Last Friday I was out to dinner with my girlfriend. It was a nice place, in the sense that the restaurant had artwork and waiters who weren’t quite sure where their acting careers were going. My girlfriend got a glass of wine, I got a cup of coffee. I mostly got a cup of coffee because I’d just watched an episode of Louie, and that’s what ends up happening when you get wholly consumed by Louie. But I partly got a cup of coffee due to my girlfriend and I’s recent shared epiphany–that we officially hated drinking alcohol.
Two weeks prior, we had both attended our college’s homecoming. Having graduated in 2012, this was our second year back at Georgetown. The year prior was magical, in the sense that if you bring it up, my eyes will get all wide and I’ll talk slightly louder than usual. There are stories to accompany this magic, but they’re the sorts of stories that I’d have to force you to give a shit about. The types of stories every 22 year-old thinks are great, but probably aren’t actually.
I didn’t totally know what to expect this year, but I figured it’d be somewhat of the same–a weekend to let loose, a weekend to reminisce while simultaneously honing my 30-60 second “this is where I’m at in life” sales pitch. Friday evening started innocently enough; grabbing pitchers at the place we always used to grab pitchers, looking around at the people we never talked to two years ago who were trying to recreate the same exact moment we were going for. Our group’s conversation wasn’t exactly stifled, but the silences definitely weren’t as comfortable as they once were–some of the inside jokes we collectively shared had evidently decided it was time to get some fresh air.
One thing led to another, and an hour later we (me and four close dude friends) found ourselves at a party hosted by our fraternity. Given that we were “the cool seniors” back in the day, the current guys running the show couldn’t be more enthused to see us walk in unannounced; to them, we were this mysterious royalty that owned campus like Daniel Planview owned Eli Sunday. So even though they probably realized we weren’t remotely as cool as they initially thought, us walking in was quite was a big deal. As one of the younger dudes semi-toolishly proclaimed, “it was now a party.”
This wasn’t a party the five of us were used to, though. This was a college party. And although we’d only been out of the game for 16 months, the scene we were presented with was minorly appalling. The main room featured nothing but a singular table, on which was a near endless choice of terrible tasting alcohol. In the corner was the keg. In the back was the sound of ping pong balls, and Bros telling other Bros that they’re definitely gonna nail that next cup.
When you’re out of the game for long enough, you forget that there’s literally nothing to do at a college party other than drink as much as humanly possible. And you forget that you’re not only doing it cause you think it’s fun–you’re doing because that’s the objective. Especially at a place like Georgetown, where the high achiever ethos only translates if you’re maxing out everything–social life included. It’s something that you never really consider while you’re in it, but is something that, upon returning to, becomes nothing short of terrifying; not so much because this is what people do, but because this is what you did. This is what you did all the time.
We stayed there for about an hour, during which I said the same 3 things all 23 year-olds are gonna say at a party designed for people three years their junior; “how did we ever drink this shitty vodka,” “holy shit these freshman are young,” and “I can’t believe we did this every weekend.” Those statements got progressively slurred as the hour went on, as us elders were treated to a near-endless parade of shots and group toasts. Not that any of us wanted to wolf down Burnett’s Sour Apple Vodka, but again–we were their heroes. And heroes, allegedly, are ceaselessly commemorated with shots of Burnett’s Sour Apple Vodka.
Eventually, the five of us decided that if we stayed any longer, it’d probably start to get a bit creepy. So we said our goodbyes, and the night continued in a fashion that was technically “epic”–the exceptional college pace continued, we very much embarrassed ourselves at the bar we ended up staggering around, and the majority of us ended up vomiting. (Prior to that night, I had only vomited from drinking once in my life. So of course, I made sure to tell everyone I possibly know about what happened. This, above all, is the entire point.)
The next day we had planned to engage in a slew of homecoming-ish activities–a kegs and eggs pregame, the school-wide tailgate, a revisit to our favorite bar. But given what had happened the night before, my college roommate and I couldn’t do anything except repeat the phrase I’m never drinking again about 47 times over. So instead of reliving our college days, we resolved to spend the afternoon in a dark movie theater. Technically to go see the Joseph Gordon Levitt vehicle Don Jon, but primarily to take a nap and have an excuse for not going to the tailgate.
I ended up saying awake through the entire movie. I told people it was pretty good. But more than that, it prompted me to start severely contemplating stuff greater than the movie. Which may be the mark of a solid movie, but was probably just the mark of me feeling like the time was ripe to (contrivedly) acknowledge the following epiphany:
Last year, Georgetown was home. This year, it was a party that we couldn’t really stay at for more than an hour–otherwise, it’d start getting kind of creepy.
The next day, we drove back up to New York–myself, my girlfriend, and my college roommate. You could almost feel the pride swelling in everyone; we were going home. Sixteen months later, and we were returning to our lives–lives now completely removed from the beer soaked floors where we initially forged such strong bonds. Lives that were wholly and completely part of the next slide; different landscape, different outfits, and remarkably different alcohol tolerance. But through and through, the same smile. Well, basically the same smile.
Back at the restaurant, my girlfriend placed down her wine glass, almost disgusted at the fact she was even drinking wine.
“I don’t know how we did it in college, I really don’t.”
“Me neither,” I replied.
“Is this who we are now?”
“Yea. But like, I kinda like this.”
She reconsidered for a moment. Then, that same swell of unmistakable pride.
“Yea. I mean it is pretty cool.”
We ended up going back to my apartment and watching Moonrise Kingdom. It wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, but that wasn’t the point. Just hanging out like that–and then waking up in morning and reading together like a 42 year-old couple trying to set a good example to their kids–was probably the highlight of the week.
That night, we both went out pretty hard. The next morning, we decided that we were never drinking again.