DEAR MISS MANNERS: Occasionally I have to attend professional meetings or social activities where alcohol is served. I don’t drink due to religious considerations. I just get tea, coffee or soda.
I wouldn’t think this would be an issue, but every time, some person comes up and questions my lack of an alcoholic drink. I say it is against my religion and figure they will move on, but invariably, they say, “So you are a lapsed Catholic?” or something similar.
When I say I have never been Catholic, but instead follow a mainline Protestant religion, they still don’t back off. Instead, they challenge me like I am lying, and argue with me about my last name or my Catholic relatives. These exchanges always end with them stomping off in a huff.
Additionally, I have had two different employers ask me why I “upset” people at events. When I pointed out I was accused of lying about my religion, my employers made some sort of lame excuse, said I was the injured party, and the conversation ended. Since it was affecting my employment, I just stopped going.
Am I missing something here? Are people just much more boorish than in the past? I can’t imagine challenging people’s declared religion. And why would you care anyway what someone is consuming, or what their religion is?
GENTLE READER: Why, indeed? And why did you bring religion into the exchange?
Miss Manners sympathizes with your being pestered; she is well aware that the sight of a partygoer who is not holding a drink drives other guests to open belligerent interrogations. But that is all the more reason not to supply them with material of any kind.
The simplest defense is to ask for or hold another drink -- water or whatever -- but you are already doing that. The answer to why you are not drinking alcohol is “Because I wanted tea.” If that doesn’t end it, you could ask, “And what do you like to drink?” -- which should establish what a pathetic conversational topic that is. Or “Excuse me, I think I’ll go freshen my soda.”