The evolution of drinking
This past Saturday was my last Boys’ Bid Night. On one hand, it was sad to reminded of how fleeting my opportunities to wear neon workout clothes and run all over Rugby Road while buzzed off cheap liquor are. On the other hand, my alcohol choices have changed and grown up as much as I have in college, and I think I might be ready to move on.
I’ve expanded my mind and my world views through classes I’ve attended, people I’ve met and summer internships I’ve worked. My handwriting has gotten worse, but my wardrobe, confidence level and ability to reason through both life and work problems have all gotten better — and I believe my drinking selections have improved as a result. I like to think of this evolution of my drink orders as an analogy for the evolution of self I’ve experienced from the time I was a first year in 2009 to the fourth year I am today in 2013.
First year, I was wandering — often aimlessly — around Rugby Road on Friday nights, either feeling too cool for school because we knew where a party was and could probably name five brothers, or still feeling too cool for school because we had already found fifteen of our closest friends to frat-hop with. Once we finally found a party, we made a beeline for the keg, hoping there were clean cups left. Sometimes, between the strobe lights and Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA,” we found some punch or hard liquor, and if we were lucky some Sunny D to make “mimosas” with. We really had no idea how to drink.
Drinking was still new — for most of us — and separated us from the high school students we were less than a year before. Much like how we wandered aimlessly through the Greek alphabet soup on weekends, we wandered aimlessly around Grounds during the week. We thought we knew everything — who we could trust, what our major was going to be, the best ice milk-to-cereal ratio — but our drinking choices said it all. We really knew nothing.
By second year, we were more cognizant of our ignorance, but we still felt like we knew more than the first-years who now were the ones wandering aimlessly around looking for free beer and a good time. Since we knew more people, alcohol was easier to obtain. At apartment parties, we Four Loko’d like champs and indulged in gin buckets until it was time to go home to eat tortilla chips and salsa until the bag was empty. We collected handles of bottom-shelf alcohol — I’m looking at you Aristocrat — that now make us cringe. “How did we drink that with the super sweet Hawaiian punch?” we ask ourselves now. But back then, it was the dream. Like our drinking choices, we were still struggling with how to make sense of our lives — but at least we were no longer dependent on blurry-eyed guys wearing khakis and lax pinnies for a good time. We were moving up in the world, one GrandMarc floor at a time.
At the risk of sounding like a Friends episode — though if you know me at all, you know that doesn’t actually bother me in the slightest — third year was the one where everyone turned 21. Of course, this meant we did the honorable thing and made sure the new legal drinker collected his or her free tequila shot at every bar on the Corner, took a picture with Gary the Corner Cop, and made it home after a stop at Christian’s. But it also meant we wanted to go to Trinity’s dance floor every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That was our Mecca and everything else was just a waste of time. It was fun — usually — but we never experienced anything new. We were deeply involved in our classes for our majors, the organizations we now were spearheading, and existential, big-picture life questions, but we had a very limited view on what constituted fun on weekends.
Fourth year though, things really seemed to click. Rarely do we ever find ourselves on the dance floor at Trinity during last call. We might be at Coupes, we might be at Virg, we’re probably at Bilt — but the point is, we’ve explored other places. And we’re more open to experiencing Charlottesville, whether it’s Felini’s Speakeasy, drinks at the Whiskey Jar with an old friend, cocktails at Skybar, or exploring local wineries and breweries. We’ve finally realized there’s more to drinking than $2 rails or $3 pitchers.
Similarly, other things in our lives have come together as well. We’re starting to figure out what we really want to do — or maybe we’re just realizing how exciting it is that we still have no idea. We’ve mastered the art of writing papers the night before. We’ve figured out who our true friends are and who isn’t worth our time.
And even though, like our first-year selves, we still don’t have it all figured out, at least we’ve realized there’s a whole world out there worth exploring and, like good wine, we only get better with age.
Katie’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com