A thick haze of cigarette smoke hung in the air of the fraternity house and the air reeked of alcohol and strong cologne. As I squinted through the haze, trying to make out a familiar face, I found myself being squeezed through a maze of rowdy college students.
It was my first weekend in college and I'd come to a frat party with a group of other freshman girls. It didn't take long, though, for me to lose them in the crowded living room. Suddenly I felt very lost and alone.
As a new freshman, I wanted to get the full college experience by exploring new situations on campus. I couldn't wait to be free of midnight curfews and the regular check-ins my parents had required. For the first time in my life I had no one to follow up on whether I was doing the "right things." No one, that is, except God. But suddenly God felt like a weight around my neck. And while I didn't want to throw away my Christian values, I also didn't want to feel like an outsider. Most of all, I wanted to be accepted, and I thought going to this party would help me fit in and find new friends.
Without a beer in my hand, I soon realized I looked out of place. Partiers kept asking, "Do you want a beer?" or "Why aren't you drinking?" My response was usually a meek, "I'll get one later" or "I'm OK for now." I couldn't get myself to actually say I didn't drink, afraid I'd be asked why. If I told them the real reason, I'd end up being labeled the antisocial God-girl who didn't want to have fun. So to keep from having to answer any more uncomfortable questions, I grabbed a can of beer, wedged my finger under the tab and nervously pushed upward.
The can cracked open and I suddenly caught a wiff of its bitter odor. I looked quickly around at the oblivious partiers and then slowly brought the can toward my lips. Before I took my first swig, I heard a voice cut through the noisy crowd and loud music.
"I've never seen anyone inspect their drink so much."
I turned to see a guy standing behind me.
I gave a nervous laugh, suddenly aware of my noticeable awkwardness. "I guess I'm a beginner."
"So you're a freshman."
"Is it that obvious?"
"Only because you look like you're about to drink poison."
"Have to start sometime," I said fidgeting with my can, and then saw that he wasn't holding one. "Where's yours?"
"Oh, it's not my thing," he said with a casual shrug.
"You don't drink?"
I wondered if he was serious. "But you're at a frat party, you're supposed to."
"Not at all. I live here, actually. And hi, I'm Kevin."
"Nice to meet you, Kevin. I'm Elizabeth. … This is your fraternity? And you don't drink?" I saw a cross necklace around his neck.
"Right. I still go out and have a good time, just without the alcohol. Nobody thinks it's a big deal." He smiled and nodded toward my beer. "Are you sure you want that?"