I like to think I’m open-minded. I’m a feminist living in the liberal Bay Area, I believe in sex positivity, and I’m not racist. My friends would call me, for the most part, accepting of most choices that people make. Though I can’t vote, I supported Prop 64 (legalizing marijuana in California); most of the CPS campus knows me as the girl who speaks her mind about one thing or another; I cast no judgment on anyone’s mental health (or lack thereof). However, what I can’t support is actually a pretty common phenomenon: high school and college students’ decision to drink before they turn 21. I’m referring to the drinking at parties, the consumption of enough alcohol to get at least a “buzz,” and those folks who allow alcohol to impair their decision-making.
Let me first state that I do not intend to target anyone specific, nor offend those peers of mine who partake in alcohol; I am sharing my opinion to demonstrate how I, personally, feel about drinking. Although this article will discuss only underage drinking, I find it worth pointing out that I feel uncomfortable about anyone drinking alcohol, and thus my opinions do not apply solely to those drinkers under age 21.
I don’t know when my aversion started. I’ve tried to determine the point in my life when I stopped wondering what high school parties would be like and started hoping that, should I get invited to one, there would be no alcohol present. As a child, I would occasionally ask my parents to give me sips of their drinks, out of curiosity about the flavor of wine, beer, etc. I’ll admit I’m still curious sometimes––what does chardonnay taste like, for example––but any former interest in someday ordering drinks has completely died. Sometimes, I imagine going from bar to bar, finding people too drunk to transport themselves home, and calling an Uber or an ambulance, depending on the case; those situations, though, would certainly not involve alcohol on my part.
In seventh grade, my friend’s mother came in to speak to my class about the dangers of drunk driving; when she was very young, just five years old, her family was driving around and a drunk driver plowed into their car. Her parents and younger sisters both died in the crash, and most of the bones in her body were broken, but she lived and was raised by her grandparents for her entire childhood. She now travels the country to tell her life story: how she was orphaned because of a drunk driver, but she grew up to become a successful county judge and a mother of two. Honestly, if hearing that serious of an anti-drunk-driving story didn’t stick with me, I don’t know what would.
When I think about myself (or anyone, really) drinking at a party and becoming tipsy, losing better judgment, I feel a deep revulsion; it’s like the way someone might feel about a spider crawling down their back––stronger than mere discomfort, but not total panic. I’ll hear someone mention a wild party with alcohol, and my first senses will be frustration, anxiety, and confusion. First of all, where are people around my age even getting alcohol? Who would sell to them? If they’re obtaining from siblings, why are those siblings enabling them? Are their parents aware of the situation? I have to imagine they’re not, but if they are, why do they allow it? Also, why are people around my age drinking at all? It’s literally illegal, and I know it’s not all that enforced anymore, but the law exists for a reason. You probably wouldn’t break the law that tells you not to kill people, so why is this legislation any different? Both of them exist to keep people safe. It bothers me that people ignore the very real law against underage drinking, but it also makes me anxious; what if they get hurt from alcohol-induced decisions, like drunk driving?
Driving while intoxicated is not only illegal (a first-time DUI being a misdemeanor), but unsafe. It’s a common myth that “sobering up” is possible to expedite with, say, coffee, but coffee and alcohol can actually increase reckless behavior due to the addition of caffeine. If you’re going to drive drunk, you endanger the vehicle’s passengers and anyone you encounter while driving. If you need to get home after drinking, take an Uber or ask a sober person to assist you.
You may say that “drinking isn’t dangerous if they aren’t driving,” but plenty of stupid, unwise plans arise from alcohol, even without vehicles involved. Swimming, engaging in sexual activity, etc…almost any action becomes markedly less safe under the influence of alcohol. In fact, it is not possible to give consent to sex while intoxicated, no matter the circumstances; with alcohol involved in intercourse, the partners no matter how supposedly willing, could be facing a rape case. Also, since alcohol lowers cognitive function and decision-making, unsafe sex becomes significantly more likely after a few drinks. Drinking to excess can also have serious short-term health consequences, including memory loss and even passing out. It’s not all that far-fetched that you could wake up in a strange place after getting drunk. And honestly, that sounds terrifying.
So, if I’m not planning to ever drink, why do these issues bother me, personally, so much? For one, I worry about people. I’m a naturally anxious person who assumes the worst of any situation. When I find out that people I know are drinking, I start fretting about any possible problem that could arise as a result of alcohol; I also get angry that they’re ignoring the law that stipulates alcohol is for ages 21 and older. I can hear myself sounding like a parent in a student’s body, but I wrote this article to share my opinions, unpopular as they may be, on underage drinking. Sometimes, I end up picturing myself at a party with alcohol, which makes me extremely nervous. Like I said earlier, even being near intoxicated people brings me plenty of discomfort. Alcohol commonly lowers inhibitions, inciting raucous and inappropriate behavior––frankly, I already struggle enough with that kind of thing––and even leading to burned bridges from drunk texts and such. Additionally, I fear that drinking a few times will lead to an addiction, like my penchant for nail-biting, only far more harmful. Juvenile alcoholism pervades the justice system due to teenagers’ easy access to beer, vodka, etc; studies also prove that drinking heavily from a young age eventually degrades the liver and can even (in the long-term) result in cancer. Obviously, I’m focusing on the worst-case scenarios here, but I’m not crazy––even without those health risks, alcohol is kind of scary.
I didn’t plan for this article to be an attempt at curbing underage drinking, but it looks like that’s what I wrote. I try not to judge people who make the decision to partake in a few beers at a party––I’d consider myself more anxious than judgmental––but it can become a problem if the drinkers don’t watch themselves. What I ask, readers, is that you give your drink some thought before you begin, pace yourselves, consider your hazy, intoxicated decisions before acting, and please don’t drive buzzed. Thanks for listening.