When I stopped drinking in July, my main concern was how I was going to have sex again. That sounds ridiculous, and obviously, I have had sober sex before, but mainly within the confines of a relationship. I was single and not looking for anything serious, and I didn’t see how I could combine that with 0% beers.
Long story short: I stopped drinking because of mental health issues and new medication (slay). I hadn’t initially intended for it to be longterm — and I still have no clue if I’ll succumb to frozen margaritas again — but for now, I had to learn to date without the courage of a vodka cranberry running through my veins.
For me, dating involved a shitload of alcohol. I don’t start with dinner dates. It’s too much commitment, and I get anxious eating around someone I don’t know. So I was always the “Let’s grab a drink” girlie. Only “drink” inherently means alcoholic drink. I understand it DOESN’T HAVE TO, but that’s what we assume, right? Hence why I started this sober dating experiment.
So, was I going to go full nineties and suggest a cinema date where you barely speak to the person? Was I going to avoid dating entirely and rely on mining birthday party guests for hookups? We’ll see, I guess *nervous laughter*.
Learning To Date Without Alcohol
When I was deciding whether to stop drinking, I confided in my bestie that one of my hang-ups was trying to date without booze. She claimed that you could easily date without alcohol. And while she’s not wrong, I think people don’t realize how much dating revolves around drinking.
During lockdown, we saw the renaissance of walking dates a la Bridgerton (only without shirtless Jonathan Bailey, so why bother?). And while going for a promenade with your interested suitor kind of disappeared once boozing without Covid was an option again, it is possible to date, even casually, without alcohol.
I’ll admit that dating is not quite as easy as before, but it’s definitely a lot easier than I expected. I still go for a drink, and then I order something nonalcoholic. It helps avoid the forced commitment of a dinner date without feeling like our chaperone is walking a few steps behind us.
The worst part is the surprise on someone’s face — the doubt. At first, I took the cowardly route and lied, saying I couldn’t drink right now, antibiotics, whatever. But then I realized that I didn’t need to lie. I could just say I’m not drinking right now in my life and leave it at that. I still struggle to call myself “sober,” as it feels like it isn’t my term to use, idk.
It sucks that a lot of being sober in dating is proving that you’re still fun and definitely DTF. It’s shit that this falls on you. But with the right people, you don’t feel like you have to prove anything. People’s reactions are about them grappling with their own insecurities around alcohol, just like I’ve had to before.
But most people don’t care. If you clarify that you don’t mind that they drink and steer the conversation forward, it truly works out. It sucks when someone tries to commend you or claim they wish they didn’t drink (pls don’t), but you can just grin through it and shove the conversation somewhere new. Then it’s my chance to show that I’m legit more fun without alcohol and still down for a spontaneous trip back to their apartment.
Dating Can Exist Outside of Bars
This epiphany still blows my mind: people find you hotter for suggesting dates that don’t involve drinking as the main activity! (No, really!!)
I went bowling on a date like I was some slutty extra from Grease 2 (I know that I wouldn’t have made the cut for the first film, I’m realistic). It felt a little bit like a child’s birthday party, especially when a LITERAL child’s birthday party was next to us. Shoutout to Kayla and her 8th birthday party, as promised! But Matt* (name OBVIOUSLY REMOVED) told me he loved that I had suggested something different for our date, plus it gave him great views of my ass throughout.
After the success of Bowling With Matt (which didn’t proceed further, as Matt doesn’t like returning party favors if you catch my drift), I decided to try another beloved kids’ classic. I went to play minigolf with Layla*. Admittedly, this date was a little more awkward as minigolf is actually super quiet and takes so much longer than I remembered — and I realized quickly that we did not vibe — but it was different!!
Then I found it, the cure to sober dating: billiards. It is the sexiest, non-drink-reliant date option out there. Especially if you wear a low-cut top and lean over very suggestively throughout. It also gives such a natural flow between talking and being active without the oppressive silence of mini golfing. Play billiards with your next date, and you will not miss the booze. Your date can sip their beer/wine/vodka seltzer, and you can sip your fruity little drink as you shoot a combo.
Turns Out I Have Way More Fun on Sober Dates
Choosing to stay sober while dating has made it so much more fun. (Legit, who would’ve guessed?!) I used to get in my head when drinking, and it always felt like we were both passing the time until we were drunk enough. But sober dates allow me to be myself, stay present, and not deal with terrible hangxiety the next day. It also pushes you to be more spontaneous and enjoy yourselves.
Plus, it turns out sex is just as fun without alcohol, maybe even more so?? (Don’t quote me on that.) Let’s just say, the lack of a hangover makes the following morning a chance for a second date! (wink, wink)
The hardest part of sober dating is getting over yourself and letting them get over themselves. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it’s a great way to weed people out quickly. Get that awkward “Yeah, I’m not drinking” conversation out of the way early, and then it doesn’t have to make a comeback. And if you don’t want to be with someone else drinking (so valid babes, you do you), put it in your dating profile or let them know beforehand. If you’re like me and not drinking for personal reasons but don’t mind what they do, then it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. So go forth and sober date!