Archive for the ‘Just thought you should know’ Category

As appeared on NonDoc.com

At first, it was my friend’s all-caps, double-exclamation-mark Facebook post that motivated me to look closer at the article she was sharing. But then it was the headline that fully pulled me in: Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love.

Finally, someone had defined the way I felt as an independent, strong (read: bossy) female who has been single exactly seven years this month.

Or so I assumed based on the title of the article.

The article was actually an excerpt from a book accompanied by a video clip from Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Author Suzanne Venker was being profiled for her controversial tome, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, and its idea of the alpha female’s role in a relationship — or lack of, rather.

It’s that latter caveat to which Venker dedicates most of the video and excerpt. It’s also the part that didn’t sit well with me, especially considering I had clicked into an article that seemed to describe me so well in its 14-word headline. In the simplest sense, this woman was basically saying that women need to be the more submissive “betas” and allow men to have control as the natural “alphas.”

“The goal is to get one of each, but if [the female] is bringing alpha energy to the table, and he’s alpha by nature because he has all the testosterone, you’re going to be like two bulls in a China shop,” Venker explained in the Fox News spot. “If you want him to be the more feminine person in the relationship, I guess you could do that, but that usually doesn’t work for most people because women are naturally feminine.”

I immediately thought of all the testosterone-less men I’ve dated over the years, ones who were far from those she described as the norm. I also thought of all the stay-at-home dads that exist today in support of their wives’ career pursuits. While I agree that a relationship needs a balance of opposites, Venker seems convinced that the men are always the alpha and, thus, women can’t and even shouldn’t be.

Venker: Women need to revert to beta status

After women stopped being groomed to be wives and started being groomed to be leaders, which is what’s happening today, Venker says men controlled the relationship: from calling a girl and paying for a meal to even proposing. Although she still claims “almost all relationships start that way” — which seems part delusional and part storybook fantasy in this day and age — she says women soon shift to the alpha mode, which then confuses the men. At that point, problems arise, there is “a lot of contention” and “the relationship starts to deteriorate.” Venker saw this happen between her parents, her mother being the quintessential alpha wife.

“An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.”

By the time I finished watching the spot and reading the excerpt, I was infuriated. Now I understood my Facebook friend’s all-capped comment with swear words and double exclamation points.

Was this woman living under a rock?! In what day and age do men always make the first call and pay for dates? And in what world are all men testosterone-filled? Does she truly believe, after all we’ve accomplished as women — ability to vote, work, earn executive titles — that women need to revert to being submissive and serving their husbands? It sure sounded like it.

Is my ‘alphaness’ actually the problem?

As much as I was infuriated about her portrayal of strong women and how we are the ones causing problems in relationships, I couldn’t help but think about how I’ve been single for so long and how many of my past relationships didn’t work out because I am so independent and set in my ways. I ended up with guys who saw something in me but ultimately couldn’t handle my need for space, time alone or with other friends (both female and male) and decision-making that didn’t involve them. One after another, I called each of the relationships off.

While I don’t buy into most of Venker’s wild assumptions, accusations and generalizations, I do wonder if my “alphaness” is making it difficult for me to find love. I understand that two alphas may find themselves butting heads, but why did my relationships fail when I often found myself with betas? We had the balance of masculine-feminine energies that Venker spoke of (but with me in the masculine role), yet each one ended sooner than the last.

And why was I ending up with this type in the first place, when their neediness so starkly contrasted my independence and what I wanted out of a significant other?

If I looked to Venker for the answer, she would say I need to get in touch with my feminine side, that I need to change.

“We’re constantly pointing fingers at the men, when we’re the ones who are actually the problem,” she said so matter-of-factly in the news spot. “If you exude positive, feminine energy, they’re very responsive. If you’re coming in with negativity, or hardness rather, they recoil; they don’t want it. The husband needs from the women softness instead of hardness, happiness instead of anger, more compliance and less dictatorial.”

So because I’m an independent, strong female, I’m a negative, hard, angry dictator. Well when you put it like, then I probably do need to change. No wonder my relationships don’t work out!

Search for balance continues

With all the author’s outrageous talk aside, I’ll admit I may actually struggle with embracing my feminine side. I rarely let a man help me or take care of me, I often shut down their compliments and I’m also quite competitive. I’ve always believed I can take care of myself, and I’d rather do things my way. I am one of those aforementioned females raised by an alpha mother to be a leader, not a wife.

So as I strive to be a leader and do things my way, do I knock down anything that comes in my path, including men who are interested in courting me? Venker quotes Jackie Kennedy in her book: “There are two kinds of women: those who want power in the world, and those who want power in bed.” Am I so focused on my personal power goals that I’m not making room in my life for a powerful relationship?

While I won’t be buying Venker’s self-help book, I appreciate the self-reflection it has incited. And as I put myself out there in the vicious world of dating — that to Venker’s likely surprise mainly involves texting rather than calling — I will definitely be more conscious of the energy I’m putting into a relationship.

So although I’m not going to change who I am for a man just because some deranged “culture critic” says to, I will more willingly contribute to the necessary balance in my future relationships.

Facebook friends shared my outrage after seeing the post on my news feed.

 

November 30, 2016

“Are you here for ayahuasca?” I was asked on multiple occasions during my visit to Iquitos. Despite being called “The Gateway to the Amazon,” many young tourists only know Iquitos for the popular brew that comes out of the nearby jungle. I, on the other hand, had only briefly heard of ayahuasca and was there 100% for the Amazon. I didn’t know much about ayahuasca, but the couple horror stories I had heard were enough to turn me off.

Ayahuasca is a tea made of a particular root and leaves by shamen who use it as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the Indigenous peoples of Amazonia. The name comes from the Quechua language spoken in the Andes, where it’s been used among tribes for more than 5,000 years.

From the little I had heard, it gave people an intense high, a sense of euphoria. “It’ll change your life,” hippies and punks on the streets of Iquitos would say.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: “People who have consumed ayahuasca report having spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on earth, the true nature of the universe as well as deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can. This is viewed by many as a spiritual awakening and what is often described as a rebirth. In addition, it is often reported that individuals feel they gain access to higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers.”

Ok, so that doesn’t sound too bad, right? Almost sounds pretty wonderful, so you’re probably wondering what deterred me.

Here’s what the next paragraph in Wikipedia says: “Vomiting can follow ayahuasca ingestion… Others report purging in the form of nausea, diarrhea, and hot/cold flashes. The ingestion of ayahuasca can also cause significant, but temporary, emotional and psychological distress… ayahuasca may increase pulse rates and blood pressure, or interact with other medicines taken, such as antidepressants.”

This is consistent with what I heard that immediately deterred me. The thought of a group of people vomiting in a room together sounds absolutely horrendous. And not actually being one of the high vomiters could be worse, because then you’re stuck listening, watching and smelling it all during the lengthy ceremony (several hours to 2 days). If the brew doesn’t work its “magic” on you, then you’re just a spectator to this literal shit show.

Despite, people come in droves for the experience. So much that centers are popping up throughout the region and prices are skyrocketing. Like any “it” drug, ayahuasca has become a global craze. This has indigenous tribes worried about the dilution and monetization of their tradition, especially as unqualified people start conducting the ceremonies.

It has me thinking about the people who do ayahuasca. I’m not going to judge their character or try to say my thoughts and observations apply to everyone who’s tried it. I just couldn’t help but form some opinions about the people who approached me about it on the street or those who never left Iquitos because of how it’s “changed their life.”

Before visiting Iquitos, I had obviously done research about the best places to visit the Amazon jungle. I read in Lonely Planet – my go-to travel resource, in print of course – that a lot of expats ended up settling in Iquitos. I took this to mean that a lot of foreigners liked the city; thus, it must have a lot to offer and there must be a decent number of English-speakers there. So in my planning, I set aside two days to explore the city.

That ended up being a mistake. I realized very quickly after stepping foot outside my hotel on the first day of exploring that there wasn’t actually much to do or see in the city. All the sites and sounds and activities were outside the city, in the jungle (duh!). So really all I did on that first day was eat and drink, while leveraging the WiFi at the respective eateries.

While having a beer at one of those eateries I met a rattled Australian woman about twice my age. She had just arrived to Iquitos to both a hostel and a city that were much different than what she saw online. She too had understood the city to be worth visiting, just to be gravely disappointed. Aside from needing a drink to ease the day’s stress, she was also “looking for the first boat out of town.”

So why were foreigners like us being caught off guard by the gritty, underwhelming city, while others love it so much they go so far as to establish roots?

That question was later answered while I was eating at the popular expat restaurant, Dawn on the Amazon Cafe. An American at a table nearby started chatting with me about my travels. “I came for the ayahuasca seven years ago and never left.” After she left, a group of “artists” sat her table and also started chatting with me. “Are you here for the ayahuasca?” I shook my head no. “You should try it; it’ll change your life.”

The chatty guy’s (much older) friend was nursing a fresh juice, still hungover from the night before. When I told them I was from LA, their eyes lit up and they started trying to sell me other drugs. Lovely. Because I was a foreigner, I must be there for the ayahuasca, and because I was from LA, I must be into partying and drugs. I wasn’t offended by the LA assumption – I’m obviously not originally from there and, instead, choose to personify with my native state. But the assumption about ayahuasca was annoying because it means that foreigners looking for the experience are in such abundance now that everyone is just thrown in the same pot. It’s assumed that all the nonnatives are here for the ayahuasca, rather than the amazing experience right across the river that the city used to be known for: the Amazon. Even locals like the party boys at the restaurant quickly dismissed it for the region’s new main attraction.

Though I am disappointed, I am not surprised. That’s the way it works everywhere. Monetization and globalization of ayahuasca is inevitable. Heck, the native state I proudly hail from has gone through its own evolution. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado has already caused quite an uproar – both positive and negative – and it has already given back millions to state schools in the form of tax dollars. But the price that comes with it, is the assumption that if you’re from Colorado you must be a pothead. I am not, but it has given me a perspective for viewing the situation in Iquitos.

Still, I’ll take the humidity and bugs of the jungle any day. And so that was what the Australian and I did.

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“I feel like you don’t appreciate me.”

My breathe stopped short and I rewinded the dialog in my head to make sure I had heard her correctly. I was on a weekly – ok, more like semiweekly these days – call with my mom during my lunch hour. Like normal, we had to cut it short because one of us had to get back to work. So not only did my amazing, strong, caring, generous mother just tell me that she felt like I didn’t appreciate her – it had been weighing on her mind for awhile actually – but we also didn’t have time to discuss the matter or what I could do to rectify her feelings.

Not an hour later, I was sitting in an annual performance review with my boss as he reminded me that as the manager of a team that often feels neglected by executive management, I needed to make sure they always felt appreciated. There it was again: appreciation. He and I agreed that I actually do a good job of it, but he emphasized it as a key aspect of building and sustaining a successful team in a department where burnout, low pay and turnover are common.

Feeling appreciated (or not) was an apparent theme that afternoon. I didn’t express my appreciation to my mom nearly enough, but I made it clear among my team (to whom I represented their office mom). Meanwhile, they still felt unappreciated by our company’s higher-ups.

To me, not showing appreciation is equivalent to taking someone or something for granted. And I will be the first to say that I probably take a lot of people and fortunes in my life for granted. My family is likely right there at the top; my close friends too. So although my mom chalked her feelings up to not hearing from me enough and not getting unsolicited thank yous from me whenever she sent a card or package, I knew it came down to me taking her for granted. I consider my immediate family and I very close, even if phone calls to my sister and brother are more infrequent than those to my mom. But I will easily take an opportunity to go to the gym, out for drinks or see a band over calling one of them to catch up. I rest on the “fact” that I can always call them another time and that they’ll always be there. In reality, they may not always be there.

Also in reality, I appreciate my family and friends very much. I appreciate my sister for making me laugh and being an inspiration and always opening her home to me. I appreciate my brother for keeping me young and being such a considerate young man and giving me someone to explore with. Most of all, I appreciate my mother; I appreciate her for being a rock for us kids to lean on, for supporting us through college and beyond, for visiting me every year, for being my concert buddy and for always insisting on paying despite me being a capable adult with a grown-up job. I haven’t done a very good job of expressing my appreciation for them, and these few lines have only skimmed the surface.

While I’ve done a better job of showing my appreciation for my beloved team of exceptional editors, I know I can do better – and I know the executive managers can do better. Editors by nature often get neglected because they’re at the bottom of the the production chain; their work is considered nonessential and, thus, of lower value. But even though these societal conditions exist, it doesn’t mean my staff should feel unappreciated. I appreciate them for being an amazing support system and helping me enjoy my job day after day and leaving me confident that our work will get done on time and as expected. Even if the company’s leaders don’t express their appreciation enough, it exists: they appreciate my staff for working hard to meet their goals so we have a product to sell (basis of the company’s existence!), for producing high-quality work and for excelling in an area that no one else in the company does.

Without taking the focus off my shortcoming, I think it’s very easy for anyone to neglect the people they love or fail to show appreciation for things they might not otherwise be afforded. It’s very easy to get caught up in a daily routine, to be “too busy” or to think that there’s always tomorrow. But it’s so important to go out of your way, make the time, take those opportunities. And I say that as a perfect example of someone who needs to better express my appreciation and not take life for granted.

“Mom, I DO appreciate you!”

ImageI’m having a hard time coming to terms with all the friends I’ve been losing (or am scared of losing) over recent years – and I’m not talking about the handful of female friends who are no longer in my life following dramatic fallouts. My clear inability to judge strong character and habit of allowing those types of people into my life is a blog post for another time. What I’m talking about are the friends I lose to significant others, particularly my close guy friends when they get girlfriends. I barely have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of guy friends this has happened with.

I’m pretty nontraditional compared to most dating girls in that I generally think like I guy. (Full disclosure: I’m not in a relationship at the moment, so there may be a degree of natural bias.) I don’t need to check in with my boyfriend every hour, I don’t need to see him everyday and I need my alone and girl times just as much as he needs time for himself and his guys. Unfortunately for my girlfriends, I have a hard time relating or understanding when they come to me with qualms about their significant others not checking in enough or wanting a guys’ weekend.

That nature of mine is a blessing and a curse. Because I recognize that I’m not a traditional girlfriend, I know that the odds of my friends’ ladies being a traditional girlfriend with much more influence on his life are high. But it also leaves me frustrated that these good friends of mine disappear into their relationships. (Of course this a very simplistic way of putting it, and there is much more to it.) What is it about these guys that keeps them maintaining our friendship?

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The guy is as much to blame as the possessive girlfriend
As much as I would like to point my finger at the girlfriend’s insecurities and resulting possessiveness for why my guy friend has gone MIA, that’s not fair. I think it’s equally due to the guy’s character (who wears the pants in the relationship?). And maybe it’s really just guys in general. Guys aren’t as good about keeping in touch, catching up or making plans. So when a distraction in the form of a girlfriend comes along, those things that they weren’t very good at to begin with fall by the wayside.

Coupledom means more “we’re going to stay in tonight”
I’d be inclined to say it’s partly because as a couple’s relationship progresses they become less social and are more comfortable staying in because they have each other. But Match.com’s “Singles in America” study says otherwise. In fact, couples go out just about as much as singles do – 46 percent versus 52 percent, respectively, go out one to three nights a week. Here’s the fine print (or what I think it is, anyway): Those outings are probably with each other or with other couples; it’s not hanging out with their single friends who were such a huge part of their lives before they got reeled in. I was at a house party over the weekend, and I kid you not, I was one of three single people among eight couples! But I don’t want to go too far off a tangent; being surrounded by so many couples and engagements and weddings and new parents these days is also a post for another time.

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You say guys and girls can’t be friends?!
I’d be fooling myself if I said the disappearing acts had nothing to do with the fact that maybe there was an attraction, sexual tension or potential for moving out of the platonic realm at some point in the friendship. Maybe there’s some history that makes it hard to continue a friendship once the guy finds his true partner. Or if it’s not a complicated history, then maybe the guy was investing so much time into the friendship before because he thought there may be a chance for more, whether it was in the form of future dates or a romping session. Some people say guys don’t want to be simply friends, and that they’re only dedicating time to a woman because they want to be with her or bang her. One of the guy friends I lost to a girlfriend likened this to “putting money in the bank” knowing there would eventually be an opportunity to “cash out.” And others say that guys and girls can’t be friends. But I disagree with both of those claims – and so does Psychology Today.

The belief that men and women can’t be friends comes from another era in which women were at home and men were in the workplace, and the only way they could get together was for romance,” explained Linda Sapadin, a psychologist in Valley Stream, New York. “Now they work together and share sports interests and socialize together.” This cultural shift has encouraged psychologists, sociologists and communications experts to put forth a new message: Though it may be tricky, men and women can successfully become close friends.

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See! We can be friends despite the fact you had a secret crush on me or we made out in a drunken stupor or you wanted to date me and I didn’t feel the same way. The fact that we became so close to begin with says something, so even though we didn’t end up together doesn’t mean we can’t remain part of each others lives while you’re in a relationship.

A guy might actually be committed?!
I get that a couple wants to spend time together (duh!) and so my friend’s free time will become increasingly limited. Someone on an online forum did a good job of putting that into perspective: “If your goal is to find someone and hope to have it eventually turn into a long-term relationship, it’s normal to invest a lot of time into that person. That shows you’re serious about looking for a commitment.” I have a hard time believing that my guy friends’ disappearances are solely due to their commitment to their women, though. I don’t need Rutgers University’s “National Marriage Project” stats to tell me that most guys don’t like commitment. But I get that they truly want to spend more time with these amazing women who have come into their lives. I just don’t understand why friendships with people, even people who have been around much longer than the new significant other, have to take a backseat to such a substantial degree.

ImageThe guy (girl?) on the forum summed it up well: “It’s a tough adjustment all around. Hopefully those in relationships remember the value of good friends and make time when they can. And hopefully their friends are true friends who respect that they’re looking for a relationship and don’t guilt them for taking time away.”

I can respect when a good guy friend of mine finds someone he clicks with so well that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. I can respect that the relationship takes a lot of time and effort, and so I will be more conscious about giving them space to do that. In return, I just ask that my guy friends not forget about the other important females in their lives even though they now have a No. 1.

                                                                    Hi, remember me? I miss you friend.

Thanks Adi Zarsadias for a great piece that totally resonates with me.
I took your words and came up with some of my own.
………………………………………………………

She’s the one with the messy unkempt hair colored by the sun. Her skin is now far from fair like it once was. Not even sun kissed. It has tan lines, freckles, scars and battle wounds. But for every flaw on her skin, she has an interesting story to tell.

Don’t date a girl who travels. She is hard to please. The usual dinner-movie date at the mall will suck the life out of her. Her soul craves for new experiences and adventures. She will be unimpressed with your flashy, new material things. She would rather climb a rock or jump out of an airplane than to spend money on “things” that will be outdated in five months. She would rather reminisce about past adventures and dream about those to come, than hear you brag about your penthouse on Wall Street.

Don’t date a girl who travels because she will bug you to check the latest music festival lineup. She will ask you to see another Dave Matthews Band show, because 25 isn’t enough. She doesn’t care about partying at Rehab or getting into the latest clubs because she knows that one weekend of clubbing is equivalent to one week somewhere far more exciting.

Don’t date a girl who travels because she will be gone with the next airline seat sale. She lives paycheck to paycheck to fund her jet-setting ways. And she only works so she has the funds. She doesn’t want to keep working her ass off for someone else’s dream. She has her own and is working toward it. She is a freelancer. She makes money from designing, writing, photography or something that requires creativity and imagination. But she doesn’t work like a robot all day, she goes out and takes what life has to offer and challenges you to do the same.

Don’t date a girl who travels for she has chosen a life of uncertainty. She doesn’t have a long-term plan or a permanent address. She goes with the flow and follows her heart. She dances to the beat of her own drum. She rarely wears a watch. And when she does, she never checks the time. Her days are ruled by the sun and the moon. When the world calls, life stops and she will be oblivious to everything else for a moment.

Don’t date a girl who travels because she will never need you – or at least will say she doesn’t need help. She knows how to change a flat tire, pitch a tent and can carry all her own gear. She eats well and doesn’t need you to pay for her meals. She is too independent. Although she hopes you will travel with her, your absence won’t keep her from booking that flight. She will forget to check in with you when she arrives at her destination. She’s busy living in the present. She talks to strangers. She will meet many interesting, like-minded people from around the world who share her passion and dreams.

So never date a girl who travels unless you can keep up with her. And if you unintentionally fall in love with one, don’t you dare hold her back. Let her go.

 

Please note: Portions of this post were written by Adi Zarsadias.

Being more than 8,000 miles away makes it hard to lend a hand or be of help to the more than 4 million people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Because it takes money to fund and coordinate relief efforts, that’s where we Americans be of most help. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of organizations to choose from:

  • UNICEF staff in the Philippines is being repositioned to provide emergency aid and the organization is gearing up to deliver supplies to children and their families. Donations can be made online or by texting RELIEF to 864233 to donate $10.
  • CARE teams are on the ground in the Philippines and the organization plans to provide emergency relief to thousands of families. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-800-521-CARE within the United States or 1-404-681-2552.
  • World Vision is mobilizing nearly 500 staff around the country to respond to the disaster. Donations are accepted online and the organization also lets you sponsor a child in the Philippines.
  • The American Red Cross has volunteers spread throughout the region and accepts donations online. You can also mail a check to your local American Red Cross chapter designating Philippines Typhoons and Flood in the memo line.
  • The United Nations World Food Programme is urging Americans to make donations to support its emergency food relief after Typhoon Haiyan. You can donate online or by texting the word AID to 27722 to donate $10.
  • Save the Children is mounting disaster relief efforts to help children and families in the area. Donations can be made online or by texting DONATE to 20222.
  • AmeriCares is deploying medical aid and a relief team to Philippines, and says an emergency shipment with enough medical aid for 20,000 survivors is already on its way.
  • The Philippine Red Cross has deployed staff and volunteers across the region. You can easily make a donation through organization’s website.
  • Doctors Without Borders has had emergency teams in Cebu since Nov. 9.
  • To donate to the Salvation Army‘s Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, visit its website or text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10 and reply YES to confirm your donation. The organization uses 100% of all disaster donations in support of disaster relief.
  • The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has sent an emergency response team to assist with safe water, hygiene and sanitation needs, with additional aid to follow. Donations can be made online or by calling +1 855 9RESCUE.
  • The International Medical Corps is on the ground coordinating with their partners in the Philippines to distribute and provide medical aid. Donations can be made onlineor by calling1-800-481-4462.
  • Mercy Corps responders are working with local partners to provide food, water and shelter. Donations can be made online.
  • Handicap International supports people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in situations of poverty, conflict and disaster. The group has been working in the Philippines since 1985 and is preparing emergency aid for the hard-hit city of Tacloban. Donations can be made online.
  • The United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing funds for the purchase of emergency food, water and and water purification tablets in Tacloban. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-888-252-6174
  • Catholic Relief Services says its assessment teams have reached the hard-hit island of Leyte by boat. The organization will prioritize emergency shelter, water and sanitation, household relief items potable water and toilets. Donations can be made online or by calling 1-877-435-7277.
  • Looking for someone in the Philippines area that is in your family or a friend? Google has launched a person finder for the storm, also known as Yolanda in the Philippines, where you can try to find someone’s whereabouts or enter your own information.
  • Want to donate to a group not listed? CharityNavigator.org rates organizations based on their financial health, accountability and transparency.

List compiled by USA Today.

Alcohol is weird. Yes, for the very fact it gets you drunk and makes you act ways and say things you never would sober. But also because of the way it makes you act and feel without it. And I’m not talking addiction levels here, like shakes and headaches and such (that’s a whole ‘nother ball game that I’ve dealt with as the daughter of an alcoholic). I’m talking the simple, albeit weird, feelings of social ineptness and incapacitation that come with being sober in a social setting where I would normally be drinking alcohol.

Being at a bar or a party without a drink in my hand is a surreal experience. It’s as if the confidence and outgoing personality that I normally have, sober or buzzed, stayed home for the night. And instead, I become shy and awkward and insecure with only the person in my head to talk to. And let me tell you, that person suddenly has a lot more to say.

I feel so awkward standing here. Think of something to say Lindsay; you always have something to say. Just because you don’t have a cocktail in your hand and one in your belly you suddenly can’t think of anything to say?! They probably think I’m so dull and that it’d be better if I left so they don’t have to feel awkward with me standing there, staring and acting extremely sober. Loosen up Lindsay, smile, act like you’re having fun.

After enduring an hour at the bar, I decide it’s time to go. Says my buzzed friend, one who enjoys a cocktail or two . . . or three or four . . . like me, “What’s it like being the sober one at the bar?”

Ha. I think to myself. If you only knew the mental torture I just went through. I didn’t even bother trying to explain myself to her. And looking back, it’s probably better that I didn’t, because it’s actually pretty ridiculous. I thought more about it and actually feel silly about my behavior. (The irony in that is equally silly: I’m dead sober and embarrassed about how I acted.)

Why am I so worried about how to act if I’m in a social setting and not drinking? I’m a social person who can have a good time and hold a good conversation. So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter that I don’t have a wine glass or a frosty beer mug in my hand?

I found myself asking my nondrinker roommate the same thing during a 40-day stint of abstaining from alcohol. Despite my lack of interest in going out during those 40 days, I forced myself to join my roommate, who was also newly single, out on the town on several occasions. And surprisingly, she ended up buying a drink because she didn’t feel comfortable hanging out at a bar without ordering a drink. How’s that for even more irony?! She believed that we couldn’t be hanging out in the bar if one of us didn’t order an alcoholic drink!

I was surprised to hear that from her, someone who never orders a drink at a bar. If her theory is true, then she’s essentially been freeloading the bar time we earned for ordering an alcoholic beverage. Although I don’t know consumer-business policy enough to say if we actually have to buy a drink, I assured her that no bar could force a person to buy or consume alcohol. And I know she didn’t actually mean that the bar has a strict “no booze, no service” policy, but she didn’t even think I could order a soda. So, she bought herself a cocktail.

It was my roommate and another close girlfriend that gave me the hardest time for not drinking. It was shocking, and slightly disappointing, how much they pressured me to drink when we were out. Not only was I struggling internally with not having a drink in my hand, but I was also dealing with external opposing forces. In two separate occasions in one weekend (not during Lent), my close girlfriend was visibly disappointed when I told her I was done drinking for the night. I wasn’t driving. I wasn’t drunk. I didn’t have anywhere else to be. I just didn’t want another drink. Yet, I was being chastised.

It was that weekend when it actually came to me, when I finally saw the light without alcohol: I could truly have an enjoyable time without a drink in my hand. Maybe it was because I wasn’t under the confines of Lent – “you want what you can’t have” as the saying goes. But I also wasn’t obsessed with what I thought I should or shouldn’t be doing in a social setting or at a bar. I was simply having a good time and doing it on my own terms. Alcohol wasn’t ruling my night.

And alcohol doesn’t rule my life. Yes, I enjoy a cold brewski at a BBQ and a glass of vino or two at a jazz club. But if I stop at one, two or five, I don’t worry about what people think. I don’t dramatize myself into this awkward, sober monstrosity creepily hovering over the drinkers. And I don’t talk to the person in my head as much . . . about alcohol anyway. She still has plenty to say about other things.