After my story about dating sober ran in Elle Magazine, I heard from other women also learning to navigate the Tinder era without a glass of wine in their hands.
I know many ladies (and gentlemen) struggle with these issues, too, so I asked one of them if I could share our correspondence, and she agreed.
” so I’ve been telling men before the date that I don’t drink and suggest coffee or food and they seem completely put out and often times cancel on me, because to them, I’m just a coffee date, I’m not a real date aka they won’t get laid on a coffee date. I’m leaning towards not saying anything and when they undoubtedly offer to meet for drinks I just show up and order a water and hope they don’t mind drinking alone. But before I respond to your questions, I need to assure you: You are not undateable. Eventually, though, I needed to push myself out there again, and as if the dating world weren’t cruel and torturous enough, I had become a tainted woman — a woman who doesn’t drink. Maybe they’re just heavy drinkers like I used to be, who struggle with shyness and insecurity and have passionate feelings about artisanal brews and can’t even conceive of being close to a person without a drink in their hands. I liked the drama of having men around, even questionable ones, because it made me feel desirable and exciting. Many people are comfortable not drinking — they can take it or leave it.
Le sigh, anyways I’m sure you’re fielding actual pitches and not quarter life crises from weird sober single women, but anyways your article really spoke to me during a time I was panicking I would never meet a man ever again. ”I actually love hearing from weird sober single women. Weird sober single women have to stick together, because we have something that bonds us in a world where so many people are the same. Here’s what the dating world looks like for you: NOOOOO DRIIINNNNKING. Or rather, the only way you could be undateable is if you made yourself that way. I put up the force field and holed up on my couch with my documentaries and my creamy pasta. I’m sorry, but that person is not a good romantic partner for you right now. I’m not talking about my boyfriends — good-hearted, funny, challenging men — but the ones who came in between. When I quit drinking, I had to give up the idea of hanging out with those guys for three or four weeks, maybe-sorta seeing if my feelings changed, if something magical happened to make me like them more, or vice versa. You can no longer drink your way out of a bad date, which is how half the other folks on OK Cupid will spend their Friday nights. I am lucky on this dating beat, because men I go out with have often been knocked around by life in a way that has beaten out the weaselly, asshole part of them. Not dating those guys freed me up to find someone who might be interested in a short, blonde, non-exotic girl named Sarah. Maybe it doesn’t seem that way right now, because you are young, and surrounded by people who consider binge-drinking three nights a week to be some kind of constitutional right, but as time passes, and you grow more comfortable with yourself (an inevitable and beautiful outgrowth of sobriety), you will find these other magical people, who don’t require liquor to explore the world. And the truth is, I fall in love sober all the time: With new friends, with new songs, with the blue sky, with Louis CK sketches and Joan Didion lines, and every once in a great long while, with a human person. But the truth is, dating was hard when I was drinking, and it was hard after I quit. What you are, however, is a person who is no longer like the rest of the herd. This can be terrifying, traumatizing — and it can free you up for a life that is better than you ever dreamed.
Most of the dating world looks like this: Have a drink or three while you’re getting ready (nervous! ), have a drink or three at dinner (OMG do I like him? ), have a drink or three at the bar afterward (shit, should I go home with him? It’s just you, and the volcano of your nervous, uncomfortable feelings, and nothing to save you but a glass of Canada Dry. You are staring down an undisclosed health issue (possibly a big deal) and the major lifestyle change of no longer drinking (definitely a big deal). When you stop drinking, you lose the luxury of such pretending. The dating world is a large majority bullshit, and it’s not such a bad fate to cut down on your slice of bullshit pie. It was a while before I felt comfortable meeting guys in bars, but now that I do, I find it’s not a big deal. Now, is the guy thinking to himself, “Man, this sucks. But does it occur to anyone — does it occur to you, now that you’re seeing things a little more clearly — that “getting wasted and fucking” is a questionable way to get to know someone? They have had a divorce, maybe even two, a layoff, some hair loss. Both of those guys can make very good dating material. My friend, if I can date at 40 — which is NOT, I assure you, a “dateable” age, but more like the age when all your female friends remove the year they were born from their Facebook page — then you can date at 25. When I got sober, that question turned around a bit. I met a lot of interesting men, but they were not interesting enough. Many of them wanted to date a woman who was drinking, which is a little bit like telling me you want to date a tall, dark-haired, exotic woman named Linda. They will be interested in taking walks, and laughing at how bad they are at bowling, and sitting in coffee shops for three hours at a stretch because neither of you was watching the time. People who stop drinking have the opportunity to find calmness and acceptance in ourselves.
How you choose to disclose your sobriety — and where you want to meet men you date — is a personal decision, and I wouldn’t presume to know what was right. They have had their heart stomped on, which turns out to make them MUCH better dating material. Because the good news is — the way in which YOU are lucky — is that you are 25. It’s a simple fact that by quitting drinking, your dating pool just got smaller. I spent a lot of my younger years worrying if men liked me. I started wondering: Am *I* having a good time now?
And for those of us who don’t drink, dating can be even more of a mixed bag. Because, in case you missed the memo, most Americans are all about alcohol, especially when it comes to getting hitched (or laid.) We meet for happy hour at five, dine with wine at seven, meet lovers at a bar later on, and make every excuse to have another round.
So my question to you is, can I show up to the date at a bar and tell them THEN and just sip a water while they have a beer? Some of my favorite women — famous and in real life — are drinkers, which is part of why it meant so much to me to be one of them. They become more reliable friends, better listeners, kinder and more forgiving people. They just saved you time and effort by telling you exactly who they are, which is someone who has no interest if sex is not on the table immediately, which is a small-minded, douchebag way to be.
I feel like most guys don’t want to drink in front of a sober person, makes them feel predatorial like “c’mon, I can’t drink alone! When I gave up drinking, I thought it meant that I became the opposite. Or maybe these hypothetical bar-only men are not douchebags. They don’t drink because of medical diagnoses, they don’t drink because they don’t like it, they don’t drink for religious reasons, or because they come from a country where pouring golden liquid down your throat until you puke is seen as not that awesome of a thing to do.
But it sucked to discover that alcohol-free dating was still, well, When I said goodbye to alcohol and all its attendant drama, I never intended to bid farewell to dating, period.
I saw my romantic future shimmering atop a cotton-candy cloud of contentment and stability.