WARNING: This is a long one…
I thought I had left it all behind when I graduated from college. Anyone who has been there know what I’m talking about: the parties; the drinking; the beer bongs; the drunkenness; the stupidity. I’m sure some people remember it fondly. Perhaps it was even the best part of college. For me, however, it was a rarely an indulgence and even more rarely an enjoyable experience.
The booming music was always the first sign of a party. There were exceptions, but I could tell it was a rager when the thumping bass echoed down the street. Within half a block of the house or apartment, I could generally hear carousing going right along with it.
Before I reached the door, I’d see people wandering in and people wandering out. The “best” parties always had a few people outside since the place was so jam packed. If I got there early, there might not be anyone lingering, but I’d at least know there was beer pong or some other drinking game happening to open the night. If I got there late, I’d see the vomit, the passed out freshman in the yard or some other sign of debauchery. I might even see the flashing lights indicating the party was too good, forcing a U-turn and the search for another party.
The smell of a party house was distinct. Even when there wasn’t a party going on, there was always the smell of stale beer and spilt drinks. There might even be the heavy perfume of pot or cigarettes smoked in a hallway to cover up the stench of puke. Often, it smelled like wet dog, as if it had rained inside and the carpet soaked itself with rain and sweat.
Beer bongs and impromptu beer pong and flip cup tables were always an engineering student away from assembly. Sometimes, they’d be already ready already, since waiting to get fucked up is such a chore. When I opened the dish cabinets and found the dishes outnumbered by shot glasses and red and blue Solo Cups, I knew what sort of house I was in.
And that doesn’t include the people; the assholes who would walk all over you and treat you like a schmuck only to futz through a half-assed non-apology the next day (“I’m sorry you were bothered, bro, but I was drunk and you know how I get when I’m drunk.“); the girls who wanted nothing more than a little appreciation and who threw themselves at those same assholes, only to wake up the next morning feeling violated; the uptight engineers, scientists, and honor students just waiting to let loose, only to get so drunk they puke and pass out without enjoying themselves, but do it again the next weekend because it had to be fun if they can’t remember; the kids failing out of school who need that drink to take the edge off and relax before getting their shit together for class, despite the fact that it’s the drinking every weeknight that’s keeping them from their homework in the first place.
They’re all there: the jocks who can get away with anything, the sorority girls and frat boys trying to socialize their future into being, the frosh finally away from home, the former student reliving his college glory days, the skeevy upperclassman trying to bag a virgin, the alcoholic planning to steal a bottle when no one is looking, the foerign exchange student trying to fuck one guy from each state.
And I am there too. Or at least I was until I realized I wasn’t having any fun.
My high school friends were all but teetotalers. My first college party was spent trying to keep the skeevy upperclassman from doping and raping a girl from my floor who I had come with. The big parties I went to or threw always ended with embarassment, anger, or some sort of breakdown in a friendship or relationship.
When I drank, I drank to be social; I drank because my friends were drinking. Ironically, drinking made me antisocial. A couple beers gave me a nice buzz; a couple more made me hole up in my room surfing the web. Without a game to concentrate on or the need to watch over someone, I wouldn’t have lasted an hour at any given party.
There have been plenty of times I’ve enjoyed a beer or two or three, but I’ve never understood the culture of alcohol. Why would anyone want to destroy their brain cells, become temporarily (and sometimes permanently) stupid, and lose control of their body?
- “It’s easier to relax if I’m drunk.” Of course it is. If you drink enough, you’ll be so relaxed, you won’t be able to clench your anus enough to keep the shit from flowing out. Alcohol is an anesthetic. It slowly puts yoru brain to sleep at higher doses. If you relax your muscles without alcohol, you’ll feel just as good, and you’ll be able to keep from shitting yourself. This is why yoga can bring about physical euphoria.
- “I have more fun when I’m drunk.” Loosening up socially isn’t an affect of alcohol; it’s a choice. People could loosen up without it, but people are afraid they might do something stupid. Alcohol provides an excuse for doing stupid things. A paper by Dr. David J. Hanson claims that if someone doesn’t think he’s going to be less inhibited, he isn’t. In high school, my friends and I would act like idiots without any alcoholic assistance, and we had a ton of fun. In college, I could remain mentally sober no matter how much I drank simply by concentrating. If I wanted to be “drunk” I had to let my mental acuity go.
- “Alcohol is legal. Drugs aren’t.” You can’t argue with a fact, but studies show marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the three leading causes of death in the US. I’d rather get stoned and end up in jail than get drunk and end up dead.
- “It makes me feel good.” A friend’s mother one told me that drinking only makes you feel good for the first 15 minutes. After that, you’re just trying to get that feeling back, and to no avail. In my experience, it’s true, but it seems the studies back her up.
Whatever the reason for drinking, if it’s not to enjoy the taste, it’s not a good enough reason for me. I’m certainly not the only one who drinks beer for the taste, and I won’t be the last either.
SIDE NOTE: My freshman year of college, one of my roommates went to Switzerland and Europe over Spring Break. He sent back a box filled with about 20 different vareties of ganja entered at the World Weed Championships. There was only enough in each bag for two joints or three bowls, but given his proclivities, that was more than enough to last the semester.
One Sunday a few weeks later, after a particularly hard week of midterms, he decided to do an all day taste test with a few friends. Since I was hanging out in our room at the time, I was invited to join in. After the first bowl, I doubt I could actually tell a difference, but we went through half of the options before being so stoned, we simply couldn’t smoke anymore.
I almost wish we had bided our time and experienced each strain over time, since the enjoyment of smoking was lost in the haze. Though it was with weed and not liquor, the same truth applies: if you’re trying to enjoy the flavor, getting fucked up is not the way to go.
There’s one reason I’ve left out of the above rundown, and it’s the reason I’m writing such a long winded essay on drinking: I drink because I’m bored.
Since my arrival on Guam, I haven’t met a sober person related to the navy. Everyone drinks. They drink when they get off work. They drink when they cook. They drink when they watch a movie. They drink when they play video games. Chatting with a friend? It’s better with beer. Going to the beach? Might as well bring a couple bottles. Going out to dinner? A glass of wine takes the edge off.
In college, people drank to drink; they drank to get drunk; they drank to party and be part of the crowd. Everyone had a reason, no matter how silly or stupid or twisted the reason was.
I haven’t heard a good reason here. When the boat’s at sea, the wives drink because their husbands are gone. When it’s back, they drink because the boys are back. The boys drink because they can’t on the boat (or at least they can’t be caught drinking on the boat).
Next underway, they’ll have a stop in Japan. The grand plan for Nosedive and a couple of the other boys? Get drunk at Disneyland Tokyo. Why? Because being drunk there would be awesome. Wouldn’t being there be awesome anyway? Yeah, but being drunk there would be awesome!
I asked Denise why she and Anthony started drinking on the 4th of July.
Her response was, “I don’t know.”
I told her it seems like people just drink out of boredom here.
“Yeah,” she said. “I didn’t used to.”
Guam isn’t the only place that drives people to drink out of boredom. My first roommate freshman year was from Wisconsin. His parents ushered him into the dorms with a keg of his favorite brew and a six-pack of Jack Daniels shooters. The RA made his parents take the keg back, but he hid the shooters.
“In rural Wisconsin,” he told me, “there’s nothing to do but drink, play football, and cow-tipping. I was never big enough for football and cow-tipping gets old fast.”
“You know,” Carl said to me today, “there’s lots of stuff to do in Guam. People just don’t do it. You can go snorkeling, diving, hiking, swimming. If you make the effort to get outside and get used to the heat and humidity, there’s a ton of stuff to do.”
It’s true. Guam has a lot to offer. There’re old munitions to see, as well as memorials and historical sites. There is better scuba diving than anywhere else if you’re willing to invest in the equipment and training. There’s a lot of great hikes and beautiful vistas. There’s a beach every 10 feet, though not all of them are gorgeous and groomed.
And yet, despite all this, people choose to drink.
Maybe it’s the culture of the military; the work hard, play hard mentality. Drinking has always been associated with the military. Back in the day, it was, “If you’re going to die, you might as well numb yourself beforehand.” These days, it’s just the way it is.
It probably doesn’t help that a lot of the military are the kids who drank heavily in high school and didn’t have the grades to continue drinking in college. Nor that a lot of the military associates itself with the headstrong, beer-swilling stereotype of machismo so present in comic books, action movies, and especially Frank Miller comic books and action movies.
Despite my angry exclamations of eschewing alcohol the other night, I still drank with boys at Carl’s last night. I stopped well before I sloshed past the point of buzzed and into the depressant state of drunkenness, but when I got home, I still had to ask myself why I started in the first place.
Was I drinking because I wanted to or because it’s what people do in Guam?
I don’t think I’ll ever have an answer.