DEAR AMY: My wife and I are not drinkers. This is not an ethical choice, nor are we recovering alcoholics. She used to drink occasionally but just gradually stopped, and I've tried alcoholic beverages but just don't care for them. This does not cause a problem for me with my friends. It does seem to cause problems for my wife, though. Some of her friends are confused that she will not have booze with them and are critical of her choice to drink a soda. My mother-in-law, too, is flummoxed by her daughter's abstention from alcohol. It seems that, to my mother-in-law, while drunkenness is inappropriate, it is also inappropriate to abstain. My wife complained to me recently that her mother called her "uncultured" for not having wine with dinner. It bothers me that my wife catches flak over this. We are not judgmental of other people's decision to drink; why should they be judgmental of my wife's decision to not drink? I really don't see why it's such a big deal to them. Is it really so uncultured not to enjoy alcohol? Do you have any advice for my wife? It seems that no matter how much she explains herself, she's still having the same discussion the next time.
DEAR SOBER: First of all, it is the essence of uncultured to call someone "uncultured." Nobody -- not even a parent -- should pass judgment on somebody else who is simply, quietly and without drawing attention to herself making a respectable and respectful choice.
Something about your collective choice not to drink makes other people uncomfortable, and they react to their own discomfort very poorly. Perhaps it makes them self-conscious about their own alcohol consumption. Think of this situation with a sense of humor for the irony of it: It's tough to watch a family member gradually descend into a life of sobriety.
The next time someone calls your wife out for being sober, she might respond by saying, "Yes, I'm still not drinking. Thank you for caring."