You No Longer Have To Drink To Have A Good Time

That’s what the young people are saying.


Drinking, with the sole purpose of getting drunk, is normalised in Australia. The well-known ‘grabbing a drink’ is so enmeshed in our culture, that the idea of cutting it out, partially or completely, is daunting to say the least and sounds like a recipe for disaster when planning a social outing. Let alone a first date.


Are we going to have anything in common? What on earth will we talk about? Where are we going to go? These are all common anxieties that come with the territory of dating. That ‘grab of a drink’ is a well known routine for the first date, with conversation jitters and the fear of awkward silence, the liquid courage is often good company. But not essential, according to younger generations.

With young people considering the risks and the uncertainty around their future, we’re seeing a significant shift in drinking culture in a way that we haven’t before. If you’re in your twenties and have heard of the sober curious movement, this may come as no surprise to you. If you haven’t, the thriving movement encourages people to question their relationship with alcohol - including the reason you choose to pick up a drink and what it would mean to be sober.


New research shows that young people under 25 are choosing to drink less and are embracing sobriety in a way we haven’t seen in previous generations, as a way of dealing with changes in society. In fact, we’re seeing a reversal of a long trend, as the choice to be sober comes as a reaction to the heavy drinking cohort that came before. Other sober curious factors include the rise of social media, health benefits and the uncertainty of climate change. The list goes on.


So with the increase of sober curious generations, what does dating look like?


The lockdown shift

We’ve undoubtedly learnt how to navigate dating differently over the past few years. Thank you, friendly pandemic and associated, oh so lovely, lockdowns. That down time gave us all an opportunity to get creative in the dating world.

With border closures, restrictions, and a cya later to the local pub, walking, coffee and park dates became standard. We saw the automatic suggestion of “let’s grab a drink” evolve, forcing people out of their comfort zones and liquid blankets.


So now we’ve had some practice, with a sober curiosity about us, let's keep this going and change it up.


A good conversation starter.


Sober curiosity, of course, sounds daunting, especially when it comes down to other people's perceptions (and potential judgment). Use it as a conversation starter. Let your date know that you’re curious about being sober or not really wanting to drink. Dating apps now offer profile updates to initiate that first step, which is a great way to set your boundaries. Bumble, for example, offers a ‘badge’ that you can customise to indicate your sober preference and on Hinge you have the opportunity to share how regularly you drink. If that's your cup of tea.


In 2021, 6 percent of Australian Hinge users selected the sober option, with 47 percent saying they drink ‘sometimes’.


Setting this boundary for yourself can eliminate that social pressure and might even fast track a connection. Declaring that status could alleviate any pressure you feel to drink, if you don’t want to, and then gives you the opportunity to suggest a date that doesn’t rely on alcohol.


In saying this, there’s no reason you need to be upfront about your drinking preferences if you don’t want to be. Duh.


If you’re wary about how cutting down may affect your dating life and the way you socialise, don’t be. At the end of the day, if the people around you aren’t supportive, then their take on your curiosity is irrelevant. That’s on them.


Take the drink out of the spotlight


Sober curiosity opens up new ground for dating. Inspired by post lockdown dating, there is an abundance of creative potential when it comes to date ideas that don’t rely on alcohol.


Activity based dates are the perfect recipe, getting to know someone and their interests, outside of a bar. Although, as non-alcoholic bars start to pop up and gain traction, maybe that’s a great starting point. Sounds like a great way to navigate the ‘grabbing a drink’ date - if that’s on the cards. Find a non-alcoholic alternative that works for you and that you actually enjoy.


Consent.


On a first date, it’s pretty common to want a drink (or two) to lower the inhibitions, feel more confident and ease the nerves. It’s important for us all to keep in mind that consent must be ‘freely given’ and if someone is intoxicated, they can’t freely give consent.


Many are choosing sobriety to feel more connected to their own body and others, giving them an opportunity to reverse the dating conundrum away from ‘will they like me’ to ‘will I like them?”


With a sober mind, you can make informed decisions. On top of that, you have the opportunity to get to know someone on a level that is transparent, often leading to a deeper understanding and connection. You don’t have anything to hide behind, which again sounds daunting, but also, refreshing. It’s an opportunity to build an authentic connection and have thoughtful conversations, and hey, actually remember them.


Homework: read Sober Curious, by Ruby Warrington

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