Not Drinking Alcohol in Stealth Mode

I know a woman with a long standing, serious career. She has long done her best to dress very professionally, downplay her sexuality at work and avoid both alcohol in professional settings and drama with men. I am pretty confident that what little I have been told is merely the tip of the iceberg, but some of the things I have been advocating the past few days are things this lady was doing decades ago.

She used to attend business functions where alcohol was involved. She would go early, order a non-alcoholic beverage that looked alcoholic (say, a Sprite with a cherry in it) and leave a big tip for the bartender. For the rest of the night, any time she needed something more to drink, she would order "My usual."

The bartender would collude with her in covering up the fact that she wasn't drinking alcohol. She had established herself as a big tipper and the bartender wanted more tips. Duh!

Once when she was traveling on business, one of the guys she was traveling with tried to make a grab for her after he had been drinking. She pushed him away and told him "That's just the alcohol talking."

She wasn't ugly about it. She didn't frame him as a sexual predator. He was a married man and she framed it as "You aren't thinking straight and you will regret this when you are back in your right mind."

Thereafter, he became her staunchest supporter at work. He routinely had her back when she needed back up.

She gained a valuable ally by attributing it to the alcohol instead of attributing it to him being a rapey bastard or something ugly like that. Allies are always valuable at work, all the more so if you are a woman.

So, some career woman have long quietly avoided alcohol and drama. Really savvy individuals have long known this was good policy.

I am simply advocating that we can change our cultural expectations and start skewing them towards practices that are known to avoid or minimize trouble. This would be a vastly better use of our time than coming up with a long list of draconian measures for how to make sure heads roll after things go wrong.

Actual fire departments are not merely responsible for putting out fires, they are also responsible for fire prevention programs. Unfortunately, metaphorical "fire departments" dealing with social or business issues are often not only not responsible for prevention, everyone is fine with them actively creating more fires so they have more to do and can look more heroic.

We need more fire prevention. Hanging the right people and building more gallows doesn't undo the damage. The best policy is to try to make sure that as little as possible of this stuff happens to begin with.


This is a part of a de facto (totally unplanned) on-going series. Previously:
Sex, Drugs and Muddy Waters
Status Quo is Not God
Deal-making and Implied Sex

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