• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

28 July 2008

ain't been sober since maybe october

Bf and I occasionally attack complex societal topics and attempt to 'solve' them or at least share our (often similar) opinions regarding them.

Recently, the discussion has turned to drinking. To put forth some background, we live in an area where there is not a lot of diverse cultural activity going on. People hold fairly conservative values (that is, we don't have tons of 'hippies' or 'art culture' types around here). Sports are big, and so is going to bars. That's about all that's big. A drive around our city after dark reveals seemingly every other vehicle as a police cruiser. The other half are taxis, DD's, and a lot of people who said they were "ok to drive, REALLY!". Many of the latter type can be witnessed yelling things out car windows, smoking cigarettes (and other things as well perhaps?) and cranking their bass as they hop from one bar to the next. A drive through our downtown area, where many of the bars reside, reveals some very unsavory (but apparently socially acceptable) behaviors. People stumbling around, yelling insults at each other and passersby. People vomiting into the bushes of nearby condos. Men peeing (yep) in alcoves and behind staircases. Women of all shapes and sizes wearing next-to-nothing and showing everything they shouldn't to whomever will look.

[Related tangent] When downtown with friends last year, a couple of us witnessed a group of men peeing on the tires of an SUV that was almost definitely not theirs, right on the main street as we were walking by. Were these men embarrassed that we pretty conservatively-dressed and fairly-to-completely sober young women had seen them? Nope! They turned around (still unzipped) and tried to get us to go home with them. When we hurried away in disgust, they screamed profanities at us. This was during a time of year when most of the students from the nearby largish University were not even back yet. [/tangent]

The city we live in has one of the top-10 highest binge-drinking rates* and is, dare I say, proud of it. This is the culture in which we live. We chatted with a mayoral candidate a few months ago; When confronted with the idea that many upcoming professionals flee our area due to a lack of culture/entertainment possibilities, in all seriousness, held the firm belief that with the amount of sporting events and bars in our town, young people had no reason to complain about a lack of diverse recreation opportunities.

In our own families, we have those who drink a lot, those who drink a little, and those who don't at all. Being in our mid-twenties, it is safe and accurate to assume that each of us has seen our share of various levels of drunkenness and its associated attitudes, and possible consequences of the pastime.

Mine and Bf's attitudes on drinking differ a little bit, but not too much. We've both agreed that binge drinking is 100% no-way for us. How is a night "fun" if you don't remember it? How is throwing up a good time? Spending tons of money to lose your mind? Sleeping with a stranger maybe, or simply making a fool of yourself? And more seriously, how about the people in this country who are killed or injured by or because of drunk driving every year? And all the alcohol-related fights and spousal/child/domestic abuse? There are tons of reasons alcohol can really suck. But not everyone drinks that way. Many people enjoy a beer, a glass of wine, or a cosmo or two and they don't really bother anyone.

But... why do they do it? We've had a good, if not frustrating time describing our opinions and attempting to solidify them without having them just sound like a bunch of hollow excuses. In the end, the question always arises:

What are some good reasons to drink?
  • Because it's easier than not drinking? (the "peer pressure" excuse)
  • To have fun? (the "aren't your friends fun without alcohol?" excuse)
  • To loosen up? (the "unless I drink, I won't take my pants off and dance around like an idiot and see it on youtube tomorrow" excuse)
  • To view your mundane existence through rose (or amber?) -colored glasses? (the "borderline alcoholic" excuse)
  • Because you're too low on calories and you need more of them in your diet? (the "yeah right" excuse)

Yes, various studies recommend a glass of red wine here and there for health reasons, but we're not taking that in to consideration here, as this is a SOCIAL discussion. And some people are aficionados who enjoy the taste of various types of liquor, wine, and beer. But like coffee I believe that many people simply tolerate the taste in order to reap the "benefits". After we came up with several unsatisfactory answers ourselves and even polled a few friends, I decided to take it to the most obvious place one must go when one needs to answer life's toughest questions: Google.

First off, I could not find many of what I think of as 'serious' websites about the great question at hand. Most of them were either religious in nature, or their focus was toward teens. A website explaining why conscious-minded adults of all ages and most income levels drink is yet to be discovered.

So I worked with what I had. The first site I found basically listed some of what I thought were GOOD reasons, and promptly shot them down.

"Unfortunately, people often drink as a way to:

* Get a break from their daily routine.
* De-stress from school or work.
* Reward themselves.
* Feel less inhibited in social situations.
* Fit in with others that are drinking.
* Express feelings that are difficult to express when they are sober.
* Suppress painful feelings such as shame, anger, sadness or loneliness."

Granted, I don't think those are all good reasons, but I am an occasional wine/beer margarita drinker myself and I do believe a lot of people drink for the first two reasons. They like the euphoric buzz they get. It puts a spring in their step and some heat in their cheeks. Anyway, the web site goes on to give differences between a good drinker and a bad drinker, but it never once does answer the question of what are some GOOD reasons to drink. (Of course it doesn't. It's aimed at teenagers. The law says they have no good reasons to drink!) MSNBC goes the other way and suggests that you SHOULD drink for basically all of the reasons my first source said you shouldn't. Some other positive (or at least, not negative) information about social drinking:

Vaden Health Center (Stanford.edu)
Drinking Culture (Wikipedia)

This one's interesting too - it talks about how "a great deal of alcohol’s effect is actually the placebo effect".

Site after site, story after story, embarrassing youtube after embarrassing youtube, what I'm finding is: Alcohol is bad, if you're a teenager or an alcoholic or if your religion says it's bad. If not, alcohol is good. A buzz is good. Drinking is good.

Does anyone else out there find it odd that our society and reputable organizations and businesses condone taking a mood altering substance to help you deal with relatives, relax after a long day, and get a little tipsy? Aren't we in a war on drugs? But wait. Alcohol is LEGAL - which makes it OK and decidedly not a drug or drug-like substance, right? 'Unwinding', 'loosening up', 'getting a buzz', and even getting shitfaced/wasted/fucked up from time to time are all decidedly fine. People love to tell stories of the stupid things they did when they or a friend was drunk. It's as though we bond through our mutual embarrassment. ("Oh man, that sounds BRUTAL, but wait till you hear what retarded thing *I* did on Saturday!!")

In this past paragraph, I'm sounding pretty negative toward drinking, when honestly, I'm not entirely. I'm just looking for some answers here, and finding little to appease me when I step outside the "Alcohol is acceptable and I'm over 21 and let's leave it at that" box. I still want to enjoy my chardonnay and my strawberry margarita. I like the taste of these beverages, and I like the slight buzz I get off it too. By a few sites I've found, and opinions I've heard, enjoying the buzz makes me an alcohol abuser, and possibly an alcoholic. By others, it makes me a normal and socially-accepted member of society. I'm just not sure. I have no answers. This topic is too complex, or perhaps simply too biased for even Google to handle.

But think about it... no, REALLY think about it:

Why do you drink? What are some good reasons to drink?

*the sources of this were USA Today, and a reputable college newspaper, but I'm not linking the actual articles here as it could give away our direct location ;)