Let's talk alcohol. Well, I'll talk alcohol, you just listen. Write something in the box down there if you want. Anyway--
I turned 21 last summer, which makes me the official Most Popular Guy On Friday Night For Newfound Under-21 Friends. I've never been a big drinker, and I like to think that people are real cool with me not drinking at parties. I've never caught any crap for it personally, but I think that it is true that you kind of feel like you fit in better at a party with a little red plastic cup of something in your hand. The culture behind alcohol is so weird to me that I would honestly rather sit back and observe, anthropology-style, more often than not. Try this: go to a party and drink a little (or don't), and then take a step toward the bathroom. You won't even be able to start the stopwatch you carry with you to parties for this very purpose before someone yells "Don't break the seal, Bra!" Or maybe they're all yelling "Don't break the seal's bra!" It's irrelevant, really. The fact is that people at parties do want to let loose and have a good time, but there are scripts for this type of party that seem to suggest that everyone is much more self-conscious than it may seem. I really am all for dancing and singing and laughing and partying at the end of a stressful week, and I can even see the usefulness in (responsible) sexuality to relieve that kind of stress. If alcohol is an excuse to legitimize it, that's fine, but it's disheartening to see people succumbing to expectations so enthusiastically. College students think they are supposed to drink, so they do.
I don't drink much, but I still find myself around people that do. This works for me, although it might not for everyone. There are a million ways to deal with alcohol if you haven't before. Go the 'overzealous freshman' route: Drink! Everybody else is! You'll be fine for Monday morning (note: not everybody else is drinking, just most everybody in Dascomb is. And Sunday mornings are pretty great). The 'first year with foresight' path: the rule is moderation. These are my favorite people to hang out with weekend nights. They're actually present and alert for conversation, they don't yell "woooo!" too much. You can go a third route, and the third is...'Not eligible for catchy name but still cool in my book.' People who practice sobriety and normally have a good time hanging out with people like them. Oh, I got it! 'Sober Steves'! Sober Steves do not have to be named Steve or complete losers. There's even a Substance Free Housing option for those of you who like that kind of environment. Tess writes about it here. These awesome titles and brilliant descriptions are oversimplifications, of course. Pick one now and commit to it with every molecule of your being, just so you don't become an Untouchable, though.
When I was younger, I always wondered what the stuff tasted like that everyone was so nuts about. I was a bit surprised when I found out. Alcohol, any alcohol really, tastes bad. Awful. When I saw old guys drinking scotch on ads or frat boys chugging beer, I sure thought that all of it must just taste like candy, rather than gasoline. Vodka tastes like rubbing alcohol, seriously. How can people say that Grey Goose 'goes down smooth'? Maybe smoother than vomit that you don't quite vomit but catch in your mouth before it gets all the way out, but not smooth compared to grape Fanta, certainly.
I like drinks with dinner or a few drinks while talking with friends, not drinking just to get drunk. I did go out to a couple bars and got drunk-ish in Saint Louis this summer. I didn't feel especially cooler or have any more fun than I would have, I just felt off-balance and broke. Drinks are expensive in the big city. Incidentally, I think it's rather uppity of New York to call itself 'the city' like it's the only city in the Northeast US. You're going to the city this weekend? THE city? The CITY? Which damn city?
Item #1: What was definitely the best night of the school year last year happened during reading period before finals week spring semester. On this beautiful Oberlin evening, if you had ventured into North Quadrangle, you would have been terrified. Under the arms of the big tree on the south side of the quad, a group of about a dozen Oberlin Cross Country runners that grew to about twenty as the evening wore on (that sounds so nice I might just say it again, with your permission. "As the evening wore on") gathered in a menacing circle. Three members of our track team were running events at Nationals that day so we wanted to call Graham Wellman, our assistant track coach of mythical proportions, and find out how the ladies fared. We waited for a call from Graham, and discussed games one might play when one is bored. Kathleen knew one from her backpacking days called a 'hat match,' where a hat is placed on the ground and two people wrestle to try to get the other person to touch the hat. Thus began the Greatest Night of My Freshman Year, a round-robin tournament of anyone who dared enter the ring versus Nina, Cordelia, Kathleen, Saga, or Albert. Why the wrestlers mainly consisted of women, I have no idea. Something about spring air and a wrestling competition brings out the animal in a person, though, and I saw little, 5-foot-nothing, 90-pound Nina Cole fight like a tiger and squeeze like an anaconda that night in a way that makes me flinch whenever she comes to give me a hug now. We had other contests of strength, like handslap, rock-paper-scissors, giraffe-style neck fighting. A football appeared from Carolyn's purse, and we played catch until it was way too dark. The risk of getting hit in the face before you caught the football outweighed the pleasure to be found in playing catch with runners, the subset of the population with the worst hand-eye coordination. Just imagine giraffes (again) trying to win an Easter egg toss and you'll approximate what a game of catch with distance runners looks like. It got dark and I got scared, so we broke away from each other to prepare for forthcoming tests or watch Hugh Grant movies until life meant something again. Seriously, best night of last year. Zero alcohol.
Item #2: There is no Item #2. But Oberlin's incredibly cool, not just because we started the prohibition movement back in the day. People will respect whatever you choose to do or not do while you're here. If they don't, you can always get drunk and forget about them!