Can You Date Without Drinking?

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You're out for the first time with someone you met through OkCupid, or maybe while in line at your favorite coffee shop, the place where you grab a latte every morning. You're both at a local bar — a natural setting for a first date. You both just arrived, and you're both pulsating, clearly, with nerves and excitement. A good stiff drink should help to take the edge off, right? So when the bartender requests your order, you ask for a whiskey and coke ... while your date orders a ginger ale, plain and simple.

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"I'm not in AA," he says. "And you should feel comfortable having whatever you want. But I'm off the booze for a while."

Or maybe you're the one who orders nothing but a club soda, on the rocks, explaining, "I'm not much of a drinker."

But if one of you isn't drinking, does that make things weird? If you're the drinker with a non-drinker, do you feel nervous about the possibility that you might start to get tipsy and seem kind of dopey in front of a sober guy? If you're the one who's alcohol-free, is it hard for you to relax without a cocktail? Or is it hard not to think the person across from you is babbling drunkenly after a round or two?

This line of questioning comes after reading a piece that ran in Salon last week about how teetotaling is negatively one guy's dating life — I found it interesting mainly because I myself quit drinking years and years ago, after one black-out too many. And dating — to say nothing of hooking up — was really hard and a bit awkward at first, without the social lubrication of liquor. (There were a few nights of recidivism.)

But I've come to prefer getting-to-know-you sobreity, after years of practice. Nowadays, though, I do drink a little — a glass of wine, maybe once a month, during a nice dinner out — but I still never drink on a first date. I used to think that I was at my best when I was liquored up, but now I prefer myself sober: I think better, I don't say (or do) things I'll regret later, and I handle myself with more sangfroid.

Do you drink on dates? Does it put you off or make you feel uncomfortable when the person across from you abstains? Or are you a proud (or struggling) non-drinker on dates?

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