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To drink or not to drink?

What’s the deal with pushy drinkers?

This is a question I pose to all Haligonians, especially those dealing with young drinkers who may be inexperienced with alcohol limits.

There seems to be an expectation in social situations that everyone partakes of the offered beverage. This isn’t the case for every outing, but it’s an assumption that has been made clear to me on multiple occasions.

The worst part isn’t saying no while a gaggle of peers look on, it’s the accompanying judgement, or worse, pushy nagging to submit.

Halifax is known for many things, including our drinking culture. There ain’t no party like an east coast party, after all. I propose, as we return to campus this year, we be more accepting of what party means to others. It’s important that students remember, drinking isn’t for everyone. 

Back to school celebrations

Back to school means many things, including welcome parties, initiations and orientation celebrations. 

For those new to Halifax, it might mean a tour of the bar district followed by a hasty slice at pizza corner.

This can be a lot of fun. It can also be an awkward experience for non-drinkers in the spotlight.

There are many reasons somebody might abstain from alcohol, such as designated driver status, an early class, medication or medical condition, pregnancy, culture, religion or simply not wanting to. 

Whatever the reason, as Nova Scotians we need to be supportive of our non-drinking companions.

Maybe I’ll have some, maybe I won’t

Being an older student at Dalhousie, I lived out my frosh days long ago. While I remember having a blast at the time, I also remember feeling like I put myself in some unnecessarily dodgy situations because I didn’t say no to “just one more”.

My first year at Dal, I attended a student-hosted party near campus. Invitees were required to bring a small bottle of alcohol. All the bottles were collected and poured into a questionable-looking cooler filled with juice and soda. There was no forced drinking of the muddy concoction, but there was a distinct vibe that those who didn’t partake could see themselves out. I left early.

To be honest, I was more worried about what I’d catch from the dirty cooler than I was about peer pressure, but it’s attitudes like those at that party that need to improve.

What if not drinking was the norm?

It’s not unusual to visit any restaurant in HRM on any given weekend and see friends and colleagues clinking glasses of beer, wine and spirits.

A 2007 report by the Government of Nova Scotia found 74 to 80.7 percent of Nova Scotians were alcohol drinkers. While a study on alcohol consumption changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada, found 12 percent of participants in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick drank more frequently.

What if not drinking on a Saturday night was the norm? Might we be more supportive of everybody at the table?

I remember last year, writing a piece about Halifax graveyards for the Dalhousie Gazette and interviewing local journalist Craig Ferguson. He took me through Camp Hill Cemetery on Summer Street.

I was shocked to see one of the monuments covered in bottles and cans. This was the gravesite of Alexander Keith, late politician and brewery founder. Ferguson told me that people come here to drink with Keith and leave their empty cans on his grave as tokens of appreciation.

Is drinking so normal that we find it appropriate to litter in graveyards just because a brewery founder is buried there?

Sub: Just have fun and let others be

I’d like to be clear. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink if that’s your thing and you’re of age to do so. 

My point is simply this – you never know what somebody else’s reason could be for saying no to alcohol. 

Let’s be respectful and enjoy the company of everyone at the table, whether they imbibe or not.


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