October 9, 2008

Where Am I? and Other Tales of the Morning After

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At 17, R’s mom bought her her first fake ID so she could go to Vegas on spring break with her friends. A year earlier, another R found herself wandering through the seedy alleys of Chinatown to procure her very own false identification card. Little did they know that years later each R would meet an R much like herself, with whom she would use her trusty ID in good times and bad, until one R’s ID was taken away at Ruloff’s two weeks ago. RIP R’s ID.
Up until that fateful, tragic, soul-crushing night, neither R encountered any challenges in the pursuit of superfuntimes, other than the oft-confusing plight of remembering to pretend to be who our I.D.’s said we were. Interestingly, R’s ID said she was R.
R: Who’s that?
Arriving at Cornell was an experiment in being young again. After years of effortlessly traversing liquor stores, bars and restaurants, we had spent our true youth trying to be older and succeeding. Before graduating from high school, R had even convinced herself that she was actually a 23-year-old Columbia business student. But suddenly and without warning, we were thrust into an environment where we were habitually rejected from Dino’s.
It’s worth saying that the bars here are gosh darn hard to get into! Of course, we’re not begrudging the owners for covering their asses, nor the well-meaning bouncers who steal our IDs and our souls (truce, Ruloff’s guy?), but we all know that anyone who pretends that getting barred from a bar will bar you from boozing is bonkers.
R: OK, I’m looking on shopbop and these latex leggings are only getting more expensive.
R: Should I assume you’re not going to help me at all?
At least as freshman and sophomores it was acceptable to “blow off” the bar scene and spend our nights bumping uglies in sweaty frat basements, or running around mixers in a variety of “whore” costumes. But now, at 20 years of age, junior year has left us in an unexpected limbo with options often both sparse and unappealing.
R: I have never bumped an ugly, much less multiple uglies.
With 21 both so close and so far, a barrier has risen, leaving us on one side and our slightly older friends on the other, and at times depriving us, not only of the shared experiences we so value, but of a vital safety net as well.
Moreover, when you’re forced to drink alcohol straight from the bottle or the jungle juice cooler because you were turned away from every bar in town, you’re going to end up drinking more alcohol and a stranger and wider mix thereof, because:
1. Once you bought the bottle, it’s a sunk cost. You might as well keep drinking, whereas drinks at a bar are relatively expensive and you’ll eventually run out of cash.
2. Jungle juice is not a sunk cost, because it’s free.
3. Sometimes you literally don’t know what you’re drinking. Especially when you’re drinking jungle juice.
4. When you pregame and proceed to spend your night going from one party to the next because you can’t go to the bars, the likelihood of mixing a wide variety of drinks is extremely high, because the likelihood of every room you enter serving the same drink you pregamed with is extremely low.
5. People offering you alcohol are generally more persuasive than bartenders serving you alcohol. Especially if you hope to sleep with them. More especially if they hope to sleep with you.
Which brings us to our next point. In a bar, you’re likely to be surrounded by friends, acquaintances and other people you invariably kind of know, as well as proprietors who see you as a potential liability. Whereas the guy who lured you into his bedroom with the promise of “hard alcohol” probably sees you as more of an asset.
So what’s the solution? Further regulation? It’s clear that for every 18-year-old who gets rejected from Johnny O’s, there’s another whose older friend makes weekly trips to the liquor store to keep them in Tanqueray and Campari.
R: Seriously, no one else drinks that stuff.
There’s no reasonable means of preventing this. For those who believe that this is an issue of self control and personal responsibility, consider that you can’t expect kids to be born with the maturity and knowledge necesarry to drink responsibly and have fun without putting themselves into dangerous situations. These things are learned over time with experience around others, and for the many kids here whose moms didn’t procure them fake IDs at the age of 17 or who didn’t have the hazy drunken high school experiences we did, this is their first exposure to alcohol without boundaries, supervision or the expectation of returning home to their parents. Wouldn’t it be safer, healthier and more productive to put them in front of a bar with a measured drink instead of in their room with a bottle?
We realize that we’re probably preaching to the converted, and you’ve probably heard of the Amethyst Initiative and the 130 schools, including Duke, Dartmouth, Colgate, and Johns Hopkins, who have signed the petition to re-evaluate the drinking age. To quote the Initiative, “21 isn’t working.”
President Skorton’s decision to not join these schools in signing the Initiative stems from a belief that raising the drinking age in 1984 has saved lives by preventing alcohol-related driving incidents. First, although statistics suggest that deaths resulting from drunk driving for individuals aged 18-23 have dropped since the drinking age was raised, this is no way guarantees that lowering the drinking age back to 18 would cause this trend to reverse itself. We live in a world defined by entirely different social forces today: drunk driving is vilified and the regulations that seek to prevent it are strictly enforced. Second, can’t we recognize that students are still in danger? They are expelled from a safe social atmosphere and thrust into uncontrolled and unpredictable situations.
Let’s stop pretending that we’re attacking the root of the problem and realize that we’re still making a sacrifice when we create a generation of kids who accept and laugh at the risks of such dangerous experiences. No one has the authority to equate the dangers of drunk driving with this arguably greater and certainly more insidious evil.
Also, we really like to drink.

Rabia Muqaddam and Rachel Gevirtz are juniors in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Agricultural and Life Sciences, respectively. They can be contacted at rcm47@cornell.edu. All The Characters Are Fictional appears alternate Thursdays.