Party Hard without the Hard Stuff



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We humans love to colour code: to organise our life into venn diagrams, line charts and column graphs. We create bite sized info-graphics that maintain a veneer of order over the chaos. With the sharp knife of reason we cut our life into slices: work life, social life, family life. But maybe what we really need is a slice of humble pie rather than a pie chart. Under those primary colours which we use to compartmentalise our life hides the palette of reality in all its messy shades.

In real life, its not so easy to separate our work life from our social life. Why should it be? Human beings are relational creatures and that instinct isn’t suppressed by paid work. So Office Drinks, Casual Fridays and Water-cooler Chat become institutions themselves – We try to navigate the messiness of social interaction with buzz words and colloquialism. And alcohol. Where would an office Christmas party be without a lubrication of ethanol to help us slip between the shifting spheres of work and play?

This creates a problem for those who don’t drink. After a stint in Morocco – where alcohol is harder to come by than Aladdin’s cave – I decided that I felt like a more honest version of myself without drinking. Decision made. At the time, it felt like the simplest choice. That was until I resurfaced to my usual life and remembered the politics of usual. In a landscape mapped by social norms I found myself off grid.

The colour code instinct kicked in. I organised my anxiety into a tidy list: 5 ways to navigate social functions without alcohol.


1. No Apologies.

Sorry is a word that the world needs more of. There are plenty of reasons that we should be sorry, for when we have hurt others through action or inaction. However, this isn’t one of them. Whilst you might just be trying to be polite – ‘Sorry, I won’t have a drink’ – that little word can do a lot to undermine your confidence. So can ‘Maybe”, “Trying’ and ‘But’. Once you stop sounding like you are questioning your own choice, others will stop questioning you.

2. Be a Raider of the Lost Art

One advantage of alcohol is that it bestows us with the art of conversation, or at least a readiness to converse. One disadvantage of alcohol is that this art is eventually painted over with a thick top coat of sobriety. There is another option, besides kissing the Blarney Stone, to endow one with the gift of the gab. Practice. The more you make small talk the more ready you will be to chat with anyone, anywhere, at any blood alcohol level.

3. Find a Super Hero

Whether your sprit animal is Lana Del Rey or the Dalai Lama, it helps to pick a role model to remind yourself, and others, that your choice won’t leave you a social pariah.

4. Comic Relief.

As the stiff shoulders around you start to drop, and nervous fidgeting becomes broad gestures, it’s time to remind yourself to relax – don’t take things to seriously. You don’t need beer goggles to see the humour in things. Though, they may come a time of the night where everyone is pointing at the bin laughing. In my experience, that’s the cue to leave.

5. Papa don’t Preach.

Just as its important to feel confident in your environment, it’s important to remember that other people need to feel comfortable too. When trying to explain your decision not to drink it’s easy to come across as a tad evangelical. Best to deliver an explanation with a smile. Then you may find that some people ask questions and are interested to know more. After all, Coco Chanel mused that “In order to be Irreplaceable one must always be different”. The point of difference can make you all the more interesting.


Like most attempts to reign in chaos with flimsy lines and columns, this list is by no means comprehensive – life is full of the little anomalies that fall of the graph. The further away I stray from the norm, the more clear it becomes that these anomalies are where the magic happens. 

Photo Credits. Top: Alexandra Lembke. Below Text: Jessica Hagy

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