Dear Annie: I am 19 years old and a sophomore in college. I have a large circle of friends who are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Or so I thought.Abby responds:
I have never been one to drink or party, not because I looked down on it, but simply because it wasn't my scene. When I entered college, I made new friends who enjoyed going out and drinking every weekend. I thought I might be missing something, so I went along. After a semester of this, I realized that the partying could be fun, but I didn't much like the way I felt after a weekend of drinking. I preferred socializing sober.
About the same time, I also decided to improve my health with meticulously planned workouts and a strict diet that left no room for empty alcohol calories. I loved my new healthier lifestyle, but my friends did not. They began badgering me every weekend to drink with them and gave me a hard time if I refused to eat deep-dish pizza and onion rings.
After a month or two, they began excluding me from their plans altogether. I was hurt. I never condemned them for their choices and would never preach to them. I don't understand why I should be left out because I make different food and drink choices.
I don't want to ditch my friends entirely. It would be next to impossible to find a group of college students who don't behave the same way, and I don't want to live in isolation. How can I stick to my healthy lifestyle without my friends intentionally excluding me from their social lives?
This is not an uncommon problem. There is tremendous peer pressure to drink in college, and most people are aware of the "freshman 15" pounds that many students pack on due to the junk food and irregular eating habits. We commend you for choosing a healthier path. But even without preaching, your friends may be uncomfortable around you. You are a walking reminder of their riskier choices.Darnell: I wonder if she got excluded because she stopped going out with them, and is just sad that she can now no longer turn down their invitations. Usually after the twentieth invitation turned down because somebody doesn't really like to drink, you stop inviting them out to drink.
Explain to them how hurt you are by the exclusion. But also look for new friends, perhaps in the gym or cafeteria or through university organizations.
Lulu: True. She can't be hurt that they don't invite her if she never goes, or if when she does go, she complains and obviously doesn't have fun.
Darnell: And maybe she should stop being such a crybaby. "Oh my friends poke fun at my life choices!" It is called having friends, get used to it. Call them a bunch of alcoholic fatties, have a good laugh and move on.
Lulu: To the extent that I agree with Abby, it's only that she could maybe make some friends who share her interests more. It doesn't sound like she has a whole lot in common with them--that's the problem. I certainly don't think she is a "walking reminder of their riskier choices".
Darnell: The description of her workout and diet routine does not make her sound like a fun person. Meticulous planning and fun college times do not often go together.
Lulu: I don't invite you to beta read my fan fiction, but it's not because you are a walking reminder of my, uh, girlier, sexually deviant, nerdier choices.
Darnell: Right, and I don't invite you on my homeless killing sprees but it isn't because you are a reminder of my lost humanity and innocence. If she is a walking reminder of their riskier choices, it is because she is actually reminding them out loud of how she is making awesome choices and they are not.
Lulu: Even if she makes a conscious effort not to look down on them for not treating their bodies like temples or whatever, it still seems like she is making it clear that they are not as important to her as her rules. And that's fine, everyone has priorities, but she can't complain about it when they notice.
Darnell: Clearly she can! But yes, she shouldn't. You know the reality of this letter is going to be that her friends are worried because she is now anorexic. Instead of making fun of her for not eating fatty foods, they are just pleading, teary-eyed, for her to eat something.
Lulu: Maybe she should build some freebie points into her diet. So she can have like... one drink a month. That wouldn't be so bad, would it?
Darnell: No, that would ruin her diet forever.
Lulu: She knows she wants it. Everybody's doing it. But really, it does seem like her main problem is that she wants to hang out with them without doing the things they like to do. That seems like an impossible request.
Darnell: They never want to go on a twenty mile hike with a picnic made entirely of wheatgrass wah!
Lulu: That's the thing! Has she even asked that? This question is all about negatives--what she doesn't want to do, what they don't do. They're not going to randomly ask her to go to the ice cream social if the bar works for them. She's the one who has to suggest activities that would be acceptable to her. They might just be assuming that because she always turns down their invitations, she's not interested in them anymore, or they might just not know what to ask her to do that she would actually agree to. I don't think she should explain to them how hurt she is--not if she doesn't like mockery--but she should occasionally ask them to do something with her. Something specific.
Darnell: Right, go out to a movie or.... Other... stuff. That isn't drinking. That there is.
Lulu: The aquarium!!!
Darnell: Stop suggesting the aquarium!
Lulu: I like the penguins.
Darnell: I didn't want to bring this up, but I had a bad experience with a penguin in my youth.
Lulu: I initially read that as, "I had a bad experience with a penguin in my mouth."
Darnell: Well that is part two of the story. His little tuxedo was a lie, he was no gentleman.