You Booze, You Win?

by Ali Sherbach

Class of 2006

Watching as I walked up to the register with two handles of vodka, my mother eyes widened. “Are you really going to drink all that over the course of the semester?” she asked. Laughing awkwardly, I looked away and told her that I would be sharing the vodka with friends. College translation: The vodka will be gone in a fortnight (if I’m lucky enough to stretch it that long).

But the cards were against me and the vodka lasted less than a week. I wish I could say that I shared my spirits generously, threw a small party, or even accidentally misplaced a bottle, but the events of the past week spin a slightly different tale. A tale, mind you, that I have a vague idea of at best, which is par for the course when it comes to binge drinking.

What I do remember however, is nothing I’d call home to tell Mom about. After getting silly with liquor on Monday night, I spent my Wednesday night consuming an entire thirty-rack of beer with my two roommates. A casual game of Beirut ended my Thursday night, after which my roommate and I found ourselves alone with two juniors we had met only moments earlier on a five-minute Cruiser ride.

But the best was yet to come. I discovered one of these men on our futon the next afternoon – yes, afternoon – covered in vomit, barely recalling how he got where he was and with no memory whatsoever of either my or my roommate’s names. Friday and Saturday were mostly uneventful, but this might be because the only thing I actually remember from the weekend is walking up to a bouncer at one of the bars and leaving with his phone number programmed into my cell phone. Please, hold your judgment.

As a four-year veteran of the Colgate drinking scene, I’m aware that drinking five days of the week is not something that many students would find shocking or outlandish; my stories are those told in any typical week by any typical student. When I think back to my freshman year, however, I am taken aback at the change in my attitude towards drinking. Back then I would never have even considered the possibility of going out so often. Back then I would never have even so much as sipped an alcoholic beverage.

It’s true, just four years ago I was what you might consider “straightedge.” I didn’t use curse words, I didn’t break rules and I most certainly did not drink alcohol. I think the not-drinking thing was what really set me apart from my peers. At the time it made me different, and I thought being different was equivalent to being something special. It seemed like everyone was going out and having fun, but why should I be like everyone else? Joining in meant giving up what I considered the most interesting thing about myself, the only thing that really made me stand out.

After two miserable years here, I made a choice that changed my life. I decided I did not have to sit alone in my room every night if I didn’t want to. I decided there are worse fates than being “just like everyone else”. I guess the politically correct thing to say is that I harbor some regrets about all this, or that I don’t recommend drinking to anyone before the age of 21, but the truth is something quite different.

By opening myself up and connecting with people rather than distancing myself from them, I learned more about who I was and what I wanted from life in a few months than I had in the past twenty years. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that there is little to be proud of when you find yourself getting belligerent more nights of the week than not and I agree that college drinking is out of control, but it beats spending your evenings alone or feeling like you’re being molested every time you enter the Jug.

Is it wrong and illegal to drink when you are under the age of 21? Yes. Is it wrong to give in to a kind of group mentality? Probably, but I did. And quite frankly it’s not something I’m willing to apologize for.

What I’ve really learned in the past four years, and even in the past week, is that you will never meet someone who is exactly like you. If at the end of the day the only thing that you find interesting about yourself is your conscious decision to be different, then maybe you’re selling yourself a little short.