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Jan 10 2012

You Don't Need Alcohol

[This is my first column for the Daily Northwestern, NU's student newspaper. I can't find the link on their website so I'm not linking to it, but here's the full piece.]

You don’t need alcohol.

Wait, hear me out. You really don’t need it.

Before I came to college, I obviously expected that there’d be a lot of drinking and partying going on here. What I didn’t know is why. I grew up in a large, loud Russian family, where alcohol flows freely at dinner parties and camping trips, but never takes center stage. My parents seem mosty the same to me whether they’ve had five drinks each or not a single drop, and they seemed to have just as much fun without alcohol or with it.

I was puzzled, then, when I came to college and found that alcohol was often–not always, but often–the main event. As far as I knew, most people readily admit that they don’t like the taste of alcohol, at least not of the sort usually served at college parties. Dealing with the unpleasant consequences of drinking too much is a drag. Meaningful connections aren’t usually made while one is drunk. So why?

The answer both suprised and disappointed me: people think they need it.

I started hearing the same story from almost everyone I asked. “I don’t really feel comfortable with people unless I’ve been drinking.” “I can’t talk to girls without a few drinks.” “I could never hook up with someone if we’re not both drunk.”

One friend even confided to me that he literally can’t have sex if he’s not drunk. “Why not?” I asked. “I’m more of a traditional person,” he said. “I don’t feel comfortable doing that with someone I don’t really know if I’m sober.”

Could it really be that the brilliant, accomplished people I go to school with can’t make friends or hook up without alcohol?

The answer, I think, is no. I think we’ve been deluding ourselves. Sure, it can be fun to get drunk. But should it ever be something we “need” to function socially?

I think I can attest to the fact that it’s not necessary. I used to be painfully shy and incapable of having a conversation with anyone my age. Since coming to college, I’ve truly branched out and made many friends. Yet I’ve never been drunk and can count the number of parties I’ve been to on the fingers of one hand. People, if the girl who used to bring encyclopedias to read at birthday parties can do it, anyone can.

I also don’t think we should be using alcohol to help us ignore our own values. If you’re just not the sort of person who wants to sleep with people you don’t know, that’s totally fine. I’m not either. If you think it’s perfectly okay but feel too insecure to do it without alcohol, that’s something you can work on.

That applies to making friends, too. This school is full of really cool, really interesting people. You’re going to find people who think you’re awesome. It’s just a matter of convincing yourself of that. So practice in front of the mirror, get friends to introduce you, do whatever you have to do. Having the confidence to approach people and connect with them is a wonderful thing, and it’ll be with you always–long after the party’s over and the alcohol’s all gone.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    John Watson

    Extremely well-written!

    1. 1.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Thank you! :D

  2. 2
    ewok

    It definitely doesn’t help as much as people think it does. I never hooked up once and made almost no friends in school but alcohol was never a constant. Some times it was there, some times it wasn’t so it doesn’t seem like a deciding factor.

  3. 3
    Jo

    (Here via feministe!)

    I love what you’ve written here, and I completely agree with it! I also do not understand why people seem to feel the need to drink – and especially now, with me and my friends at uni, a lot of them who didn’t drink before are also succumbing to the terrible fate of getting so pissed that they can’t remember it the next day. And I just. don’t. get it.

    (Plus, one binge even once every three months does horrible damage to your liver! Why would you want to do that???)

    1. 3.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Thanks for reading! I also find it interesting that young people who have led a perfectly happy and satisfying life suddenly find themselves unable to continue without alcohol as soon as they get to college. What gives?

  4. 4
    TheBogusMan

    (Here via Feministe)

    Some people are alright without alcohol. I certainly could never feel comfortable in any social setting while sober. I imagine some people are the same.
    The people quoted in the article seem aware of what they are doing, they seem to have some social insecurities, and use alcohol to help themselves. From the quotes, none of them seem regret drinking alcohol, or their actions while drunk. Although college drinking can be problematic when people get pressured into it just because it’s supposedly the “done thing” in college, the article doesn’t actually go off on that tangent, choosing rather to vaguely moralize socially awkward people’s personal decisions.

  5. 5
    Jolene

    Very good article, thank you for this!

  1. 6
    Northwestern Will Survive Without the Keg (Or: Actions Have Consequences) | Brute Reason

    [...] conscription. In that perfect world, our culture would pay enough attention to mental health that people wouldn’t need alcohol to relax or socialize, meaning that binge drinking would be much less [...]

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