When I was in college, I went on a date with a girl who I had my eyes on weeks before I got up the nerve to actually ask her out. It was one of those situations where I liked her before I even went on the date. She just had to show up and I would already be into her.
Show up she did. We went out on a Saturday afternoon to a huge Romare Bearden exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. At the time, it was the largest collection of Bearden’s work ever produced, and even though I was familiar with Bearden, I really was just trying to impress the girl by choosing a cultural activity for our date.
We spent two hours there, and by the end of it, I felt like I was actually getting somewhere with her. To keep things going, I suggested we go for a late lunch, and she agreed. I decided on a bar not far from campus that specialized in beer and burgers. We went inside, sat down, and looked over the menu. The waiter came over and, as is customary, asked us what we would like to drink.
My date chose their seasonal ale, I said I would take a water. When the waiter walked away, I turned to my date and saw she was looking at me with horror. “You’re really going to make me drink by myself?” she said. I was taken aback by her question. Not only did I not know I was in violation of some unspoken dating rule, imbibing just wasn’t something I enjoyed doing at that time in my life. I especially didn’t like partaking in it during the day, and though it was late afternoon, the sun was still out, which meant the only beer I would be having, if I had one at all, was root beer.
The reason I didn’t like to drink, is because I have an allergic reaction to alcohol. This doesn’t mean I can’t drink, but what it does mean is even if I take a small sip of alcohol, my face turns beet red and my eyes get bloodshot. A half-drank bottle of beer can make me look like I just downed a whole six-pack. This made me insecure about drinking in public. Whenever I went out, I usually wore a hat low to mask my face. It was the only thing I could think of to detract attention away from the reactions I had and the incessant questions from others about my state of fucked-upness.
I explained why I was having a water instead of a brew, and did so with a laugh because I thought her reaction was in jest. As it turns out, it wasn’t. She still didn’t get it. To her, it was no big deal that my face turned red, and it was rude of me to make her drink by herself. In her defense, when the beer arrived at the table, a top-heavy glass of amber-colored liquid with a frothy head, standing right next to my regular-sized glass of water with a lemon wedge, it did look like one of us was having a harder day than the other.
But rude or not, I had to stick to my guns. This wasn’t a pride thing, it was a comfort issue. I was still trying to make a good impression on our date, and I was convinced whatever points I lost for not joining her for some libations, I made up for them by sticking to my guns.
We never went out again.