Harsh Words On Alcohol
Whenever Adar rolls around, my Editor's Message gets confessional. (C'mon, you know you love it.) So here's the big confession: I don't have a driver's license. Yes, that's right, growing up in south suburban Boston, the lone spoiled child of two very giving parents, I was firm about not driving until I was given a car, and said car never materialized. Thus I'm 22 and yes, that's my permit in lieu of my great editor's photo. So what's the connection to alcohol?
As a high school student I was president of SADD, or Students Against Driving Drunk. I figured, not only did I not drive, but I didn't drink either, and thus why not run SADD since there was no conflict of interest? (Okay, I did and still do firmly believe it's an incredible organization, but seriously, what a perfect practice-what-you-preach gig!) Today, as I tool around Manhattan in my Grand Prix Auto School Student Driver car, I could still be the president of SADD, since while I am a fan of the occasional drink I know that driving under any influence is just beyond stupid.
In college we are quick to take stands against drunk driving; in my sorority at Columbia, we have to sign contracts before formal events where alcohol will be served, PROMISING – legally binding ourselves – to take taxis both directly to and from the venue. This rule, which may seem strange, is the result of massacres happening when students at larger schools where cars are an option would drive home drunk for programming. Delta Gamma wants us to promise not to get behind the wheel.
What I want to know is, why doesn't someone stand up and say that the problem with drinking is not just about driving, it's with being drunk?
Listening to people talk about how "wasted" they were is tragic. Hearing how many shots someone can take hasn't been cool since I was on Nativ, and even then it was more sketchy than impressive. While drunk driving rules are a great beginning to substantative alcohol policy, why not concern ourselves more with the college kids who aren't driving but who are walking home to others' dorm rooms, drunk – plastered, to use terminology thrown around in "morning after" discussions – who lose self-respect and gain reputations and sometimes worse consequences?
Jews DO drink too, contrary to ages-old perceptions, and I don't just mean that grape juice we like to call Manischevitz. We're quick to abuse alcohol on the Jewish holidays in the very name of Judaism. Simchat Torah, Purim – two big occasions when being at JTS is both excellent and scary. I'd be a liar if I didn't own up to my own mixing of Etrog Martinis (an apartment 64 favorite, to be sure); but using any occasion – a chag, a birthday, finals being over – to become stupid is just foolish. Read Harry Pell's excellent article and you'll be convinced that moderation is really what Judaism preaches, without the enthusiastic overindulgence that's become so popular.
Perhaps my main issue is with the "why" behind the drinking. People drink to lose their inhibitions and loosen up... but perhaps people should learn other ways to boost their self-esteem and eliminate personal insecurity, like finding friends who value and love them for what makes them special, and engaging in activities with people who don't require them to be the drunk entertainment side show.
Food for thought.
Non-Jewish students express views on drinking
P.S. After posting the results of this month's "Five Questions, Five Minutes" there was lots of mixed feedback. KOACHites wanted to know if Jews and non-Jews would answer the same way. Not a problem. Check out the responses below. (Of course, this is anything but a scientific study.)
Revised "Five Questions, Five Minutes" for Audrey's Non-Jewish Friends
1. Washington, DC
3. Yes; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.
4. Overall in a good way, if done responsibly. College is a good time to learn your limits and make some mistakes to learn from in a controlled environment.
5. Good way.
1. West Berlin, NJ
2. I was baptized Catholic but was raised Methodist. Today I don't go to church or anything but i do believe in religion.
3. I drink socially but not very much; I don't have any health problems or anything. I just am not a big drinker.
4. I think it can if you let it... like if you drink just because all your friends do and you get pressured into it than it can affect it, but i don't think it has to.
1. Lawrence, Kansas
2. United Methodist, I am still practicing today
3. I do drink, fairly frequently, four or five times a week, there is some opposition, but not enough to make me stop.
4. Good way, it builds bonds and introduces you to people.
5. It has so far, for the better, but it's not like my college experience is based around it.
1. Indianapolis, Indiana
3. Yes, 1 or 2 a weekend or at special occasions
4. Bad way / doesn't; there are very few social opportunities that do not center around alcohol.
1. Moorcroft, WY
2. Christianity, Lutheran Denomination. I still attend church regularly
3. Yes, probably two nights a week on a weekend.
4. I think it definitely affects the experience and whether or not it's good or bad is dependent on a person's self-restraint, self-control. In other words, in moderation I think it facilitates meeting people and bonding. However, I think too many people rely on it to have a good time and to the extent that your social life revolves around it, it's a bad thing.
5. I think it affects it in a bad way if I don't prioritize other things first or think ahead to the day of non-productivity after drinking. However, I have fun so as long as I plan correctly, it's a good thing.
1. Solvang, California
2. Protestant Christian
3. Yes, occasionally.
4. It definitely affects the college experience, in a good way if you are responsible.
5. It affects my experience minimally because my social life doesn't revolve around it.
1. Honolulu, Hawaii
2. Christianity (no denomination)
3. Yes, but not often...once a month or so.
4. It definitely does affect the college experience, I wouldn't say good or bad because it is an innate part of the experience, but I guess it is often positive because it can help people gain maturity and responsibility and independence. it can also be bad, when students abuse it and do not learn from mistakes.
5. It does not have a great affect on my experience because I don't choose to make it an important part of my life here. I would say positive rather than negative, though, because it can be used to enhance a fun event.
1. Northfield, MN
2. Christian. My mother was raised Catholic, so church was very important but my church was very, very liberal.
3. Yes, sometimes -- probably two or three times a month (more in summer).
4. Hmmm... It definitely affects the college experience. Sometimes it can be good... sometimes can get out of hand and become a problem. I guess it depends on the person
5. I didn't start drinking until junior year. I generally had thought that it affected my experience in a good way **but** I actually have been having second thoughts... if I get hung over, it is *not* worth it and can end up wasting a lot of my time. Generally, I have decided only to drink when I really really want to, and if I can relax / have a good time without it, then I don't bother drinking.