Opinion | Columns

I’ll pass on the alcohol

I love it when my friends and I just hang out in our rooms at night, laugh at each other, and go out to restaurants at night. Actually, I can’t wait to go out this weekend again.

But I’ll pass on the alcohol.

Columbia nightlife has become overly centered on drinking. Alcohol is widely considered a required aspect of any social gathering. Without it, parties are considered “illegitimate.” This is sad, though, because one implication is that people need alcohol to have a good time.

I might be biased against drinking—I’ve never even been to a frat party before—but I’ve become frustrated these days with the superficiality of social life in college, specifically at parties.

I remember a scene from last year’s Bacchanal: My friends and I were invited to a party in an East Campus suite. There was free beer and loud, bad music (which is typical in college), but what annoyed me most was how boring everyone there was. One guy was so drunk that he couldn’t even remember his name. He kept laughing at things we said, even when I just asked my friend what time it was.

“You guys are so cute!” He drawled, dressed in a red bandana and white T-shirt. Bored, my friends and I left the party to hang out on the lawn later on.

The next day, when we saw the same guy walking down college walk towards us, he clearly didn’t even remember us enough to say “hi.” My friends and I also were hesitant to talk to him, so we ended up just walking away from each other in different directions, pretending like nothing had ever happened. Sure, people may have fun at parties, but what’s the point if nobody cares about the interactions that happen afterward? In other words, the experiences he had at the party the previous night were superficial, because they were forgotten.  

Because alcohol relaxes us and makes us less restrained, we feel like we’re having more fun when drunk than when we are tense, guarded, and sober. But the reality is, these good feelings while drunk are fleeting. This is not to say that I’m against all drinking, though. In fact, I think it’s okay to loosen up with friends to de-stress after a week of hard work. However, when excessive drinking becomes the main or only means of socializing, it prevents us from having raw, genuine human interactions with others. These interactions are the kind in which you’re solely focused on the dynamic between you and another person—you’re attentive to other people and actively listening to and relaying your own thoughts. This is authentic human engagement, the kind that you have when you’re sober.

Happiness ought to come from within. It is the genuine feeling we have when we are happy or engrossed in a funny conversation with the people we like and enjoy spending time with. It’s the kind of feeling we have when we let our emotions flow naturally. When we’re sitting on the steps with our friends and gossiping about the weird things that happened in our days, we feel a sense of closeness and enjoyment that we don’t feel when we’re drunk talking to random people at parties. We should be able to enjoy spending time with people without the influence of alcohol, because this is the only way in which we can have lasting, valuable memories.

It feels as if finding ways to have fun these days is harder than when we were kids. We’ve grown to adopt very narrow views of what constitutes fun, and have become less imaginative in findings outlets of entertainment—besides, of course, going to parties.

I often wish that I could go back to my childhood, because back when we were kids, having fun just seemed so effortless, you know? You could give us a pillow and a blanket and we’d build a fortress together. Our imaginations and love for fun were boundless. There were fewer social constraints that dictated what was cool or uncool, awkward or not. Fun was the norm, and any means by which that was achieved was best. We really didn’t have to worry about anything else. Now, though, besides going out to bars or clubs, it seems as though there really is very little else that we like to do.

Hopefully, my friends and I will continue finding ways to have fun without getting shit-faced every Thursday night. Though other people might think it’s quite boring, I think joking around with each other, sharing a milkshake at Tom’s Restaurant, or watching “New Girl” together is more fun than going out to a frat party.

This Thursday, I think I’ll pass on the alcohol.

Shannon Zhao is a Columbia College junior double majoring in political science and psychology. She is the secretary of the Extended West Campus Residence Hall Leadership Organization, a member of Columbia Debate, and an avid lover of Butler corn muffins. Confessions of a Corn Muffin runs alternate Wednesdays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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