?
OK, so, we know why some people find program types so attractive. But why would they date us? Aren't we a threat to your hard-won sobriety? I asked my friend Katie*, 27, who's in AA but dates a guy who likes the hooch.
"It hasn't affected our relationship much," she says. "He doesn't drink in front of me and we don't keep alcohol in the house, but he still crawls into bed drunk after a night with the boys and it doesn't bother me ... However, we were already together when I got sober. I think it would probably be harder in the initial stages of a relationship, because so much of dating involves drinking."
Yes, yes, but why would you go out with me if you were already a firmly established Non-Drinker? I'm the type of person who celebrates not having a hangover on a Wednesday with a six-pack of Yuengling.
Katie very sagely explained, "I don't choose a partner based on whether or not they drink any more than I choose one based on any other lifestyle choice. I just like a person, and it doesn't really matter if that person happens to be a healthy, non-alcoholic drinker. Mostly we are just amazed at the way you normal people can have one glass of wine and quit or leave a half a beer sitting on the bar." Ha ha, what half a beer?
In the Long Run ...
Annie says having a sober girlfriend hasn't cramped her style ... yet. But apparently she's not fighting against adulthood as hard as I am. "Dating a sober person doesn't really affect my day-to-day life since I'm not much of a crazy partier anymore," she says. "The challenge for me is in the long term: thinking about future vacations and holidays can be kind of defeating. Like I'd love to visit Ireland with her, but can I tour the country without a drinking buddy? How are we going to toast at our wedding?"
Lucky for me, I am Not the Kind of Girl You Take Home (thanks, Sheryl Crow!), and the thought of getting serious
serious with somebody makes me hive out like Macaulay Culkin in "My Girl." So, I don't particularly have to worry about the marriage issue at this point. But I love my bourbon, and I come from a family of raucous social drinkers (please note the last name that ends in "ski"). I don't see myself giving up my Saturday-brunch-to-Sunday-brunch benders or my occasional habit of drinking a jeroboam of Pinot Gris alone while catching up on "Parks and Recreation."
Since none of my relationships ever lasted for a particularly long period of time (not always
my fault, I swear), I can't be sure whether I'm destined to hook up with another (COUGH) wine enthusiast, or whether some poor 12-stepper is going to be the Andy Garcia to my Meg Ryan.
I guess the fact that some of us date heavy, moderate, or non-drinkers is only a testament to one thing: We have really great boobs.
Julieanne Smolinski is Lemondrop's Articles Editor. You can read more about her hangovers on Twitter.