We're party poopers

pink_overallsNovember 28, 2006

DH and I moved this past year to a new town. To help us get connected to people with interests similar to our own, we joined the yacht club. I'm more comfortable socializing than my husband is, but neither of us drink alcohol, and he doesn't dance. The problem is that many of the social events the yacht club plans include drinking, something we didn't realize. The club's annual formal big dinner dance is coming up, the one when they take the photos that will go in next year's printed directory. How can we politely beg out without looking judegmental or just boring? We like talking about boats and sailing with others, but there's no way my DH will pay a bunch of money to dress up to sit around while everyone else gets buzzed, and has a fine time chatting, joking and dancing. I need some polite phrases or an explanation that doesn't beg more questions. Thanks for any advice.

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We are also basically a non-drinking, yachting couple (we have a Nordic Tug but there are lots of sailboat owners as well). And, yes...marina events do include alcohol even if it's just beer at the annual pig roast. We still attend. DH may have one beer, usually not. But, it doesn't stop us from having a good time & enjoying the company of our marina friends. If, after a few hours, there are signs that alcohol consumption is affecting behavior...we leave early.

If you & your DH don't want to attend any function where alcohol is served...the boating community is not the right place for you. Our boating friends do not allow alcohol on their boats but will have a few drinks at marina sponsored events and/or just the Saturday night marina BBQ. I think most marinas are like that.

You don't need to say anything about not attending the annual dinner/dance event. Just respond appropriately on the invitation (RSVP request). Nobody's going to call you up & demand to know why you're not attending.

If you want your pictures in the directory along with your boat name, contact info, etc., call the person coordinating the directory & ask if you can send in pictures you've had taken elsewhere. There will, probably, be group pictures taken at the dinner/dance but so what if you're not present in those?

What kind of boat do you have & where's your slip? We're in Mystic, CT & boat, primarily, between Annapolis and Portland, ME.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 6:46AM
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My husband and I don't drink, and we've never let us keep us from going someplace we wanted to go. There are always non-alcoholic options, and we've never had the problem of anyone pressuring or ridiculing us for our choices.

However, if you're uncomfortable getting dressed up for events, or being around others who are drinking or uncomfortable with saying no--then perhaps you might want to look to another kind of group for socializing? Maybe you just joined the wrong club for you. What about doing some volunteer work? or getting involved in the local church, or joining a service organization like the Rotary or Lion's Clubs? those would also get you in contact with other concerned community members, without the pressure of alcohol being involved.

Me? I'd go to the party, have a soda or iced tea, and enjoy myself with my friends. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with being busy with something else that evening, either. You and your husband just have to bottom line it--Which counts for more? the enjoyment of being with the new friends you've made? or the discomfort you might feel there? Neither answer is right or wrong--but one is right for YOU two.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 8:46AM
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I don't quite understand the problem. Your question was:

"How can we politely beg out without looking judegmental or just boring? ... I need some polite phrases or an explanation that doesn't beg more questions."

As triciae pointed out, the first part is simple. You just decline the invitation without giving any reason. Of course no one is going to call and demand an excuse, but your second requests suggests that you anticipate some friends in the club asking you at some point. If that is so, it still doesn't have to be a problem. You can just say that you have other plans for that evening (as Miss Manners points out, no need to mention that your plans are to stay home). If for some reason you feel you must, you can just say that you and your husband love boating but aren't much for big parties and dances.

There isn't anything judgmental about that -- as long as you avoid phrases like "everyone else gets buzzed," which does sound judgmental.

Are you worried that you won't be accepted and make friends if you don't participate? Consider attending sometimes but not always -- you don't have to drink if you don't want to. No one will notice that your glass contains, say, club soda and cranberry juice. Maybe your husband can even force himself to dance once or twice -- it's not going to kill him. It's one thing if there are health, religious, or ethical restrictions, but when it's just a matter of not-my-favorite-activity, sometimes it's a good idea to participate anyway on occasion. It's called being a good sport. After all, haven't you had some guests on your boat that whined about the difficulties of using the head, wearing deck shoes, or about their hair getting blown?

We all find ourselves in these situations from time to time, whether it's watching a sport that bores us or confronting a menu we don't like or can't eat. In MHO, it's all a lot easier if simply try to be good guests/hosts and, as you note, not be judgmental.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 10:19AM
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I agree with what's been said above. If you don't want to attend the events that involve drinking, just politely decline. I don't see why you have to say why you're declining.

But it sounds to me like the real issue lies in this statement: The problem is that many of the social events the yacht club plans include drinking, something we didn't realize.

If the majority of the activities of a club you belong to don't interest you, you're probably in the wrong club. After a year of attending these events, have you made any friends from this club? Have you been able to meet any others who share your lack of interest in alcohol? If so, then you can spend your time at this party (and future parties) with these folks. Or you can just arrange to socialize with these people outside the club activities.

In either case, I don't see the point of remaining members. You joined in order to make new friends who share your interests. If that has happened, the club may continue to hold interest for you and what better way to meet more of these types of people than at social events. If that hasn't happened, it's probably time to move on to a different social group.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 12:21PM
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Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, which have given me plenty of food for thought.

I think the reason this seemingly uncomplicated problem gets complicated in my mind is that we DO want to continue to be members of the club, because of our passion for sailing (25-ft Hunter, to answer triciae's question)and the opportunity the club represents for sharing activities and information. Also, we've spent over $600 to join. We do have other activities -- volunteering, jobs, grandchildren -- but boating is our love. The comments about the boating scene being a drinking scene ring true, and now I realize why we never slipped gracefully into the cliques at other marinas where we've lived in the past.

Perhaps I should have explained that the reason I don't drink is that I am an alcoholic. I chose not to drink 20 years ago. My husband gets headaches from even one glass of wine or beer. So, it is not an option for us to be moderate social drinkers. I think lowspark's suggestion to cultivate relationships with other teetotlers is a good one. It's not that we feel pressured to imbibe. We're accustomed to being in situations, including family, business, and social events where others are drinking. The yacht club presented a different situation. For one thing, the affair I'm obsessing over is an annual thing, the major event of the year when new memebers (that would include us) are formally welcomed. So, making an exuse about being busy that evening wouldn't fly, especially year after year.

Perhaps it is difficult for people who are used to alcohol being part of most adult festive occasions to know what it's like when everyone around you is finding EVERYTHING hilarious, and you have been smiling and nursing your quinine and orange juice for an hour. The semi-monthly dinners the club sponsors are preceded by a cocktail hour. I enjoy being with people, small talking and joking. On the other hand, there are about 1,000 things DH would rather be doing. Torture to him is a cocktail party. He's never danced in his life, not even at weddings. Hey, I didn't marry him to go dancing. I love him for what he is -- kind, smart, handsome, generous, funny, sexy, ambitious, honest, hard-working, even-tempered, and on and on. I'm not going to dress him up in a dinner jacket (he wore a tie the day we got married and that's it!) and put him in a room of people, fellow yachtsmen though they be, who are chatting, dancing and drinking alcohol in party-mode.

These fellow members are people we see elsewhere, and we would be questioned about why we are not attending. It will raise eyebrows. We have attended other club events -- regattas, a seminar, an ice cream social -- and we enjoyed these. Maybe I need to work hard on my attitude, but right now, attending is simply not something I want to do. I know how to be a good sport. I'm at the age that I've had to do lots of things I didn't want to do, but I don't see the value of it here. It's not like we have to please the boss or entertain relatives we're not fond of. We joined the club to have fun.

One of the reasons I am continuing with this thread is that I feel sure other non-drinkers find themseves dealing with similar social situations, especially during the upcoming holidays. So, I feel your comments here will assist others in making the season more fun.

Thanks for all your input.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2006 at 8:45PM
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Thanks for the further information. I do think that a simple, "We love boating, but we really aren't party people" ought to do it most of the time, like for the semi-monthly cocktail parties, especially because you attend other events. I bet you aren't the only ones who only go to those, and probably there are others who like the cocktail parties but skip the ice cream socials.

But your last post seems to indicate that you think that the annual party is sort of "mandatory." Is that right? If so, do you see your choice as either skipping it and suffering social consequences, or attending and having a dreary time? If that's so, then you know your options, and while you don't have a perfect one, I think you will be okay either way. If you choose to go, even though you know you won't enjoy it, can you leave early-ish? That's what I usually do when I have to attend something I don't enjoy -- we all have to do that from time to time.

Who knows -- if you do go and if you keep your eyes open, you may well find other people there who feel exactly as you do and are just there to put in an annual appearance (look in the corner farthest from the bar). They could turn out to be just the friends you were hoping to meet.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 12:40PM
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pink clearly you are being very thoughtful about this. I, like you, would never put my husband in a situation he was uncomfortable in...even if I found it less stressful. Nothing would be worth that.

There is no answer to your question other than go for a short period of time, just enough to make a show or decline without comment.

What I do find a bit suprising is that the people in this club of yours seem to get tipsy, or so you suggest. I do not find that most sophisticated adults get drunk at social occasions. Oh sure there is the odd silly person but they only make themselves look silly, most people have a drink or two, certainly would never drink and drive. All of that got left behind in their 20's and 30's. Maybe you are staying too late!!!

It's one thing to be in a group that are having a drink and being at party where people are drinking too much.

If these social occasions make you, or your husband, uncomfortable then pass. To heck with what they think, they are only club members with no real meaning in your life.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 12:56PM
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There are all kinds of social opportunities in the world...if you have in advertantly joined one you don't enjoy....walk out! By attending you are making yourselves uncomfortable and very likely others as well.
Tell them thanks, but no thanks....you are not of the "cocktail party crowd"...
I don't believe attendance at these functions is mandatory...or is it?
Linda C

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 9:43PM
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The feedback I am getting is making me throw all the pieces of this puzzle into the air to see where they come down.

Gellchom, you have nicely clarified my thoughts and options. We can avoid the party and, yes, suffer the social discomfort of fellow members wondering what's wrong with them or what's wrong with us. Or we can go, and suffer through it. When I looked at it this way, I tightened the screws a little and said to myself (and DH, who is following this drama), "Wait a minute, how bad can it be?" A breakthrough!

I began to rethink the whole scene. It was especially helpful when Chase wrote --

What I do find a bit suprising is that the people in this club of yours seem to get tipsy.

I need to admit that we have never even been to one of the events where alcohol was served (except a meeting where a box of wine was lined up with the soft drinks bottles on the refreshments table). For all I know most people will have just one drink. If that's the case, I've been wasting my time, and yours, even worrying about how to handle this scene.

So, DH and I are letting these thoughts percolate down. If we stay home, will we feel like losers, like high school kids too shy to go to the prom? Will we only dig a bigger hole, dreading this time next year when the whole question comes up again? If we step outside our comfort zone, like a big girl and boy, and just show up, could it be that we might actually have fun? At the very least, if we get through the evening with any grace at all, we can feel good about ourselves.

Maybe what I need to do is focus on some positive consequences. I love seeing DH in a suit. We'd end up with a nice photograph of ourselves without going on a cruise or something extravagent. No one would know we're really a couple of stay-at-homes at heart. I'd have an excuse to buy a glamorous new outfit. Hmmmmm.

Quitting the club entirely is not an attractive option. If you own a show dog, you join the kennel club. If you love to garden you join the garden club. If you quilt, you want to be around other quilters. We want the cameraderie of other boaters.

Still thinking. Thanks to those who have posted. Technically, my original question isn't about Entertaining At Home, which is the working definition for this forum. But I have always been impressed with the social wisdom I've seen articulated here. Ya haven't let me down!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 11:49AM
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If that's the case, I've been wasting my time, and yours, even worrying about how to handle this scene.

Not at all!! I think we helped you to clarify your thoughts on the party and the club and how you want to handle this and future events. I do hope it does turn out that you've been worrying for nothing! But now you will be able to go this party with an open mind, look for others who don't want to drink, and in the best circumstance, enjoy your membership in this club by setting the direction of your participation.

We'll be interested in how this turns out, please do come back and post after the party to let us know how it goes!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 9:37AM
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One other last thought. Don't prejudge how others will think. I can't imagine that intelligent adults really much care if you are having a drink or not. I can't even imagine them noticing. If they aren't intelligent adults then you are better out of there anyhow! Bet there are a lot of non drinkers there too...certainly anyone driving. Not sure wether it's my age or the times but I find that people are drinking less and less and when they do they do it in a very responsible manner. Same with smoking.

Go early, enjoy a few hours of socializing and leave early. Have a wonderful time and get that picture taken!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 1:26PM
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"'Wait a minute, how bad can it be?' A breakthrough! ... If we step outside our comfort zone, like a big girl and boy, and just show up, could it be that we might actually have fun? At the very least, if we get through the evening with any grace at all, we can feel good about ourselves."

Good for you, pink overalls! That's EXACTLY what we've been saying. That's what I meant about "being a good sport" -- you put it better than I did. And I know what you mean about quitting not really being an option (my family always had a boat, too).

Chase makes a good point about not assuming others are going to judge you for not drinking. As we grow up, it dawns on us that people aren't worrying about us, anyway -- they are worrying about themselves. That's why they say that the misery of adolescence is the sure knowledge that EVERYONE is looking at you, and the misery of middle age is the realization that NO ONE is looking at you! But I like middle age better.

Going the one extra step and focusing on helping OTHERS have feel at ease actually makes it EASIER. Maybe because it helps us get the focus off ourselves. Whatever the reason, it really does work, and you will earn a deserved reputation for charm. (Which reminds me of another old saw: "Charm is the ability to make someone else think that both of you are wonderful." Don't you love that?)

Now have fun shopping for that new party dress! And enjoy the party.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 4:24PM
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PS: I have a DH who doesn't "dress up"!!! I bought him a nice leather vest for those moments. He wears it with a handmade bolo tie, and looks very handsome!!!
Good luck with your party...I have really enjoyed reading this thread!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 12:26PM
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I just came back to this thread...and have read through your comments.

I would like to add a bit to my earlier post. Alcohol is served at most all of our Yacht Club functions. But, with the exception of one couple...nobody ever gets buzzed much less drunk. The guys who drink limit themselves to either one/two beers or a single glass of wine. Many, if not most, of the women don't drink alcohol at all.

We are BOATERS first & foremost. Being drunk is not a good quality in a Captain or First Mate! We are conditioned to always be in control of ourselves. Lives depend on our ability to make clear decisions. People who choose boating as an activity at the level that you are in, I can almost assure you, have cultivated proficient seamanship skills...and being tipsy or drunk is NOT one of them.

I have found it rare in life to run across a person who dramatically changes his/her "colors" from one scene to the next. If you're unfortunate enough to have somebody at your marina who allows beer or wine coolers on board...then, they might be expected to also indulge at other marina activities. But, I'll think they will be very much an exception.

As far as the dancing thing goes...I'll also suggest that not many of the men do dance. Sure, there is always the few couples that shine on the dance floor but they are usually by far in the minority. Most people just enjoying watching those few who can really kick up their heels. My husband would not dance either at a dinner/dance event.

I hope you can find a way to enjoy your marina friends & still remain true to both your principles & your personalities. I also can not drink alcohol, for different reasons, but it doesn't matter. The result is the same...I absolutely can't drink so I understand your situation. I sip my Diet Pepsi and nobody ever says anything about it. I don't think people at your marina will even question why you're not drinking alcohol.

Our marina is a Hunter dealership...nice boat!


    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 6:30PM
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Just had another thought...

Another club you might enjoy is the Power Squadron. They also have social activities & you would be around others who share your enthusiasm for sailing. It's also an opportunity to do outreach within the marina community. You might even find it fun to teach the "Boater Safety" or "Navigation" courses. The Power Squadron is a well respected organization. Or, maybe, even do safety inspections at your marina. I know that every year we're trying to round up somebody for that much needed "sticker"! lol I wish someone at our marina was designated. We have to flag down the USCG to get our inspection done! :(


Here is a link that might be useful: US Power Squadron

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 6:42PM
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Well, so what happened? Did you go to the party? Are you and your husband happy with your decision?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 9:29PM
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The party isn't until next month, so we have all that time to get used to the idea. And to see if DH will fit into the suit we bought for DD's wedding 10 years ago. Thanks for everyone's help.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 12:49AM
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If you decide to go, you can arrive at the end of the cocktail hour and leave when the dancing begins; dh and I do that to make social events less painful, if we have to go and don't feel like it.

I hardly drink anything so I know what you mean as far as watching everyone drink and be merry; I used to drink a bit more and feel tipsy and I don't miss that feeling one bit.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 6:56AM
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it doesn't have to be the club, but just about any social function that fosters alcohol...case in point the last 3 weddings we attended (including my ds2's!)

i hate it. i used to have a drink or two when younger, but the older i've gotten the less appealing it is. yes, did go to the receptions, but no didn't drink and when i got tired of the behavior of others, (including my dh) i left.

cudos to your sobriety...

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 8:51PM
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We went to the dinner-dance. We arrived as the cocktail hour was ending, and left as the dancing was starting, and had an enjoyable time sharing conversation and good food with new friends. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to just get over it and go. All the advice I got here was helpful. I should mention two benefits that came with attending. One is that we both feel more a part of the club we recently joined, and are more likely to volunteer and participate in other activities, and just enjoy club benefits more. The other is that once in a while it's fun to look as good as you can! Now, we'll go every year. End of story.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 11:32AM
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Thanks for posting again. It's always nice to hear what happens after a conversation like this, especially when it has a happy ending!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 3:56PM
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pinkoveralls, I'm so glad it worked out so well! Thank you so much for coming back and telling us what happened.

Maybe next year, your husband will even dance. After all, "He's never danced in his life" -- how does he know he doesn't like it? :-) Anyway, if YOU like to dance, it would be nice of him to dance ONE dance with you. You are a very good wife to be so considerate of his feelings; with a marriage as good as yours, I bet he'd welcome the opportunity to consider yours, too, even when it means "stepping outside of his comfort zone," as you so wisely put it.

I learned a lot from your experience and your wise reflection on it. Thank you for sharing the whole process with us.

Oh -- and did you get that glamorous new outfit?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 11:35AM
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Yes, gellchom, it was easy to find a razzle-dazzle dress in the post-holiday sales. I found an evening bag at Goodwill, and made some knockout earrings and matching necklace with some pearls and crystals I had left from some jewelry-making projects. The King got a new dress shirt, and he already had everything else he needed for our night out. The boy cleans up good. As for dancing, I dunno, that's kinda pushing the envelope, but he constantly surprises me, so who knows what's next. Ballroom dancing classes? I AM looking forward to the club's chili cook-off next month, and getting out the recipe for my killer, turkey chili. Cooking's easier than dressing up, but both are fun!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 12:37PM
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