THE SANTA CLARA
October 24, 2013
I turn 21 on Saturday. Hooray for me.
But while I’m excited, I’m also stuck in a dilemma: I have to decide whether I actually want to have my first taste of alcohol.
That’s right, I don’t drink. I’ve done exactly what the law wants me to do and waited until it’s legal. I’ve been offered, I’ve been tempted, but I never took the sip.
And a lot of the reasons I haven’t started yet are the same reasons for why I’m not sure I want to start now.
Before I come across as a stick in the mud, I want to be clear that I’m not a contemporary prohibitionist. If people want to drink and they’re being responsible, then they can go right ahead. I’m not the “sober police,” and they deserve to have a good time.
But I’m a cautious pragmatist. Many of my decisions are made after considering the costs and benefits. That sounds robotic, but it happens every time we choose whether to go to class or not, or when to write that paper, so I’m not alone out here.
When it comes to alcohol, I’ve never seen the point. I’ve lived a good life full of water, orange juice, soda and one-percent milk. I’ve never felt a need to add alcohol into the mix, literally or figuratively.
It just never struck me as appealing to get buzzed, or drink myself under the table.
And really, I think it is with the latter where my issue lies.
What’s the point of getting drunk? It confuses me that people want to consume — in large quantities — a substance that can easily cause respiratory arrest. Soda might kill you, sure, but not tonight.
Not to mention, of course, the alcohol-induced vomiting.
But I’m not staying sober for my health. What it has always come down to for me is that if I can’t have the maximum amount of fun without getting drunk, without altering my brain chemistry, then maybe I should work on myself instead of reaching for a bottle.
Here’s what I mean. In high school, a friend of mine had talked me into doing some work with the drama class, and I ended up working backstage at the spring musicals each year.
The drama students had their parties, but the unwritten rule had always been not to drink during the shows.
During my senior year, that rule was somehow thrown out the window. The musical had a decent amount of stumbling.
When I confronted my friend about what she was doing, she told me that she was doing it just to have fun.
I asked if she was thinking about how it affected the show, and she punched me in the face.
Well, she tried. She was so hammered she only managed to skim my cheek. It tickled more than anything.
It’s been four years, and I’m not bitter, but this is the side of alcohol that isn’t talked about a lot. It wasn’t abuse, per se. No one was driving, no one passed out.
But my friend had a little too much and did something she’d never have done sober, all in the name of fun. I just don’t get it.
Is it that hard to have fun?
Now, I could just be a light, social drinker and never get drunk, that’s true.
But that’s not what we college kids do, is it? There seems to be a mysticism to the excess, a sense that it is almost expected that someone will get smashed.
And there’s the peer pressure. For heaven’s sake, people: No means no.
Some might say it is important to know their limits for the future. I don’t disagree, but I don’t see why that can’t wait until it is legal to do so, or feel the need to drink in large amounts.
Then there’s the debate about what alcohol actually does to us. Some say it changes us into a different person. Others claim it simply lowers inhibitions that were already there.
Either way, I don’t see an upside. I like who I am already, and if my frontal lobe is telling me not to jump out of a window, I don’t want to shut it up.
I have yet to decide if I’ll actually imbibe on Saturday. Maybe, even with all the thought I’ve put into it, I’m still missing the point. Maybe I’ve even put too much thought into it.
All I know is that someone shouldn’t feel like a freak because they don’t want to take a shot. Twice as many people in the U.S. identify as teetotalers compared to vegetarians.
It’s not that odd, and college or not, people should stop acting like it is.
Jonathan Tomczak is a senior political science and history double major and editor of the Opinion section.