Giving it a Wide Berth: The Three A’s

As Ily observed in her blog a while ago, asexuals like teetotaling. Although not all of us are teetotalers, many of us are, or have been at one point in our lives, including me. My attitude towards alcohol has changed a lot over the years, from, “That stuff is nasty and horrible!” to “Whatever, just stay away from me when you’re drunk,” to “Okay, so you want vodka and what?”

To understand my changing perspective, it is necessary to understand my background as a survivor of domestic abuse. I won’t go into exhaustive detail, but suffice it to say that my father is an alcoholic, so naturally, for a long time I had a very strong knee-jerk reaction to alcohol of any kind. I could see only its negative effects, just a bunch of people running around stupidly heedless of the damage they were causing. I’m sure it didn’t help that I have such a serious and introverted personality that parties were never my idea of fun to begin with, but of course my terrible experiences of being forced to deal with violent inebriates exacerbated that tendency a thousandfold, to the point that I never wanted to have anything to do with most of my peers, at the age that they all were starting to go out and party. I’m sure there will be some people who would say that these traumatic experiences and the subsequent disidentification with my peers are what “caused” my asexuality, or whatever, but I don’t think the two are related (or rather, not causally related). After all, my sister went through the same experiences, and she’s about as sexual as she can get. Had I felt any sexual attraction, I’m sure I would have felt more of an impetus to get over my disgust in order to act on it. But as it was, the connection between alcohol and sexuality actually turned me farther away from any vague inkling I might have otherwise had to try it.

If abuse laid the foundation of my youthful hatred for alcohol, it was asexuality that poured the cement. I mentioned earlier that in my early teens, I considered myself celibate until further notice. At the time, I did not understand that I was different from my peers in a fundamental way, because I had not yet recognized that they were all developing a kind of interest in others that I didn’t have. I had absolutely no understanding of sexuality, although I did know that sex was something I was supposed to take an interest in at some point. I just thought that point would be far, far in the future (which it was), and I made the decision to focus on other things until I was sure I was mature enough to handle it. I knew because I had no interest that I hadn’t reached that point yet. It didn’t occur to me that perhaps some of my peers were ready for it; I simply thought they were getting themselves into big trouble. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

The logic behind my teetotaling and celibacy was exactly the same. The only difference was the thing I had made a conscious decision not to do. These were not two distinct decisions, but a single decision applied to two different things (plus all other drugs besides). In my mind, they were inextricable from one another. I assumed that going to parties and drinking would inevitably lead to uncomfortable and possibly dangerous sexual situations, and to this day I think that judgment was only somewhat exaggerated. Perhaps I am overly cautious, but I didn’t have any friends who had easy access to alcohol at their houses, so in order to get it, we probably would have had to risk a venture out to a place which is infamous for murders, drug trafficking, and gang wars (pardon my vagueness, but I am still trying to protect my semi-anonymity, just in case one of my family members stumbles upon this blog). I didn’t want to make myself easy prey, especially since I couldn’t speak the dominant language of that place, and had no idea how alcohol would affect me.

Really, I was quite judgmental of people who chose to drink. I thought it was totally stupid. I once expressed this thought to M, who said (paraphrasing), “It is stupid, but it’s what you have to do if you want to get girls. It’s a life experience.” That wasn’t an experience I wanted, though, because of my asexuality.

Nobody ever invited me anyway, so it didn’t really matter, but still. I wouldn’t have hung around with anyone who ever would have asked me to do such a thing. It was quite clear I wasn’t comfortable with any of it, so as we grew up, my then-best friend K (who was relatively popular, though still nerdy enough to relate to me) kept a secret social life that I was completely removed from. She never told me that she had started smoking or drinking, and later on she was even afraid to tell me that she had gotten a tattoo (I have no idea why she would be afraid to tell me that), though she did tell me after she lost her virginity. After that, I finally began to realize that I was different, and thus began my eventual coming to terms with my asexuality.

In my late teens, I still couldn’t stand alcohol, but with maturity my attitude towards it had gradually become more flexible. At least, it had with regard to other people drinking outside my presence. It wasn’t until I was of legal drinking age myself that I met my turning point, and by now you all know who that is.

The first time we went out together, it was the two of us, plus four of his other friends. They were all surprised when I asked for water, and eventually convinced me to drink something weak that tasted like apple jolly ranchers. I didn’t have enough alcohol to be affected. Although up until that point, I had never been comfortable being anywhere near drunk people, this time I didn’t mind. None of us had to drive (nor in fact could we if we had wanted to), and it was all legal and relatively safe. I was a little out of my depth, but that was par for the course, and I was open to new experiences. M was the only one who got close to me—perhaps a little too close, but in the two weeks since I’d met him, I’d already developed a powerful crush on him, so I didn’t mind. He was being obnoxious, though, and as I watched rather bemusedly, one of our other friends said to me, “You’ve never seen this before, have you?” I said no, and then added mentally, “Not that reaction, no.”

I wonder now, in retrospect, if M already had it in mind to seduce me even so soon after we met, if that was his plan all along or if he just went with it when the opportunity presented itself. I’m sure he never intended to have such a profound effect on me as he did, though I knew it would happen, had to happen, even then. In my youth, in order to protect myself from the harsh circumstances I grew up in, I built a massive fortress around myself, and allowed no one to get close to me. M was the anomaly who could walk through walls. When I met him, I almost instantly realized he was trustworthy, and that it was extremely important that I let him in. I had no idea what would happen on a mundane level, but I knew that on an emotional level, he would blow that fortress to pieces, and it would be a good thing. He was the only one who could thus affect me, because he was the one holding the dynamite. I knew it would be dangerous and painful, but I also knew I’d be able to pick up the pieces and walk away when I needed to.

As things progressed, I still never truly got completely comfortable with him, because I never had the reassurance that I needed that he understood me, or would at least try to understand me, so that he could approach sexual activity in a way that would be safe for me (to whatever extent that would be possible anyway, what with me falling in love with him). Some risk was, of course, necessary, but it wouldn’t work out to keep doing it, in the long run. I wasn’t willing to introduce the effects of alcohol into an already delicate situation, so even though he pushed me to drink, I resisted. At one point, we had the following conversation:

M: “Do you not like the taste? Try it.”
Me: *tastes* “No, it’s fine.”
M: “Then if you don’t mind the taste, why don’t you drink it?”
Me: “I just… don’t like the effects. It’s weird.”
M: “You just don’t like it because you were traumatized as a kid, and you need to get over it.”
Me: “…”
M: “Look, you’re not going to turn into your dad, all right. And even if you do, you’re small. I’m pretty sure I can take you. Drink it.”

Of course he was right. But he didn’t realize how uneasy I was with the situation, and how unwilling I was to surrender any more control of it over to him, especially when I had no idea how much alcohol I could drink without being overtaken by its effects, nor did I have any more than a very vague idea what those effects would be. I was very aware of the power dynamics that he mentioned, but that wasn’t what I was worried about. I was worried, rather, that he would at some point get the wrong idea of what I wanted to do, and I wouldn’t be able to communicate my limits (this was a day or two after the fiasco, so I had a keen, valid sense of exactly what could go wrong, though he was still very much in the dark). I am naturally quite submissive (though not given to harsher pleasures), and my background makes it quite difficult for me to speak up in such situations (and apparently, my sister has the same difficulty, so I do think it’s the result of my background rather than my innate personality, since her personality is quite different from mine), so being drunk on top of everything else could be absolutely disastrous for me.

So I drank, but only minimally.

After things eventually collapsed with M, I found myself completely alone, bored, and in so much pain I couldn’t properly focus on anything. I figured, why not? I was alone, and I didn’t need to drive, so there was no risk I would hurt anyone. I could find out what kind of effect alcohol would have on me without getting into trouble. At least I would be figuring something out, which is much more than I could say for myself sober. So that’s what I did.

I told my friend J (same friend from the previous post) about it later, and she (of course, being a total extrovert) said, “Drinking alone? That’s a sign of an acoholic.” I said it isn’t, not really, for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that I had barely ever drunk anything before, so I couldn’t be addicted. But more than that, I approached it with a very different mindset. I’ve never been comfortable drinking around other people, because I didn’t know how I would react to the alcohol. I did it to find out and get comfortable with it so that I would finally be able to be comfortable drinking around other people, and ultimately, open up my social life a bit, because at this stage in my life, it’s just expected that most social functions involve drinking, and I can’t realistically expect to have much of a social life if I’m not comfortable with it. “Wow,” she said, “You’re like a little scientist.” She promised to invite me to go with her whenever she and her roommate decide to go out to a club or something, which I’m looking forward to.

Since then, I have indeed managed to successfully drink comfortably around three of my other friends. Surprisingly, I actually have a higher alcohol tolerance than T, but I suppose that’s because he’s asian. It was a small get-together not even worthy of the word “party,” but it was fun. I’m glad that I’ve managed to get over my sore spots so that I can go out and enjoy myself, instead of always being left out (though these friends wouldn’t do that, others would). It’s not really like I feared it would be, because I was with people I know and trust, and it was relatively quiet. It was mostly divorced from sexuality, too, because at this age, in this situation, that just wasn’t a motivation for us to drink. None of us drank excessively, and in fact I don’t think any of us even had hangovers.

In my case, my decision not to drink was more out of fear than anything else, and a part of this fortress I had built to protect myself. Now that, thanks to M, that tower has fallen, I’ve found that I just don’t need to be a teetotaler (or celibate, for that matter) anymore. Sure, I don’t need to drink to have fun, but I don’t need to be so defensive either. I’ve finally learned it won’t be the end of the world if I drink, and I’m finally starting to let go a little, in front of other people. I still respect my friends who make the decision not to drink—I understand where they’re coming from, and drinking, like sex, is not for everyone. But personally, I’m glad that I can do it now, if I want to, because it’s just one more step towards not letting myself be ruled by my childhood. Ironically, by taking this attitude towards the thing that destroyed my childhood, I’ve managed to find a bit of healing. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword, and I will always be vigilant so as not to get myself into my mother’s situation, but you know… I can handle it.

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2 thoughts on “Giving it a Wide Berth: The Three A’s

  1. Thanks for the shout! I like your explanation of drinking alone. From some of the situations I observed in college, it definitely would have been better if people had figured out their limits ahead of time!

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  2. That’s great. I think its awesome how you can recall events, and your mindset at those events, so accurately as to find the why and how and who of the development of your current view of alcohol.

    smiley face :)

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