Lots of people start drinking less after they’ve graduated. Not me. Drinks at a leaving do, a PhD get-together, a graduate school reception. Since I started my PhD — yes, that’s a job too — my alcohol consumption has increased each year by about two glasses a week. Now I'm in my fourth year.
It’s not that I drink excessive amounts, I just drink too often. Every evening sometimes. So last month I decided it would be good to stop for a while. I expected it to be difficult. Seeing other people sipping on a delicious craft beer and feeling incredibly jealous.
I now know it is indeed difficult, but that’s nothing compared to the social pressure.
I succumbed in the very first week. I had decided to visit Marta in Berlin. Marta: ‘How can you come to Berlin and not drink?’ Me: ‘Well, you have a point.’ Really? Whatever — I ended up drinking. Including Berliner Luft. If you’ve never heard of it, it doesn’t taste at all nice. Neither does Mexicana, for that matter.
I kept it up in the second week but it was not much fun. ‘Aren’t you drinking? How boring!’ ‘What do you mean? Aren’t we worth it?’ ‘Poor you! Have you got health problems?’
A postdoc friend of mine tells me I’m lucky I’m not a woman. ‘If I don’t drink on just one occasion, everyone assumes I must be pregnant.’
Now I’ve started hiding at parties as a preventive measure to avoid any questions. And if people ask — which still frequently happens — then I am no longer able to conceal my irritation.
Now I understand exactly why people who don’t drink are always so unsociable.
Stijn van Gils (29) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.