The College Party That’s Actually Sober

party-sober-2I drank plenty in college. Now I have two kids in college, a freshman and a senior, and I know they are doing the same. Rite of passage, way to unwind, liquid courage, social bonding–whatever the reason, legal or not, there is plenty of boozing taking place on college campuses across the country. Hard to believe but not everyone wants to get drunk in college.

When I read “Not the Usual Party (This One’s Sober),” by Jennifer Conlin, in last Sunday’s New York Times, I was relieved to discover that there are a growing number of college groups offering alternatives for kids who want to be and stay sober. There are, writes Conlin, 135 Collegiate Recovery communities on campuses in the U.S, and “While they vary in size from small student-run organizations to large embedded university programs, the aim is the same: to help students stay sober while also thriving in college.”

At places like University of Michigan, Texas Tech and Rutgers University, students can have access to substance-free living, lounges, parties, sober tailgates, dance parties, study groups and a trip with recovery students from other colleges called “Clean Break.” Drinking and college may be historically synonymous–now’s the time to think out of the box.

 

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Drinking Diaries Roundup

stories to tellAt Drinking Diaries, we love to hear different perspectives on drinking. Here, below, are three: One from a college student who doesn’t drink, another from a middle-aged woman who re-examined her relationship to drinking, and another from a parenting advice columnist on how to react when your teen talks to you honestly about her drinking life:

From “Sober at a Party School” by Erica L. in Rookie online magazine: “Keggers were a way of life, and it practically rained alcohol on the weekends. I didn’t mind that drinking was so prevalent, but I did mind that my choice not to drink made people regard me as an uptight buzzkill or a puritan weirdo. In reality, my backstory was a lot more complicated.”

From “Mommy’s Little Downer,” an excerpt from Ann Dowsett Johnston’s new book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol” in The Daily Beast: “Is alcohol the modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting involved in a complex, demanding world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution still unfolding?  For many women, the answer is a resounding yes.”

From “What to Do When a Teen Provides Full Disclosure,” by James Windell, On SI Lve.com:  “If you take a tough, strict, repressive approach, you are likely to reduce the chances [your teen] will be open with you in the future. And, in addition, a tough approach could lead to more rebellion, defiance and dishonesty in the future.”

 

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Beware of “Texts from Last Night”

Texts from Last NightLeave it to my college kid to enlighten me about the website, Texts from Last Night. I’m not sure why, but it seems that the website has a large following–enough that it has spawned a book with the same title–wholly devoted to the strange things people text as the night goes on. Not surprisingly, alcohol (and drugs) are involved in many a late night text.

For example, a random sampling from the website included the following texts:

“The best part about drinking boxed wine is you can blow up the bag and use it as a pillow.”

“Let the vodka take you where it will. Like Pocahontas, but wasted.”

“Its ok, the prom king gave me his crown to puke in.”

“Hurry up this bar wont let me order big pitchers of beer for just myself.”

“I just hope my dad was drunk enough to not remember the whole convo we had about anal.”

“The weed is temporarily burning the grammar section of my brain library.”

And my personal favorite: “Him being a republican bothers me way more than his coke problem.”

Perusing the site, I was able to search texts by area code and categories such as “Best,” “Worst,” and “Random.” Not surprisingly, the most common theme after booze/drugs is sex.texting

Here’s a bit on how the founders describe their mission:

Texts From Last Night (TFLN) was founded in February 2009 by two friends for reasons that may or may not include: the tendency to press send more easily as the night turns to morning, friends’ social habits, disgraced government officials, exes, law school, closing down bars and leaving tabs open, general debauchery and/or a common disgust for all the negativity surrounding the ‘sexting’ phenomenon.

We prefer texts, not conversations. We reserve the right to post portions of conversations without duplicating the entire thing. It’s not because the entire thing isn’t funny, but the funniest texts are those we can all relate to, so without the context of the conversation, they become really funny.

Our goal was to create a site that was revealing in nature while concealing the identity of everyone involved. This is why we only ask for an area code to accompany your text messages.

We don’t want texts that are offensive to the point of being viciously personal, racist, exceedingly profane, violent or excessively graphic in nature. It’s a very hard thing to judge, but we’ll do our best.

In this day and age, we know that little is sacred in the way of information. After reading through the texts posted in recent days on this website, I felt the need to warn our readers that booze, too, can burn the grammar section of your brain library. And even worse, your text–once intended for a specific recipient–may end up featured the following day in the “Best” or “Worst” sections of the Texts from Last Night.

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Presidential Debates Spur New Drinking Games

If you have a kid in college, chances are she’ll be all ears while watching the second presidential debate on October 16. She may be listening particularly closely to key words and phrases, such as “Obamacare” and “Al Qaeda.” Her focus, however, will not be intended for note taking or reporting back to her Poli Sci professor about diverging opinions on healthcare and homeland security. Rather, she’ll be listening for her cue to down a vodka shot or swig from a gin and tonic.

When I heard about the latest round of debate drinking games, my first thought was how my seventh grader likely came away from the first presidential showdown with more knowledge than my college sophomore. She just probably woke up with a hangover. And my second thought–I probably would’ve been doing the exact same thing back in 1980-something. Or maybe I did and just don’t remember.

In any event, there’s more debate drinking to be done with both the upcoming Vice Presidential debate and the next Obama v. Romney face-off at Hofstra University.

The College Humor site had a long list of potential drinking cues, and even a couple that involve abstaining. Here are some highlights:

• Take a sip every time Obama starts a sentence with “Look…”

• Take a sip every time Mitt Romney awkwardly chuckles.

• Take a sip every time a candidate refers to his wife.

• Politely refrain from drinking every time Mormonism is mentioned.

• Get your infrared goggles and chug in the dark every time the killing of Osama bin Laden is mentioned.

• Take two sips every time Romney mispronounces a black or Hispanic person’s name.

• Take a shot and then two more any time Mitt Romney makes a genuinely funny joke.

• If you agree with everything a particular candidate says, finish your Kool-Aid.

You get the picture. All I know is that come October 16th, I’ll likely be counting the number of times the candidates mention their wives or the term Mormonism, hoping my daughter is safely studying in the library rather than “watching” the debate.

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Is the College Bar Scene Dying?

I wrote about my favorite bar, The Royal Palms, in an essay for Drinking Diaries. When I heard it had closed, I was incredulous—how could they do that to all the fans, past, present and future? But here’s Lenny Leonardo, the former owner of The Palms, quoted in “Last Call for College Bars,” Courtney Rubin’s piece that ran in the New York Times:

“These kids today won’t pay even $2 for a drink…They buy a bottle of Southern Comfort and show up in time to try to get laid. But they just end up throwing up in my men’s room, and I get reprimanded because it looks like I’m the one who let them get this drunk.”

Now I understand that I’m stuck in a romantic vision of collegetown that no longer applies.

In explaining the decline of the college bar, Rubin writes: “These days text messaging, Facebook and Foursquare make it possible to see if a bar is worth the trip (translation: who is there) without leaving the dorm. Meanwhile, location-based mobile apps like Grindr, which point to the nearest available candidates looking for sex or not-quite-sex, are helping dethrone college bars from their place as meat markets.”

I found myself pining for the days when my friends and I would wander around collegetown, heading from bar to bar in search of a crush. We never knew who we would run into, though each bar had its own distinct personality and fan-base. Now, much of that sense of mystery is gone.

Also, the slowness of those nights. Sometimes, we’d hang out for hours at The Palms, sitting in the wooden booths, drinking beer and carving our names. We drank a lot of beer. But now, apparently, hard liquor rules. One senior at Cornell is quoted as saying, “I drink liquor because it takes too long to drink beer.”

Sigh. Here’s the generation gap, rearing its bewildered head.

Readers:  College students: Do you go to bars? Do you think the bar scene is dying? Graduates: Do you have a favorite bar from your college days? When’s the last time you visited? Is it still open?

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