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A Holiday Survival Guide for Nondrinkers: Top 10 (Mostly Legal) Coping Mechanisms

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Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge FLICKR/ERIK JAEGER

It's the holidays, the season of giving, family gatherings, and coping mechanisms. So what's the number one way people traditionally survive the holidays? Alcohol. Which is great for many people, not so great for those who do not drink. Why you don't drink -- religious principles, health issues, heavy machinery operation, a previous life as a complete fuckup, that ankle bracelet, whatever -- is your business, not ours. You may not eat foie gras either, or have some weird, baffling aversion to ramen.

But nondrinkers need coping mechanisms too, since hanging out around the holiday punchbowl sober isn't quite as appealing as you might think. So turn the page for our list of 10 Holiday Coping Mechanisms for Nondrinkers. And if we've missed a few -- since you're probably not too drunk to read this -- please let us know. New Year's Eve, Superbowl Sunday and St. Patrick's Day are just around the corner.

click to enlarge FLICKR/JERCRAIGS

10. Non-alcoholic beer. We know it sucks, but it's considerable more drinkable than non-alcoholic wine, which is utterly pointless. Some German breweries have even taken pity on sober people and brew fake beer that is surprisingly okay. Anyway, you look less like a lost Prohibitionist drinking a bottle of nonalcoholic St. Pauli Girl or Beck's than you do drinking O'Doul's, which is crap fake American beer with a crap fake American name and tastes worse than Coors Lite, if we remember correctly.

9. Conversational skills. Drunk people may think they're really brilliant, but the vast majority of them are not. Maybe a few novelists and Northern Irish poets, but probably not the people at your office. Instead of getting quietly annoyed when your companions lapse into repeating stories, monosyllables, or even total pre-blackout silence, consider taking over most of the dialog. You may get tired of listening to yourself talk, but odds are it will be vastly better than the alternative. Drink some coffee first (see #4).

8. Catch up on your reading. Okay, it might seem impolite to bring a book to a holiday party, but after a few hours of watching the otherwise interesting people around you descend into marginally functional idiocy, the complete works of Chinua Achebe will sound like an awesome idea. Even the collected Paula Deen can be pretty entertaining: think of it as a guide to the buffet table.

7. Designated driver quid pro quo. No, we're not suggesting that you bribe your friends, since the designated driver is a noble, tremendously worthwhile and even sometimes legally necessary role. But maybe consider doing some bartering. Unless you're highly self-entertained (see #9 and #8), waiting around at parties to drive your catatonic friends home is not exactly a riveting evening. Offer to take their keys and conduct them safely to their front door in exchange for something reasonable, a late breakfast the next morning (bacon donuts at Nickel Diner, maybe) or a ride home that you may need yourself someday, like from the mechanic or the dentist.

6. Work on your method acting. If sanctimony isn't your thing, maybe use the drunken holiday bash as an excuse to work on your acting skills. Enlist a friend or a bartender, and start doing shots of apple juice. You can act drunk, since no one will be able to tell the difference anyway, and you'll have lots of examples to pattern. Or you can take a different approach and impress the hell out of everybody. 15 shots of apple juice later, and you're still able to quote Farid Zakariah, to remember the lyrics to Eminem songs, to walk. You'll become legend. Of course, you might want to tell your close friends what you're doing, since it might freak them out. A Christmas party is not a good place for an ad hoc intervention.

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