So I'm a (gay) man of a certain age who has never had a beer or any type of alcohol. Not even a glass of wine.
Does that make me a unicorn? Or Mormon?
Let me preempt your rush to judgment that I'm religious (god, no!), or recovering from something. (Sadly, the only thing I'm addicted to is salt.) I have no moral or ethical reasons for not drinking alcohol. I don't care if others drink themselves under the table. Like tattoos and piercings, alcohol is fine with other people - I just choose not to. And though I use a bit of wine in cooking (how else do I deglaze a pan and make a good sauce?) and baking (my eggnog cheesecake would not be the same without a little brandy), it's never in large quantities.
We never had much alcohol in the house growing up. My parents would have the occasional glass of wine, and while I'm sure I must have tried it at some point along the way, I never had any interest in having more. And throughout high school, none of my friends at the time seemed to be interested in alcohol. Or perhaps they were, and I was wholly oblivious to it. (Which is - in all honesty - more likely the case, since I was oblivious to much outside of music and swimming.)
Even when I went to college - completely liberated from home and parents - I never explored alcohol (even though I would have welcomed anything to dull the pain of living in the dorms). Why? Well, I remember a dorm party that ended with a drunkard finding his way to my secluded corridor in the basement and throwing up in our common kitchen (and which didn't get cleaned up until the next day - bleh). Or the garbage cans that were thrown down the stairwell from the seventh floor to the first floor lobby, leaving a disgusting mess. So I decided that I would get my kicks some other way.
But I think what really kept me from drinking was that I was terrified that I would accidentally out myself if I got drunk. Even though I was living in a very liberal city, in a very liberal college, among very liberal friends and colleagues (who probably knew way before I told them), I was worried that my family would somehow find out that I was gay before I had the opportunity to tell them, however irrational that fear may have been at the time. And lord knows, Asian men can't hold their liquor, so I was afraid that it would be one beer and I would be dancing on the tables and professing my love for broad shoulders and a hairy chest to the world.
But even after I had come out to my family, it seemed almost pointless to try. And now, having chosen not to drink alcohol for such a long time, I almost feel like an old dog who can't learn any new tricks. Maybe it's pride at having gone this long. Maybe I'm just so frakking uptight that I can't bear the thought of ever losing control.
So these days, I am happily the designated driver by default, and casual observer of what people do when they get tipsy or drunk. Because it can be funny sometimes to watch the chatty drunks, and sleepy drunks, and obnoxiously-loud drunks, and dude-you're-invading-my-personal-space drunks.
And then I go back to nursing my orange juice.