Sunday, 20 September 2015

Why My Brothers Were Convinced I Had A Vagina

Fear Not! I am a man, but I do not have a vagina. At least last time I checked. So why on earth were my brothers convinced I did?

Let me tell you a story.

Sometime ago, I became obsessed with staying fit. It started off as nothing special, going to the gym maybe 2 to 3 times a week. Before I knew it, I had transformed into one of those annoying protein shake obsessed, bench loving, egg guzzling gym nuts you often see emerge from hibernation in summer to taunt unsuspecting bystanders with their raging pecks, sizzling abs and stimulating conversation.

On average, I was working out about two and half hours a day. 1 rest day a week. This could be anything from yoga, to skipping, to cycling, to running, to swimming, to weight-lifting, to boxing, to calisthenics. Often, my days comprised of a mixture of 3 or 4. Never the full mix. I needed the rest of the time to devour a few cows, one regular sized goat, and a newly married chicken couple in-between working hours and my social life.

What does any of this have to do with me having a vagina?

Somewhere along the line, I stopped drinking. Not for moral high ground but because in time, after any of my morning, afternoon, or evening workouts, I looked like this.

Alcohol didn't help. I tried to stay strong for a time, but after one ill-fated episode of puking my guts out on a regular Saturday morning following a few beers the night before, I realized my liver was telling me something. Alcohol had to go.

Luckily for this tale, I did not turn into a social recluse, but continued to frolic, mingle and convort with my fellow compadre's from time to time. Yet, now my palms were not being soothed by a refreshingly cold beverage when out, I was consistently greeted with a face of pure surprise or confusion, and my manhood always came into question. The first culprits of course being, my brothers.

Clearly, it wasn't exactly mind blowing to see friends and family surprised when I used to utter the fabled words "I don't want to drink", as they were used to seeing me drink before. What I found amusing was the level of surprise, the fact people I had never met being equally surprised, and having to justify not wanting to drink. Conversations usually went something like this:

"Charles, you want a beer?"

"No, I'm good thanks."


Awkward silence.

"You on a diet or something?"

"No, I'm just not feeling it"


Confused faces all around.


True, I could have explained my decision was initially fuelled by a newly found gym obsession that was sending my laundry bill through the roof by way of profuse sweating. I say initially because after a while, I simply didn't feel for it. But that wasn't any fun. Giving no explanation at all, led to the best reactions. Here are 3 of my favourite.

1. Do You Have A Vagina?

Classic. Other versions include, "Are you on your period?", "Come on Charles, man up", and my personal favourite "Stop being a bitch". I don't think I'll ever fully understand how the desire to not intake a substance leads to a re-evaluation of your sexuality. But who am I to judge.

2. Are You A Recovering Alcoholic?

I chose not to drink, to protect myself from myself and resist the temptation to descend into the abyss of alcohol depraved lunacy and over the top theatrics. Or some believed. Occasionally, I received words of praise for my brave decision to resist the dreaded fiend that is alcohol. More often than not, a pat on the back.

3. Are You Poor?

The first time I got this reaction I almost couldn't contain my laughter. I was out with a friend and his colleagues who worked in the finance industry. When I said I didn't want to have a beer that night, they offered to buy me a few rounds because they said they remembered what it was like to be poor. Not being able to afford booze seemed more realistic than not wanting to drink. Priceless.

The best part of all of this is that, without getting technical, too much drinking is bad for you. Yet, you don't get anywhere near the same reaction if you tell people you don't smoke, or you don't have a weed farm in your basement. It's okay to not smoke, weed isn't a big deal, but drinking is do or die! Why is there such a big difference in attitude?

Let's look at some quick facts.

Smoking vs Drinking In The UK

1. Total annual cost to society of alcohol related harm is estimated to be 21bn. Cost to NHS, 3.5 bn. Smoking costs society 12.9bn and the NHS 2bn annually. (Sources Public Health England & Ash, 2014).

2. In 2012, there were 6,490 alcohol related deaths vs approximately 100,000 for smoking. (Source, ONS)

3. There are 137 alcohol admissions every hour, compared to 61 for smoking. (Source, ASH, 2014 )

Humanity and alcohol have a long seeded history. So much so that drinking has arguably become a social norm. You could surmise the strong reaction being related to how not drinking separates you from this 'norm'. Still, you must see the humour. Especially when drinking isn't a first-class ticket to health haven.

If you want to have a little fun, try it yourself. Next time you're out, or get the chance, say you're not drinking and see what happens. You're in for a treat.

Have you ever had any similar experiences you would like to share?

What are your thoughts about how embedded alcohol consumption has become in society?

Do you agree drinking can be compared to other substances like smoking and marijuana?

Let's discuss in the comments.

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