by Kaiwen Liu
On the Road to Independence
As the morning breeze skims across our face and through our hair, we can feel the slight vibration from the friction of the roads and the tires. Mom has not stopped talking about the daily essentials you might need at school that you missed, and dad looks peaceful as usual, paying attention on the road. Our mind is somewhere else, traveling faster than the diesel car, heading to a destination where our presence is treasured and praised.
We are busy planning for our first step to independence, a blueprint for our life that we finally take control of; in our mind, however, the forgetting is faster than the imagining. The excitement and the massive scale of the concept of independent life continuously overwhelms our meticulous flow chart, and eventually overturns all the fuzz and confidence to optimism.
University life represents a chapter of academia, intelligence, youth, and destructive drinking and partying. On this journey, we will be tested with luring sins; we will face the questions of our identities, and endure longing loneliness. This path can be joyous, cheerful, challenging, or dreadful. But we believe we are ready, ready for the uncertainty, ready to fall and rise. It’s time to face the world through our knowledge; it’s time to face ourselves through our hearts.
First Encounter: Frosh
Frosh is also known as the orientation week when multiple icebreaking social events are held by volunteers and campus staff to welcome newly enrolled students, by providing a safe, fun, and inclusive experience to all students.
Some students’ expectation of the orientation week is extrapolated from their high school parties; some may have anticipated the event based on word of mouth, and some simply let their imagination run wild. No matter what expectation we have in mind, we all know some of them will be met and others may not. Our passionate participation, however, certainly proves our courage to take on this ride to an uncertain direction.
This unknown direction of intoxication may lead to drunk behaviors such as violence, health crisis, harassment, or simply a bad trip. Sometimes, the drunk version of ourselves doesn’t reflect our true selves, and learning about drinking responsibly is a prerequisite of entering an ‘animal house’. To help us avoid bad adventures, the analysis of partying and drinking behaviors brings clarity for our individual purposes of participation in frosh and future parties.
Why Do We Party
I looked around the dancefloor, people were dancing, singing, and kissing. The smell of dry ice and stale beer could not be distinguished. Gradually, my drunkenness faded away, but my feelings of fatigue, thirst, and hunger had not come back. The music died down, and the lights slowly stopped moving. Scanning the crowd of strange faces and sweaty bodies, I was only conscious of my searching gaze… like a starved animal looking for food; although I was no longer certain whether I was the predator or the prey. I had never felt so desperate and vulnerable. Who or what was I looking for?
-Field Note, 2019 frosh
Partying, meeting friends, and drinking alcohol has rooted in our set of traditions and social behaviors since the early ages, but our ancestors never explain well why this tradition has remained and prolonged. Why do we party? Why do we drink with friends? What’s the fun in the process of being wasted?
Primal Instinct to Connect
It is believed that parties facilitate groups of people to synchronize feelings (drunkenness or ‘buzz’). Drinking and dancing are presented as a common ground, a universal language to express shared feelings, as most of the functionality of parties promotes collective and temporary irresponsibility, and by which, participants present their unified interests to each other and create connections. Such social behavior also can be observed in religious rituals where groups are tied by a same belief or a custom through gatherings and activities.
This concept is supported by Dimitris Xygalatas- an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. He speculates that when we attend a music festival, the acts we identify with will sprinkle us with the fairy dust of collective effervescence while the ones that aren’t part of our identity might leave us disconnected, and unsynchronized.
Further, we imitate each other’s behaviors such as drinking and dancing in social venues to forge bonds and connections. University of Montreal researcher, Paul Carls suggested that participants intend to achieve a high degree of collective emotional excitement or delirium in a social setting. Imitation, as the most fundamental human behavior, signals to others our friendly gesture and the openness for connections.
Enhancement of Socialization
As one of the other reasons to drink, drinkers welcome the drunk version of themselves to remedy their poor social skills. However, while drunk folks enjoy their conversation mutually and pleasantly, sober folks generally find drunk people to be rude and speak irrationally. In fact, if the social skill of a drunk person is enhanced, the improvement only exhibits among the drinking fellows.
Confidence improves when drinking, which is stated partially and imprecisely. Alcohol is not the potion we take, which would convince us to have control of variables. Drinking does not bend self perceptions. Folks won’t necessarily start to believe they possess superpowers and leap off a building after they become drunk. The short-term effects of alcohol decrease motor skills and desensitize our central nervous system. In other words, our competence worsens, but most drinkers are aware of their drunkenness. So why are our social skills perceptibly considered better?
Drinking reduces inhibitions. The level of ignorance worsens, and the ability of analytical thinking regresses when alcohol is consumed. As blood alcohol content increases, moderate drinkers would manifest the state of relaxation and increased verbosity. Drinkers progressively lose the ability to contemplate their thoughts and plans of actions, leading to a reduced ability to evaluate consequences (Grattan KE, 2001). Intoxication inflates inconsiderate characters. Consequently, with decreased attentional control and reduced depth perception, drinkers care less for the outcome or the direction of their conversations. Without shame and doubt, people become rather ‘talkative’ in the shell of false confidence.
Unpredictability attracts drinkers to return to their world of the unknown. By drinking, people seek adventures, a getaway from their daily static routines. The chaotic and ludicrous experience shared by drinkers is considered a change – an extraordinary adventure in their ordinary life. As emerging adults, college students are liberated from the regulations and sanctions that their previous educational institution and their parents required (Ven, 2011), and the thrill of drinking can be led by the absence of the behavioral regulations.
The pressure of tests can be exhausting.; Weeks of continuous papers and assignments may have drained our last interest in the course; reality and anxiety may have started to gnaw on the hope of our perfect dreams. In college, some students decide to extricate themselves from these troubles by drinking. The common saying, ‘drink your worries away’, explains one of the reasons people drink. With a lower attention control, as our brain is busy assessing the feelings of drunkenness and our body is mitigating the impairments, the pain and the daily troubles slowly drift away in a temporary numbness.
It is commonly misunderstood that alcohol is the main contributor to a hook-up. Drinking does not necessarily impel people to have sexual relations, and with a tolerable consumption- alcohol does not eliminate people’s autonomy to choose partners. The truth is a frog won’t receive a kis
s from the princess just because she has a few drinks after dinner. However, gentlemen tend to wrongfully believe that ladies are more open to sexuality when they are drunk. In some cases, an aggressive approach and a harsh refusal may lead to sexual victimization.
Some women and men struggle to talk to opposite sex when sober. Alcohol may lead to a hook-up by lowering people’s inhibition. In the eyes of a drunk person, opposite sex may emit more friendliness and security that entails a relaxing and charming appearance. Occasionally, alcohol can be used as a resource or tool to lead to a hook-up by sharing a spontaneous feeling of openness and relaxation (Ven, 2011).
Conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Studies found that if a society believes that intoxication leads to sexual , rowdy, or aggressive behavior then people tend to act that way when intoxicated. Alcohol is used to justify and rationalize our bold behavior such as an active approach to our love interest. Drunkenness is also often used as an excuse to unsuccessful or unsatisfactory sexual encounters. A night of reckless and aggressive flirtatious behavior is much easier to defend using the reason of drunkenness than to be accused of being a terrible human being.
To Our Wonderful Youth, Wonderful Life
When you look among the party crowd and realize you are the computer nerd with a stoop, or the underage holding a soft drink, or the foreigner who speaks in an accent, the virgin who still can’t talk to girls, or the misfit, or the stranger, you are not alone. Trust the people around you. Share your happiness and troubles and listen to theirs. We drink for the fate we share, being here tonight, together.
Now drink up and let the tears of joy fill our hearts. We celebrate for our friendships, for our wonderful youth, for our wonderful life.
Grattan KE, V.-S. M. (2001). Maintaining intentional control of behavior under alcohol.
Ven, T. V. (2011). Gettings Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard. NYU Press.