As this Sunday draws to a close, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable chorus of “So… what did you do over the weekend?” I’ll be encountering at work. I’ll be giving the same answer I always give:
Well, that’s not entirely true. I slept in, did a little reading, cleaned up my house, shopped for groceries, and surfed the web a bit. Barring the occasional oil change on my car, that’s pretty much all I do.
And for some reason, people take issue with that. I really and truly can’t count the number of times I’ve been called “old.” “You’re the oldest 22 year old I know.” “Your idea of fun… it’s like a 50 year old’s.” “You’re like an old man.”
EVAN: Alright, people of the internet, it’s time to stop correcting each other’s grammar in YouTube comments sections and start tuning in to the wisdom we’re about to drop out of our mouth-holes/fingertips.
On this installment of E> we will be discussing the ever-popular C2H5OH, more commonly known as alcohol, and how it’s treated in Western culture.
GORDON: Now right here we’re running up against a problem: “Western” culture isn’t exactly united on the subject of drinking. I mean, for the most part we’re fans, but there ARE some pretty distinct differences. For example, a severe alcoholic in Canada or America would in Europe be simply known as an Englishman.
EVAN: You make a very astute point, so I’m going to propose we boil this down to how North America [barring Mexico, sorry (though to be fair they should be used to this by now)] treats alcohol.
GORDON: Poor Mexico.
But let’s get right down to it and try to get a handle on the general stance we have on drinking in the west. We certainly like drinking, but drunkenness is largely viewed as something either juvenile or to be relegated to the weekends. Is that fair?
EVAN: Somewhat debatable.
GORDON: Then let’s debate.
EVAN: I suppose the question you have to ask yourself is who thinks it’s juvenile? I know a fair amount of people who consider it fairly normal to drink until they can’t see on the weekends, as regular and sacred a routine as my going to church on Sundays.
GORDON: I’ll admit freely that this does happen, but I wouldn’t say it’s what the average person does. In fact, the only people who really have the time and/or physical ability to do so are usually young people and students, bringing me back to the original point.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH YOUNG PEOPLE IN AMERICA [AND CANADA] AND BOOZE?
EVAN: I agree. So let’s talk about that. What’s the deal with young people in America [and Canada] and booze? Imagine I said that in a Jerry Seinfeld sort of voice.
GORDON: Well, Canada I can’t speak to as much, but I’d argue that the fact that booze is forbidden until the age of 21 has a lot to do with it. It turns alcohol, and to a similar degree, inebriation, into a taboo pleasure and a sign of rebellion and… well, I don’t want to say “maturity,” but I guess “adulthood” is gonna have to suffice.
EVAN: You’re preaching to the choir. A drinking age of 21 is levels of ridiculous, I mean, the only thing you can’t do at that age is rent a car [that’s at 25]. In Ontario the drinking age is 19, which is more or less what I imagined it would be when I was a kid.
GORDON: I’m guessing drinking doesn’t have quite the same mystique that it does in the US, huh?
EVAN: Well, to paint a picture of underage drinking, I visited Toronto for a summer while I was still living in Thailand. I must’ve been . . . sixteen, I guess. When I hung out with some former schoolmates a lot of what was talked about was fake IDs, and something called “drunk dial,” or something, which was apparently a number you could call where people of age would bring you booze for cash.
GORDON: Booze for cash? As opposed to what? Beads and trinkets? You have forever altered my image of Canadian society.
Youth drinking is such a small/easily dismissed part of drinking, though. What else is there to say?
GORDON: So says the hyped-up Hollywood media. High school is nothing but a drug-frenzied orgy to listen to ’em.
EVAN: Dude, when people become of age a lot of them get smashed, this is a true fact.
GORDON: Hence the need to get rid of the drinking age.
EVAN: Okay, so we do away with the drinking age altogether. Now what?
GORDON: Now drinking isn’t something you get to do, it’s something that has to be earned. 21 isn’t some magical number at which you can do no wrong and drink as much as you’re able. Abuse will still be there, but ideally we’ll see a drop in a lot of the stupid binging for binging’s sake.
EVAN: Wait, so how would we earn the right to drink?
GORDON: Well, naturally there’s not going to be any universal standard. I’m hoping decent parenting and societal pressure will enforce general standards for drinking. An eighteen year old who doesn’t drive recklessly and maintains a general balanced perspective on life shouldn’t be barred from having a glass of wine with dinner, especially when his twenty-four year old brother who still acts like a four year old has no limitations in this regard.
EVAN: I just realized that in many Canadian provinces drinking with parental supervision is permitted. I cannot find anything to the same effect for the US. Wait. Hold the phone.
“…17 states do not ban underage consumption, and the remaining 18 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws.”
GORDON: I’m pretty sure there’s one state somewhere in the Midwest with an old prohibition-era law stating that a minor can buy alcohol if accompanied by an adult, though only in very select situations; it’s pretty archaic.
Though let’s hash this out a bit- I’m guessing that most families aren’t going to be hosting chugging contests, or having little Timmy do tequila shots off the baby-seat.
EVAN:I don’t think that’s what people are worried about, though. I think the concern is more about fourteen-year-olds heading down to their local liquor store and buying a bottle of something that would kill an elephant.
Not to that extreme, of course, but at my old high school there was at least one kid who turned to drinking as a way to deal with stress.As to how, let it be known that you can buy beer at 7-11s in Thailand.
GORDON: You can buy anything in Thailand.
EVAN: You are not wrong.
GORDON: While I do absolutely agree with you, I think we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not “How can we stop kids from drinking” it’s “Why are kids drinking (stuff that would kill an elephant)?”
EVAN:It’s because, as we’ve said, it’s a taboo thing. I think what needs to happen is for us to somehow, in America and Canada, bring alcohol back to the level it currently is in Europe, where you can have wine on a table alongside your water and not have the kids think anything of it.
My question to you is how we change that Western way of viewing hooch.
GORDON: Well, I think the first step is to, like I said, abolish the drinking age.
From there I think it’s a matter of getting people to see drinking more realistically. Again- demystify
EVAN: I get what you said about nixing the drinking age, and we both admitted there may be a few issues there. How exactly are supposed to demystify, though? That was my question to begin with.
GORDON: Well, I don’t want to say we institute a campaign trying to portray the downsides of alcohol, but I imagine that’d backfire more than anything else. As surreal as it might sound, I’d say that more open drinking and easier access to drinking would be the answer. You get to see drinking in it’s entirety- the good stuff and the bad- without an agenda being shoved down your throat.
EVAN: My counterpoint to your suggestion that we should let loose on the public drinking is that we work on the institution that has so demonized the bottle.
Southern Baptists have been down on booze for quite the while, in spite of the fact that our Lord and Saviour partook of the fruit of the vine more than a few times in the Good Book.
GORDON: And the Wesleyans share their part in this. Though in regards to that, I’m not exactly sure how to argue with those people- what argument can I make that hasn’t already been made in the past couple hundred years?
EVAN: Yeah, I don’t know.
“You guys, Jesus drank. He drank with friends and enjoyed it, but he never got drunk. It’s cool, you guys.”
Anyway, we should start wrapping up. Do you want to give us a recap of what we’ve discussed?
GORDON: We’ll as great minds think alike, we’ve pretty much bagged on the existence of drinking ages, agreed that drinking among underage kids is a problem resulting from alcohol’s taboo nature, and batted around a few ideas for solving that problem- generally concluding that we need more drinking and exposure to it. That sound about right?
EVAN: I don’t necessarily think more people need to drink to increase awareness that it’s not a bad thing, but that’s more or less correct.
I wish I had a beer right now.
GORDON: Mmm. New Belgium is coming out with a new stout. It looks fantastic.
EVAN: Yeah, I don’t know a lot about beer past the fact that I wouldn’t mind a cold one right now.
GORDON: It would be refreshing. And speaking of which, we need a new topic for next week. I’ll keep with our discussion of vices and offer up the topic of Smoking and Society.
EVAN: That’s a pretty good one. I’ll propose that we discuss . . . dangit . . .
I’d say we should discuss this new season of Community, but that’d require you to watch all of the new season before next Tuesday night.
GORDON: I have way more free time than you think. It shall be done.