As we all know, the greatest thing about graduating from high school and entering college is that, from here on out, you'll be free forever from the personal problems that plagued you as a younger person. Your friends will never treat you badly; your crush will always return your calls; your family will stop pestering you about your choices, and...
Okay, yeah, we're totally lying. In fact, if anything, life only gets more complicated in college—and that's why SparkNotes writer Kat Rosenfield (also known on SparkLife as advice-giving celebrity Auntie SparkNotes) is joining the College Advisor blog to offer some sane perspective on campus life, dorm romance, roommate drama, and all the other problems that leave you longing for the advice of someone who's been there. So if you've got a question, send it in!
And today, read on for a letter from a freshman with a drinking problem... sort of.
I'm a college freshman and I don't drink, and I'm finding that I'm having trouble making friends because of this. The same thing happened to me in high school, so when I came to college I elected to live in the Chem-Free themed dorm. I figured this would be a great choice because I could hang out with people and not be pressured to drink. The problem, however, is that somehow I managed to be roomed with one of the only people in the dorm who does drink, and the only other person I get along really well with also drinks. The other people in the dorm are perfectly nice, but none of them are outgoing and they will only do things within the dorm. I find this extremely boring, just because I don't drink doesn't mean that I want to sit around my dorm watching movies every Saturday night.
This is my biggest problem. I'd like to go out and go to parties, but whenever I ask my two drinking friends if I could tag along, they say that I wouldn't really like it. Which probably means that they don't really want me there, and I know that I should make other friends who acknowledge my existence on weekends, but I'm just so sick of being ignored that I've been creating my own protective bubble. I'm just not sure what to do, or how to let them know that I'm always feeling left out without sounding whiny. It just doubly hurts because this same thing happened in high school. I just would really like to figure out how to make friends who won't abandon me as soon as someone more exciting comes along.
Alas, my dear, you've discovered the primary problem with chem-free dorms: that rather than being a haven for people who don't drink, they instead tend to attract people who don't party—and who conclude that the best way to enjoy a quiet Saturday night at home is to choose a dorm that's far, far away from wherever alcohol is being consumed.
And let's be real, they conclude correctly, because drunk people are LOUD.
Meanwhile, people like you—who do like to party, but don't like to drink—are something of a rarity, so it's understandable that you're feeling like an odd man out. What I don't understand, though, is why you haven't moved beyond the minuscule social circle of your dorm and looked for opportunities elsewhere. You must be involved in classes, in clubs, or in study groups with people whose company you could enjoy. There must be activities on your campus that you can take part in. And I'm also a little confused as to why your lack of interest in alcohol would be an issue when it comes to making friends...
Unless, of course, you're the one making an issue out of it. Be honest, now—you wouldn't, by any chance, be one of those non-drinkers who makes a big show of his non-drinking status, or assumes that anyone who does drink is an amoral delinquent, or hates to hang out with people who are drinking, would you? Because if you are, then it's no surprise that your friends are reluctant to bring you to parties.
If you are doing that, cut it out. You're only hurting yourself. And if you aren't, then for Pete's sake, don't let something as inconsequential as beverage preference get in the way of a good time. You talk about not wanting to be pressured to drink, but just because college parties involve alcohol, that doesn't mean non-drinkers are jettisoned from said parties the second they walk through the door. If you want to go to parties, then go. Dance, flirt, hang out with friends, and if someone offers a drink, then just politely decline. You don't even have to say, "I don't drink"; a comment like, "No thanks, I'm good for now" will do just fine.
See? Easy! Plus—and I'm about to blow your mind here—nobody is going to care. Really. Even at my own booze-soaked school, there were plenty of people who came out but didn't drink—or who walked around with a solo cup like everyone else, and just didn't announce that it was filled with ginger ale instead of beer. If you don't make a big deal out of it, then neither will the rest of the world.
As for your friends, I agree that it can't hurt for you to expand your social circle beyond your dorm full of squares (and to reconsider your housing choices when next year rolls around). After all, why limit yourself? But the next time they're heading out, tell them you want to come—and if they say you wouldn't like it, then rather than assuming they don't want you there, take their comment at face value.
And then tell them that just because you don't drink doesn't mean you can't have a perfectly good time around people who do.
Got a college-related question for Kat? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!