I’ve come to believe that typical drinking behavior assumes at least three distinct stages throughout a certain kind of American’s life, and they go something like this:
- Forbidden drinking. You’re underage and your parents aren’t cool with you drinking, but you really, really want to drink. You’re probably a sophomore or junior in high school around this stage, and many Friday nights are spent contemplating beer runs (stealing beer by going into a grocery store and literally running out with a 24-pack of beer, into your friend’s car, and screaming away), Hey Mistering, or anxiously deciding whether or not the ID you found looks enough like you to pass without incident when trying to buy beer from the Indian 7-11 employee. The defining aspect of this stage is that all your friends are fixated on getting alcohol because it’s fun, new, interesting, and guarantees an awesome, vomity time. Naturally, then, during this phase, no one questions the merits of drinking every time you go out and socialize; if you’re drinking, you’re conspicuously superior to your peers, who aren’t drinking because their parents didn’t give them money to go out tonight, they weren’t in the right place at the right time, or they’re pussies.
- College. You’re over 21, have discovered the benefit of drinking in regards to the ability to sexually maneuver your way into the pants of someone lusted-after, are into drinking games, and have a group of friends for which nights are centered around 40s and beer pong. The primary component of this drinking phase is that alcohol’s presence on a nightly basis is Unquestionably Good. Parties revolve around alcohol – they’re even alcohol themed (see: “keggers,” “kegs,” “juicers,” “open bars,”) etc. Drinking during this phase happens at binge level and is completely commonplace; just as are studying and sex, alcohol becomes a staple behavior. Blacking out and vomiting during this stage are fairly regular and not at all embarrassing or surprising, the sting of terrible hangovers has not yet revealed itself to be the beast it will be in your later years, you’re free to make out with random strangers in conspicuous places, and it’s fun to be carried home. Alcohol, in this stage, is like The Spice in Dune, only its much easier to attain, and makes you a lot sillier.
- Immediately post-college bar scene. After college, you’re thrusted into the real world to Find A Job and Be Self Sufficient, and in turn, you become aware that the people in this world think binge drinking after college actually = alcoholism and a potential sign that one doesn’t have one’s shit together. You suddenly find that drinking too much is a shameful, embarrassing thing to do, when drinking too much was just a matter of course and something to be laughed at during your college years. As such, you realize you’ve entered a world of a more sophisticated quality – one where drinks are “enjoyed” at a gallery opening, where wine comes “paired” with pieces of meat, where “going out for drinks” likely ends at 1am.
And so this is where we are. No doubt there are more drinking stages; probably they include simply not caring anymore, simply not feeling the anxiety of not being able to nurse a beer whenever you’re out with friends, etc., but let’s talk about where most of us are at. And so without more long-winded, contextual over-explaining, what follows are the unspoken rules of drinking after college.
- An in-control person doesn’t need alcohol to chill. No, an in-control person doesn’t need alcohol to socialize anymore. An in-control person is totally comfortable and has just as much fun at a bar sipping one tumbler of Johnnie Walker for over two hours as the dude that’s getting ‘rip-roaring’ shit-faced in the seat next to him.
- Never slur your words. Slurring your words as the result of alcohol consumption at this point in your life is something you don’t want to be doing. You’ve Had Too Much and You Didn’t Know When To Stop; You Have No Self Control. “Who is this chick? Is she still in college or something? I told you not to bring college kids to my parties, anymore. I told you. She’s totally shit-faced! Oh my god, get her out of here, I have to wake up at 7:30 tomorrow morning!!”
- No more blacking out. Blacking out is a big no-no after college: besides convincing everyone you’re Living In The Past (college) and Have Some Growing Up To Do, you’re inadvertently distancing yourself from those who’ve come to identify themselves as Responsible Drinkers who are on the path to Settling Down.
- Don’t drunkenly make out with people you just met in public. The consensus of the post-college drinking scene seems to be that drunkenly making out with people you’ve just met in public is juvenile. I know – it sucks, but the wine drinkers at the Franzen reading afterparty are gonna be more comfortable talking about the merits of flexistentialism than gawking over your drunken PDA. Sorry.
- Don’t get carried home. In the post-college drinking world, getting carried home indicates that you can’t handle your shit, you’re irresponsible, you’re probably depressed, lost, or stuck on someone that broke up with you a year ago, etc. It indicates that you have Issues and that you’re probably having a Nervous Breakdown. Altogether, getting carried home is an unseemly break in social convention in the post-college drinking world.
- No more drinking until you vomit. Drinking until you vomit was cool in high school and was a funny thing to do in college, but post-college, puking after a night out is generally thought of as a mistake. And if you’re still puking from alcohol consumption on a regular basis in the post-college world, people will think you have a drinking problem.
- Don’t reveal too much. In high school we have best friends, in college we make great friends who we want to share everything with, but post-college, many of us lose that open-armed innocence, and oversharing can become awkward, sensitive and political. So when you get drunk after college, make sure not to spill out the details of your sex life with your ex-boyfriend to random strangers drinking at the bar. Save that for more genuine moments in Gmail chat with the dude from another state that’s courting you online.
- Most importantly, gauge your drunkeness. No one here’s saying that you can’t get drunk in the post-college world. You can, so long as your level of inebriation is no higher than the average level of inebriation in your group. If everyone’s smashed, fine – go wild. But if everyone’s pleasantly tipsy and starting to check their watches, well, you get the idea.