The Unspoken Rules Of Drinking After College

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. TC mark


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  • Michael Koh

    Why can't I make out with anyone I want? Maybe they're the 'one'.

    • Alex Thayer

      maybe you're the one

      • Michael Koh

        You're the 'one'. Drinks later?

      • Stephanie Georgopulos

        Can I come?

      • Michael Koh

        $2 pitchers on Wednesdays and $6 on Sundays if you get into the bar with me.

      • Stephanie Georgopulos


  • Sarah

    Uh oh

  • vince

    Uhh i don't know if these unspoken rules are applicable to wherever someone might be living. I'm 23 and I do not hold fast to all of these. However, friends from my age ranging roughly up to about 30 definitely DO NOT follow these rules. I suppose you'll have to take my word for it, but these are accomplished, smart people. Who do “have their shit together.”

    So to these “rules” I'm gonna have to say, no. Just. No.

    Maybe guidelines at best.

    • Brandon

      helps if you read with some semblance of a sense of humor in mind

    • Michael Koh


  • lovesandliiiiies

    i live in la and i think it is very different here. based on what i know from friends who have moved to ny, people tend to get their shit together in their 20's in ny and in their 30's in la. idk

  • Bots kent

    Gosh i may as well just kill myself now, you depression rational fuck

    • Bots kent

      I wanna delete that, i'm just in the process of failing at life…. never mind me

      • jeffreysmoore153

        Just edit it to something else!

  • Perfect Circles

    This is pretty much spot on.  Living through #1 made me not really interested in stage 2 or 3.

  • Stephanie Georgopulos

    Spot on, well done. Although I think you can occasionally make exceptions for making out like… on vacation or when you want to feel young again without the 48-hour hangover. Once in a while.

  • Alex Thayer

    bros, i have to get up at 6 tomorrow.  if you want to come to my house we can drink my two remaining beers, but i'm gonna be in bed by 11 at the latest.

  • Dudez

    note to self: don't hang out with you. you sound like a fucking boring soul.

    • aaron nicholas


    • Brandon

      hate the game dude.

    • Duke Holland of Gishmale

      You should read the section that starts with “An in-control person doesn’t need alcohol to chill.”

  • Amy

    At 24 I am nowhere near giving up drunkingly (or soberly, lets be honest here) making out in public.

  • Robertbenesh

    … I don't even… I wish I had admin powers so I could delete this article.

    • Samuel Walker

      jbz we need to talk about your boozing

  • Greg

    pretty good post, but I'm gonna nitpick right now. People who don't drink in high school are pussies? Really? I drank in my last year of high school, but I'll be the first to admit that some of the toughest people I knew didn't touch any substances at all. Then again, I didn't attend school in some suburb(PS 23 pride!)…gotta fill your time somehow right?

  • christopher lynsey

    cool article

  • Mjk

    i wish this wasn't true. barrrf

  • Blue

    That's why when you get to your mid-twenties it's best to start drinking in secrecy. Wine in the bath, pulls off a bottle before you get to the bar so you don't look desperate with your ''one tumbler of johnnie walker”. See what these rules do?! They turn us into alcoholics!

  • Willfordbrimly

    $2 pitchers? Where the HELL do you live and how quickly can I move there?

  • Auckland

    Hah, this is definitely an American thing.  In New Zealand, going out with responsible adults with things like tie-wearing jobs, houses, and infants still means drinking three jugs apiece and closing down the bars.  In fact, it's sort of unacceptable not to.  Suckers.

  • YoGIRL

    Does grad school count as college? If not, I'm breaking all the rules.

    • bodythatmatters

      im glad you said it first!!

  • Ramblien

    ryan, is this the first time you've namedropped gchat? it's about time.

    through an automated result of a fleeting exchange, you ended up on my gchat buddy list, though i doubt i am on yours. i see you online every day. busy status, no custom message. always. #creepy

    • Perfect Circles

      you're on each other's.  message him.

  • JEAmaty

    “Save that for more genuine moments in Gmail chat with the dude from another state that’s courting you online.”

    Gchat is the only place I have genuine moments anymore.  That's what living with your parents back in your small hometown and getting drunk every night by yourself will do to you.  Age: mid 20s

  • Ted

    B. Scully Gorrell, thank you for writing this article for/about me. I promise to rein it in.

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