DEAR AMY: My wife and I are not drinkers. This is not an ethical choice, nor are we recovering alcoholics. She used to drink occasionally but just gradually stopped, and I’ve tried alcoholic beverages but just don’t care for them.
This does not cause a problem for me. Maybe my friends just figure that my not drinking leaves more for them later. It does seem to cause problems for my wife, though. Some of her friends are confused that she will not have booze with them and are critical of her choice to drink a soda.
My mother-in-law, too, is flummoxed by her daughter’s abstention from alcohol. It seems that, to my mother-in-law, while drunkenness is inappropriate, it is also inappropriate to abstain. My wife complained to me recently that her mother called her “uncultured” for not having wine with dinner.
It bothers me that my wife catches flak over this. We are not judgmental of other people’s decision to drink; why should they be judgmental of my wife’s decision to not drink? I really don’t see why it’s such a big deal to them.
Is it really so uncultured not to enjoy alcohol? Do you have any advice for my wife? It seems that no matter how much she explains herself she’s still having the same discussion the next time. -- Sober
DEAR SOBER: First of all, it is the essence of uncultured to call someone “uncultured.” Nobody — not even a parent — should pass judgment on somebody else who is simply, quietly and without drawing attention to herself making a respectable and respectful choice.
Something about your collective choice not to drink makes other people uncomfortable, and they react to their own discomfort very poorly. Perhaps it makes them anxious or self-conscious about their own alcohol consumption. Think of this situation with a sense of humor for the irony of it: It’s tough to watch a family member gradually descend into a life of sobriety.
The next time someone calls your wife out for being sober, she might respond by saying, “Yes, I’m still not drinking. Thank you for caring.”
DEAR AMY: Last night my girlfriend and I attended a live concert by a country/western band of four men and a girl, all playing instruments and singing. They were very good, but the girl kept frowning through the whole performance, which was distracting.
When the concert was over and the audience was filing out through the lobby, the performers were there, greeting the departing guests. The girl had a great smile on her face, and I told her she had a great smile but then added that she should have shown her smile during the performance.
My girlfriend admonished me that my follow-on comment about not smiling during the performance was hurtful. I thought I was being helpful. In your opinion, was I being hurtful or helpful? Can you suggest another way to give constructive criticism to a performer? -- Audience Member
DEAR MEMBER: First, a question for you: Why are the male performers “men” but the female performer is a “girl”?
I ask because you seem to feel that the female performer should be all smiles, kittens and rainbows during the time she is exerting herself onstage. Would you have made a similar comment to the male musicians?
Given the double standard I assume exists, it is completely legitimate to offer a performer feedback after a show (but only if you buy a CD). Here’s how you do it: “You guys were awesome tonight! I’m a huge fan. But are you willing to hear some constructive feedback?”
Even if this makes the performer feel slighted or defensive, if she is savvy, she will work on this. In fact there is some likelihood she has heard it before.
DEAR AMY: Reading the comment from “Feeling Stuck” about her husband’s habit of reading at the table reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: “What I miss most about not being married is that I have nobody to talk to in the morning while I’m trying to read the paper.” -- Also Reading While Eating
DEAR READING: I think of this as just another way to digest the news.