I hope you had a joyful holiday season, and were able to ring in the new year in whatever fashion worked for you. For many of you I am sure the festivities involved alcohol, as we have been socialized to equate New Year’s celebrations with parties, countdowns and a celebratory glass of champagne.
Our easy, frequent, and often expected consumption of alcoholic beverages is called ‘drinking culture.’ A culture which normalizes, accepts, and encourages alcohol to play a large, and often a leading, role in socializing. Many countries around the world partake in this culture, and Canada is one of them. I admit it has been a large part of my life. I worked as a bartender for two decades and was raised in a family where alcohol consumption was common. My mom even bought me a sign for Christmas that says, “If you’re drunk and you know it clap your hands,” because apparently this is what I do.
People feel great pressure to drink and even go as far as to drink fake alcoholic beverages to fit in. I served many people over the years who would ask for a Pepsi in a rock glass with a lime and a straw in order to make it look like a rye and Coke because it was easier than explaining to people they did not want to drink.
This not taking no for an answer is something I have mentioned before but in the context of consent culture. People often push, pester and pressure people to do what they want, whether that be go on a date, have sex, or have a drink. What is up with this? Why do we do this? Why do we feel so entitled to other people? Can we not allow people to make their own decisions?
I have also worked as an addictions counsellor and understand the immensely stressful, difficult, and complex relationship people can have with alcohol. Living in a drinking culture does not make this easy. It is almost impossible to avoid the positive, accepting, and essential attitude our culture has about alcohol, and as I mentioned before, we are raised in this culture without any education about what it means and how to navigate it.
I turn on the television and see commercials telling me alcohol will bring me friends, happiness, and love. I walk into a store and a tea towel tells me it is wine o’clock somewhere. I turn on the radio and a popular artist tells me to either raise my glass or drown my sorrows. It is almost impossible to resist.
I am not saying you must resist; what I am saying is we need to be more aware of the role alcohol plays not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others and our society. Try not to make assumptions about people’s relationship to alcohol, do not pressure anyone to drink, and for Pete’s sake refrain from buying the “It’s wine o’clock somewhere” tea towel!
Stacey Jacobs has been a Sex Educator for almost 2 decades. For 13 of those years she worked as a Sexual Health Educator at Planned Parenthood. She teaches in the Sexuality, Marriage and Family Studies Program at the University of Waterloo and when not educating, she enjoys reading, walking her dogs and eating good food. The life of a Sex Educator is usually not as interesting as people assume.