The college party scene is irony at its best. Many people (including me) get sucked in because it’s a way to meet people, lots of them, without the encumbrances of schoolwork and other time commitments weighing on your mind. It’s a chance to let your guard down, to really be yourself and lose those pesky inhibitions. The real irony, though, is that alcohol becomes more appealing than any friend; the friends become the impetus, the justification for drinking. The party itself is just a nuisance, filled with people who are as wasted as you would like to be.
As a humble freshman, I didn’t drink at my first college party. It was quite a ho-hum experience: the house was horribly crowded, filled with sticky people who reeked of body odor, booze, and/or vomit. Scarcely a sober person could be found. Everyone else seemed to be having a blast, though, so I chalked it up to nerves and revisited the party scene a few months later, this time with a red plastic cup in hand.
Being the still-good-at-heart kid I am, I brought a more party-savvy friend with me to serve as my “drunk tutor.” She taught me how to chug, how to pump a keg and slurp the head off a fresh beer, how to play beer pong-the essentials, basically-and she flagged me when I got a little too happy. She even put me to bed and made sure I was amply hydrated so as to soften that first horrendous hangover.
I still reminisce about that night fondly, not because I drank, but because the social constraints of meeting new people were completely forgotten within the walls of that house. Nothing was taboo; the explanation: “Well, he’s drunk.” That’s the allure that stays with you: the unconditional freedom to do anything.
From there, I indulged in the college party scene a little too heavily. Schoolwork became the thing I rushed to finish before trekking to the latest kegger. Pong tournaments and power hours usurped legal, wholesome activities because they just weren’t as appealing.
Slowly, something happened. My whole focus began to shift. I began to spend more time drinking than mingling at parties-and more time mingling at parties than studying. I longed to feel out-of-control, fall-on-the-floor drunk, not to just drink socially, and became dissatisfied with nights that weren’t absolutely ridiculous. I still juggled my eighteen-credit workload and my activities and my part-time job, but I did many of them with hangovers. My justification: “These are the best four years of my life. I’m having a good time, no matter what.” Somehow, I let it slide that I would blackout and forget portions of the weekend I strived so hard to enjoy. It was okay that I drank on Tuesdays because my Wednesday classes were easy.
Once the college party scene really takes hold of you, alcohol becomes a dependency not as a drug, but as the only way to really have fun as an “adult.” School dances were synonymous with shot glasses and “pre-gaming.” Indeed, more than half of my college friends I met while drinking. I just feel a little sad that my generation needs a cup in our hands and alcohol in our bloodstream to combat social awkwardness. Not everyone does it, but the vast majority of college kids, all the ones longing for social acceptance, eventually succumb. It’s a phase from which college kids emerge, once they finally learn that real, genuine acceptance is not something found while staggering around with a beer can sloshing around in your hand. For awhile, though, underage drinking is just as much of a crutch as it is a cool pastime.