Saturday, June 9, 2012


A few weeks ago at a family dinner the idea of teenagers (and young people in general) and drinking.  The conversation rose from knowing that my younger sister, seventeen, is now getting in to the whole party sort of 'scene' (if that's what you can call it?) and is, to my parents' knowledge and discretion, drinking; and when I say this, I don't mean to discredit her whatsoever, because she's very sensible and can only have two or three coolers before deciding she doesn't need to press on.  While I can only offer my opinion, it's limited in the sense that, truthfully, I never had that experience when I was in high school - oh, yes, I drank, but I was never in big situations at big houses with big amounts of people, and the only time that I came close to partaking in this mystical party scene became probably the most embarrassing drinking night of my life and ended in despair.  Instead, my friends and I largely kept to ourselves - by choice, or because we weren't superbly popular? - and nights involving drinking were confined to basements where dance parties and life chats ensued, or if we were feeling especially deviant, in public parks on jungle gyms.

Indeed, we never went through the whole 'party scene,' a term I've used enough as a loose foundation for my concept through this post so far that I'm just coining it as a phrase.  What I mean by said 'party scene' is the social life I never had as a grade eleven or twelve student who drank - no doubt a result of not being the social elite of the school, and there's no use in even denying that this sort of cliche, stock hierarchy didn't exist at my high school, because it did.  You were an athlete, or you were in the school musical; it's easy to see the sorts of division, but I'm not resentful about it in the sense that, had my high school not been like those stereotypical high schools in the media, I might've felt cheated from my experience.  What I largely assume of this other group of people is that they were the ones to party every weekend at house parties here and there, and there's no use in continuing to paint this sort of picture without worry of somehow offending someone or embarrassing myself from my lack of knowing for sure.  Considering my tight group of friends weren't that untouchable popular - I'd say we were middle ground, really; knew a lot of people, were friends with a lot of people, and I'm at ease with that - we never carted around to these sorts of parties, so my knowledge of what might transpire at this big high school house party is limited to my assumption.

I don't mean to exploit my sister whatsoever, but she has begun to drink casually at these parties - parties, I need to add, that I drove her to, only the coolest older brother in the front seat.  As I said, my parents have elected to buy her alcohol, maintaining that they're more comfortable with controlling what she drinks, how much, and ensuring that it isn't from that obvious grade twelve date raper.  I believe my sister owes me thanks for paving the way for her in this fashion as I revealed to my parents over a year ago that I was, in fact, lying to them and running off and drinking when I was seventeen.  They were pissed off at first - a testament to their obliviousness?  You have a teenager; they will fundamentally drink illegally (an idea I'll return to) - but now it's a big joke.  Regardless, my sister has been given the okay.

When my uncle asked me what I thought about the idea of binge drinking, I couldn't promote or defend it.  I do it.  We all do it.  High school kids do it at this party scene; university kids do it and wake up somewhere else in the morning with their pride missing as much as the money in their wallet from the night before.  Why do we drink until we're fall-over drunk?  I really do not have an answer; really, it can borderline dangerous if you don't know your limit, and a state of inebriation might lead to reckless behaviour.  There is truthfully nothing to reap from getting smashed.  You might say - as I did during this conversation with my family - that it's to have fun, but the obvious counterpoint is that you don't need alcohol to have fun.  That's certainly true; so does this idea of binge drinking come down entirely to peer pressure, this peer pressure that everyone denies ever being subjected to?  You see your friends pounding back beers around a table when playing beer pong and you need to catch up to them to have as good a time as they are tonight; isn't the idea of being in a sober state of mind entertaining to you, being able to kick back and watch your friends be idiots?  I can say that I usually get uncomfortable when I know I'm beyond sober when the people around me are beyond drunk - peer pressure, and that's it.  You can certainly have fun without alcohol - why, I have fun watching movies by myself - but we've seemingly separated the 'alcohol fun' from the 'sober fun' and confined them to these separate spheres of concept.  Why stay in on a Friday night when you know the other people your age are out at a bar and having fun?

I can say that I've gotten to the point where I look at alcohol in a different light.  High school drinking in these basements or parks involved building your tolerance up enough so that when you trail off to university, hey, you're a seasoned drinker.  (I need to mention - I look back at this aforementioned most embarrassing drunken night of my life and can recall only drinking a quarter of a bottle of vodka.  I've far surpassed that now.  Silly grade twelver) Today, I can drink a beer after work because I feel like it, and not because I'm drinking for payoff.  I used to drink for result - any alcohol ingested without a drunken high is wasted alcohol - but I'm now able to drink casually with friends over an extended period of time just because, and I can fully stop with only a good buzz.  Gone is this serious compulsion to drink until I slur, but that isn't to say that I don't enjoy doing that from time to time.

In a somewhat similar sense I've been thankful that I have a good enough memory that I've never blacked out from drinking - that is, I can wake up the next day (sickness varying) and can recall everything that happened the night before.  My only weakness is remembering the conversations I had to fill up the timeline, but I will know everything worth knowing, anything I did that made enough waves, anything with serious gravity that might henceforth affect my sober life.  I would feel that blacking out is a scary thing; I can't imagine waking up and not knowing what the hell I did last night, and I would never find that fun at all.  To black out is to tread past the line of moderation; hell, it's almost a slap in the face to yourself - why would one disservice their own credibility so much so that they're willing to drink past the point of memory and let this intoxicated system of consciousness take over their will and make them look like an idiot?  That is never fun, and I do believe we've come full circle: this is just another addition to the 'cons' list of binge drinking.

It really doesn't even seem lucrative to do it, does it?  And that's why people older than our generation will continue to be perplexed at this idea of drinking like a fish; why, I'm twenty-one, and I can't even fully defend the things I've done.  Worth mentioning is binge drinking isn't the same for everyone.  As I've said, I've learned my limit, I know how much I need and know when I'll cross into this embarrassing state of no control - and, if I ever do, it's because I decided to, and not because I let myself get too messed up because I couldn't stop myself.  So then, again in opposition to this concept, why drink like that at all?  Why not instantly jump to the sort of maturity about drinking I think I have now and just have a few drinks, enough to feel it, and just have a good time?

I'd say that drinking underage has this sexy quality to it, meaning that it's illustrious to do it because you're not allowed to.  Thinking back to my teenage mentality, as I'd previously mentioned, to drink without result is useless, especially when considering how hard it is for underage kids to get their hands on it - almost like an offense to the bottle itself.  Throw in the idea of the popular kids drinking in a large social setting and you have this constant pressure of refilling your cup with a greater ratio of more alcohol to less mix (or mix at all?  Kudos to you shot takers, but lord knows I can't stomach them) to get as trashed as the people all around you who are all obviously having a better time than you are.  This high school party scene is a bit of an enigma, and for as long as the legal drinking age in Ontario will be nineteen, teens will always drink behind closed doors and their parents' backs because the idea of doing something they shouldn't is as intoxicating as the alcohol itself.

The high school binge drinking mentality is just a phase we all go through, and I should hope everyone is able to easily find this balance and maturity with drinking as I was able to.  I know people who haven't, but I guess that just comes with the untouchable sense of freedom one experiences as a young adult with the world in their hands.  As Drake or idiot teenagers might say, YOLO, but I despise that phrase.  Honestly, and as I said to my family, it's up to a person's own discretion; if you're like me, be proud in knowing you know what you can handle, and drink up should you feel like it.

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