Whither Small Talk
Another question not to ask?
It’s holiday season, a time of year for celebration.
So here’s a friendly reminder that “holiday” and “celebration” need not be synonyms for “drinking.”
Canadians are big drinkers, consuming 50 per cent more alcohol than the global average. Our reputation as a nation of beer drinkers is well earned. The average Canadian adult knocks back 76 litres of beer, 16 litres of wine, five litres of spirits and four litres of other alcoholic beverages annually. But averages don’t tell the whole story.
There are about 22 million Canadians who consume alcohol. Roughly 3.1 million people drink to the point of risking immediate physical harm (often binge drinking), and another 4.4 million drink to excess so routinely that they suffer chronic health problems as a result. Drinking is not always good fun.
One in four Canadian adults is a teetotaler – seven million in total – and that number is growing. The holidays can be hellish for them, given the relentless social pressure to imbibe and the constant interrogations. There are many reasons people don’t drink. None of them are any of your business.
I understand where the writer is coming from here, especially when it comes to questions like “Are you an alcoholic?” (way out of bounds) but while I don’t doubt that it’s an uncomfortable subject for some, almost anything is an uncomfortable subject for some.
Another question I’ve heard that it’s not polite to ask is if you have kids because what if they’re trying and having trouble? I can actually sympathize with that, but the world can’t stop for them any more than there is no safe space after a miscarriage. “Are you trying” is a little more personal and therefore a slightly stronger argument can be made, but I’m not sure eggshells are appropriate.
But when we meet people, we have to have stuff to talk about. There is only so much we can put out of bounds. What I guess we need is a better protocol for “I’ve answered your question can we move on now?”
Photo by Brian Lane Winfield Moore