The Party Girl’s Guide To Dating While Sober
I started drinking before I started dating, which means I had no idea how to date without drinking.
In fact, there are many adult things I’m still learning how to do sober: have sex, network, socialize, make small talk, go out to dinner, flirt and date, just to name a few.
One day about five years ago, I was talking with my best friend Tobi* about our dating lives.
“Are you excited for your second date with that guy Sam* tonight?” I asked her, slugging back my wine. We were both pre-gaming before our respective dates later that evening.
“I think so, but he wasn’t the best kisser. At least, I don’t think he was a great kisser. I was so smashed when we made out. I hardly remember getting home but I have flashes of this really mangy-textured tongue inside of my mouth. But really, who knows?” Tobi tapped her wine glass with her long nails and rolled her eyes.
“But hey, Zara. What about you? This is, like, your third date with Zoe*? Do you like her? Are you excited?”
“I can’t really tell if I like Zoe to be honest.” I grabbed the bottle of sauvignon blanc from the center of the coffee table and filled both of our wine glasses to the tippy top. “She was hot, but I’m not sure if she’s sort of dumb and pretentious.”
“Yeah, babes. I get it. It’s hard to tell these days.”
Tobi took a meaningful sip of her wine and checked her cell phone. “Well, I should go. I want to have at least one personality drink at the bar before my date. Shit is NERVE-WRACKING.”
This was our routine for most of our 20s. We were always confused about whether we liked the person we were dating, stuck in this wishy-washy “I’m not really sure, but why not give it another go?” state.
Until one day, when I was 29 years old, I found myself on a sober date.
Then, everything changed for me. I suddenly knew sober dates were pivotal if I didn’t want to keep wasting my damn time feeling “unsure.”
Look, I get it’s scary for the party girl to do anything sober, let alone something as horrific as a date. But if I can do it, we can all do it.
So here is your guide to dating while you’re completely sober:
Think about the authentic chemistry you will feel.
The first time I went on a date sober, I was on a new antidepressant and couldn’t drink while on it, at least for a few weeks while my body got used to it.
I was terrified, but not terrified enough to turn down a date with this sexy creative director I met on Tinder.
Something strange happened to me on that date. Instead of spending the entire time sipping on wine, wondering whether I had chemistry with this creature or not, I knew instantly how I felt about her. Without the buffer of booze, I was only left with my raw instincts and crystal-clear vision.
By the end of the date, I picked up on our incompatibility as partners because our personalities were not cohesive. So, we made out and ended it there.
If I had been drinking, there was no way I could’ve picked up on the fact that sexual chemistry is all we shared. I would’ve left the date in a wine haze, confused and knowing something was missing, but not feeling clear enough to put my finger on it.
So now, when I’m tempted to toss back two glasses of wine before a date, I give myself a pep talk: “Zara, I know you want a drink, but you’re also pushing 30. Do you want to keep wasting your time being unsure about whether you have REAL chemistry with this chick? Do you want to live in a state of uncertainty, or do you want to live your life?”
And then, I realize that the ten minutes of pre-date nerves are totally worth cultivating a genuine connection to another person.
Pretend there is whiskey in your tea.
I like to drink hot tea in lieu of “mocktails” because I just can’t get behind the concept. All that sugar and no buzz? Screw that. Plus, it looks a little suspect on a first date to order a mocktail.
So instead, I order a prim cup of hot tea. And I imagine it’s a whiskey tea. Just curling my cold hands around the hot teacup makes me feel warm inside, which is exactly what whiskey does.
Before I know it, I’m feeling relaxed from all that scalding hot water, baby. And the next thing I know, I’m loose! I’ve forgotten about booze entirely. I’m engaged in conversation, I’m sharing and I’m feeling all the energy.
And the energy I feel is real, honest energy, not false whiskey energy. My impressive girl instincts are still perfectly in tact.
I can tell if you’re a jerk. I can tell if you’re actually sexy, not just booze sexy. I can tell if you’re a fraud. I can tell if you’re a gem.
I go home knowing if a second date is worth my time, and in this world, time is GOLDEN.
Say you’re on antibiotics.
Now, the trickiest part about dating sober is dealing with your date’s issues about you being sober.
Truth is, in today’s dating culture, it’s rare to go on a date with a girl who doesn’t drink. It’s OK if your date is a little thrown off.
But if you feel like you might cave and order yourself a giant martini to, you know, make your date more comfortable, just lie.
If you say you’re not drinking because you’re on a “cleanse,” everyone will hate you — that’s a fact. If you say you’re not drinking because you’re on a “diet,” people might fear you have an eating disorder.
But no one gets irritated with you if you simply say, “I’m on antibiotics. Sorry!”
So tell your date you’re getting over something (I don’t know, the flu?) and you don’t want to risk the antibiotics not working. Then, move on.
Chances are, if you don’t make a big scene about not drinking, neither will they. And even better, they’ll probably slow down on their own drinking. And the two of you can have a real conversation — not a drunken meltdown.
Wear something that makes you feel fabulous.
The problem with being sober is so many of us think that when we aren’t drinking, we can’t have any fun.
“Oh, I’m not going to wear my sequin top. That’s for partying!” we’ll say, tossing our beloved glittery shirt to the bottom of the closet.
I’m going to shut this rumor down, right here, right now.
You don’t need booze to feel sexy and fabulous. Put on the outfit that makes you feel like you’re the hottest shit in the stratosphere.
You’ll discover there’s a natural high that comes with dressing to the nines. And it’s better than booze because it doesn’t come with a hangover.
Remember, booze is keeping you from feeling the love buzz.
It took me a long time to realize I drank so much because I was trying to numb my intense, writer feelings. I was trying to dull myself.
I didn’t realize it was actually a huge disservice to myself.
Yes, drinking dulls your senses, which can come in handy when you’re hurting. But by not letting in the bad feelings (anxiety and nerves), you’re also not letting in the exciting feelings — being intoxicated by your date’s scent or the amazing buzz of having a crush. The booze overpowers those feels.
So, party girl, you like to get buzzed right? I like to feel as good as possible, which is why I have such a thirst for mind-altering substances. But I promise you, nothing will leave you higher than being in the throes of a crush.
When you’re free from the blur of the excessive drinks, you can tap into your raw senses and really feel the love buzz.
And nothing in this world will make you feel more alive.
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