“Are you driving?” someone asked me at a party as they offered me a drink.
“No I have a ride home,” I said. “But I’m driving to work tomorrow morning.”
Later, that evening someone offered me another drink and I declined.They looked at me like I was an alien. But I learnt to drive under my parent’s 24-hour-rule. If I’d had any alcohol in the last 24 hours I was not allowed to drive. It’s a rule that I still follow out of habit.
Now I’m not saying that I don’t drink. Just ask my closest friends and they’ll tell you that I enjoy a drink - or two or three - as much as the next Aussie.
As a first generation Australian, I have always straddled two cultures. But having been born here, in many ways I’ve had a quintessential Aussie childhood. Since becoming an adult though, I’ve realised one major difference in my upbringing in comparison to the kids I grew up with.
Getting smashed is practically a rite of passage.
But for me drinking was not an activity that I really had an awareness of at all until I was about 12 years old. Before that, it was only something that I’d ever seen my older cousins and relatives do at family events. Thinking about it now, I can’t really recall my parents drinking at home while I was still a child. Though they must have been because I remember that we had a locked cabinet that housed any alcohol being kept in the house. I only really encountered it at family events or when my parents invited friends over for dinner.
We got a family set of matching wine glasses. On a Friday or Saturday night Mum and Dad would have one drink and us kids would fill our wine glasses with lemonade or ginger beer or coke
When we turned 18, it was a thrill to finally fill those glasses with a grown up drink. My brother discovered that he likes apple cider. I prefer white wine or moscato. And we were lucky enough to figure that out over Friday night family dinners.
There's a lot of different ways to be Aussie - and cautious and occasional Moscato drinker is as Aussie as any.
Turning 18 and going to a house party was the first time where nobody I knew was going to attempt to hide their drinking in fears of being caught underage. We were all finally legal. I spent the early part of the evening watching friends down shot after shot of vodka. I then spent the latter part of the evening alternating between preventing my friends from falling over themselves, confiscating their car keys so that they didn’t attempt to drive, and holding them as they vomited into the garden, the toilet and a bucket by the side of the bed.
One time, a guy turned up with two BYO alcoholic drinks. He explained that he’d just brought two for himself because he’d be driving home and couldn’t drink any more than that. It blew my mind. He was actually telling us - out loud - that he intended to drink alcohol and then drive himself home.
My only real experience of watching my parents drink was seeing them drink a grand total of one glass of wine or whiskey. I’d grown up watching them decide who would drink and who wouldn’t before attending events to make sure that there was always a sober driver. It was a rare occasion for either of them to chance the drive home even after just one drink.
That scene at the party has repeated itself even now as an adult. And having occasionally partaken in the drunken camaraderie, I wonder how much of it is fuelled by a misplaced desire to prove ourselves. Sometimes I feel like I'm an outsider to the culture, but like a growing number of people, it's a norm I'm happy to opt out of. There's a lot of different ways to be Aussie - and cautious and occasional Moscato drinker is as Aussie as any.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V