Too good to be blackout

A new class will pursue questions about why the young people go clubbing, as they are doing in the above image.

I know that Freshman Me didn’t anticipate Senior Me — an old person who would rather put on a bulky sweater and have a calm, nice, Belgian beer in a well-circulated bar playing Feist than “go out.” But I also know that Freshman Me wanted to learn Latin, claimed her favorite drink was Black Velvet whiskey straight-up, and was bummed when she didn’t get into the Exit Players.

Q. In an environment where everyone is joking about being a depressed alcoholic, how do I know if I actually am one?

Q. Being wasted isn’t fun anymore. What’s the deal?

A. Poor drunk souls. I’m going to answer your questions in concert, because I think they have a lot to do with each other.

Drinking is a given on most American college campuses — and most parents usually find time for an awkward conversation with their college-bound kids about alcohol use between all those meningitis vaccines and late summer trips to Target.

Do you remember what they told you? Something about not caving to peer pressure, probably. Definitely some half-remembered anecdote about barfing in a roommate’s bed, or on an object of affection, or (God forbid) in the object of affection’s bed. Youthful drunkenness is practically a rite of passage, and though they might warn you off drinking, they secretly expect it. You gave a pity laugh and started plotting to snag your older sibling’s ID to pass off as your own.

O college! O halcyon days!

If you decide to drink, freshman year is a pretty blotto time. It’s because you have no standards and no concept of your tolerance, so you’ll drink any quantity of anything if it’s in your presence. Popov, Natural Light, Jell-O shots: it’s all fair game, and it all tastes bad and looks worse coming up. And it always comes up.

While drunk, you’ll say whatever and do whatever and eat whatever, and no one will tell you to stop unless you hurt yourself or someone else. It’s all a big [I’m blowing a raspberry here. You blow one too]. The vocabulary of college safety campaigns has taken a serious turn in the past 30 or 40 years for a reason. For college administrators at Yale and other largely permissive schools, it’s because alcohol poisoning and falls and car accidents have taken lives, and they’re trying to prevent injury or death.

Even if you don’t end up in Yale-New Haven after a particularly belligerent Saturday night, you’ll eventually find less joy in the persistent cycle of cheap booze and cheaper thrills. You won’t shake off your hangovers quite so easily as time wears on — or you’ll have more of them than you ever used to as the owner of a virginal, 18-year-old liver. If you have to ask if you seriously have a drinking problem, you very well may. Think about seeing a counselor at Walden or Yale Health, or if you’re scared to get Yale involved, you can go to one of the many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that happen in and around the Yale campus.

If you’re pretty sure you don’t have a drinking problem — just worried about how much you’re drinking, or sick of feeling like you have to pound back shots of something that comes in a plastic handle before you can leave your room on the weekends — try to dial it down. Give yourself days, or weeks, off. It might be a little strange at first if your friends see no issue with the unspoken mandate to be slizzard all the time, but it’s worth it. (I’m secretly pissed at Ke$ha for reinforcing this pressure; also, for never washing her hair.)

I know that Freshman Me didn’t anticipate Senior Me — an old person who would rather put on a bulky sweater and have a calm, nice, Belgian beer in a well-circulated bar playing Feist than “go out.” But I also know that Freshman Me wanted to learn Latin, claimed her favorite drink was Black Velvet whiskey straight-up, and was bummed when she didn’t get into the Exit Players.

She was a moron.

Q. My 21st birthday is coming up. What should I do?

A. Once a week, I buy an $8 bottle of Pinot Grigio at Zachary’s or Gag’s liquor stores. I prefer Gag’s, because the clerks always engage me in polite chit-chat and don’t judge me for bumping up my order to a liter-and-a-half. (I see the way you look at me, Zach’s guy, when I come in wearing pajamas after I’ve obviously been crying, and I don’t appreciate it.)

This week, the Gag’s guy looked at my friend’s ID and shook his head.

“1990, you’re alright. But now 1991 is the year we’ve gotta be looking out for, and I’ve already had a few of them,” he said. “Tell me, why do they feel like they gotta drink right when they turn 21?”

Good question, Gagman.

From a too-young age, I knew that I wanted to spend my 21st in a gay bar surrounded by sexually non-threatening men and fun dance music. When I ended up in Pittsburgh this past summer, on the eve of my birthday, I might have given up that dream.

Far from it: I dragged a few co-workers to a fine establishment called “SPIN” and got a free shot of something chocolate from the bartender when he realized my Washington State ID wasn’t fake — just foreign-looking. They played footage of a Beyonce concert on a huge screen behind the bar. Someone in my cohort almost blacked out, and it wasn’t me! It was majestic.

You really don’t have to go get a drink or buy a bottle of something weirdly fancy if you don’t feel like it. I was less into the booze than I was the experience, and it made all the difference. Go somewhere fun — genuinely fun — and don’t feel pressure to get wasted. Get a nice drink. Bring people you like. Dance furiously or not at all, but no matter what you do, tip your bartender.

Comments

  • Goldie08

    Gag is the man. Always had the sox game on in the summers and always had something to say