I think we accept some pretty weird stuff just because we’ve been brought up to think it’s normal—think high heels, black pudding, ears, heterosexuality, or Halloween.
Recently I’ve been considering the pros and cons of alcohol: why do we do it, why we do so much of it and in particular, why much of the younger generation (in Australia at least) sees it as an absolutely necessary addition to any “fun” night.
About a week ago, I realised that I’ve accepted excessive drinking as a rite of passage for young people: an acceptable, if not obligatory way to spend the weekend. It’s more normal than weekly dinners with our parents, or attending all our lectures at school or doing regular exercise.
Once, I actually I found myself looking for hangover cures before I even had the hangover, from herbal remedies like marshmallow root in the health food store to my personal favourite: Coke and spring rolls. I accepted that I would need to account for at least 30% of my pay to go towards going out because like many people I know, I would suffer some nasty “Fear of Missing Out”.
I earn a rather small wage working as a waitress, but I often end up spending a lot of it on booze, pre-drinking food, drunk-food, hangover-delivery-food and Gatorade.
Hipster cafés even serve Berocca and a tasty range of breakfast cocktails to cure our sore brains. Sometimes it feels like if I don’t get sloshed enough to snort some miscellaneous substance off a toilet seat, the common consensus is that I didn’t have as much fun as the guy who did.
But I get some wicked hangover blues—and during those times, it all just doesn’t seem worth it.
I’ll wake up and spend the entire day in bed feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about a tiny insignificant comment I made, or a misunderstanding that came about due to four espresso martinis and a broken thought-filter. Maybe I made a joke about my friend’s much older boyfriend’s age, or admitted that I watched the Bachelor the other night and enjoyed it—there are some things people just shouldn’t hear.
Drinking can be a means of escape, a cuddly blanket in social situations, and it’s often really enjoyable, but the more I think about it, the more I realise how absurdly strange, physically damaging, financially draining, and emotionally debilitating it is.
I might be late in the game to realise that many of us are bordering on being alcoholics, and that our level of drinking isn’t in fact normal. We drink so much that now in Australia we celebrate “Dry July”, “Feb Fast” and “Octsober”. Next there will be “Sober September” and “Don’t-Have-a-Drink-December” and “Say-No-November”,
Why are so many of us trying to give up something that should be enjoyable?
I think the answer is that we just hit it too hard, often because our culture tells us it’s normal.
Our shock-and-horror responses to friends who don’t have a beer in their hand at a party are telling enough.
“Do you have to work in the morning? Wait—I don’t understand.” (Insert bewildered expression, silence and confusion here. Minds blown.)
I told a friend lately that I’d decided to stop drinking and just have one every now and again.
Her response: “Oh, you mean drinking like a normal person?”
I was offended, partly because “how dare she make negative assumptions about me?”, but partly because it was true.
Perhaps I’m not as smart as I thought I was, but it’s better late than never to stop filling our bellies with so much of the “wacky juice” that we think eating three Big Macs, taking mushrooms at a warehouse party and sleeping with our best friends are good ideas.
Praise the booze-less (or less-booze) culture—may it improve university grades, mental health and increase bank balances for all.
Love elephant and want to go steady?