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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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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Drinking in College May Lead to the Hookah

college kids smoking hookahDecades before Miley Cyrus revealed to college-age women everywhere that the hookah, or water pipe, is the latest must-have accessory, I found one prominently placed in my childhood home. I was 15 and had just returned from a summer at sleepaway camp. In my absence, my parents had traveled to Turkey where they purchased said hookah and displayed it proudly in our home’s lower level, not far from the billiard table. I suppose they thought it was a cool visual—I honestly don’t believe it was ever used for anything other than viewing.

Fast forward 30 years, and now it’s me, my husband and our children walking the streets of Istanbul. Hookahs are sold and smoked everywhere—as a matter of fact it’s not a strange sight to see people of all ages smoking the tobacco (much of it is flavored–pineapple? vanilla anyone?) from a hookah while playing chess in outdoor cafes.

It never occurred to me to smoke from a hookah, and I never imagined my kids would want to–or even have the opportunity. But obviously, I wasn’t keeping up with the times. According to new research from the Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, almost one quarter of college women try smoking tobacco from a hookah for the first time during their freshman year. Did I mention my daughter just finished her first year of college?

The study, which was published online by the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal, revealed a potential link between hookah smoking and alcohol and marijuana use. An article from Science Daily reported that “researchers found the more alcohol women consumed, the more likely they were to experiment with hookah smoking, while women who used marijuana engaged in hookah smoking more frequently than their peers.”

The problem is that many college students believe mistakenly that smoking from a hookah is safer than cigarettes. Hookahs, however, have been linked to lung cancer and other diseases similar to those brought on by cigarette smoking.

“The popularity and social nature of hookah smoking, combined with the fact that college freshmen are more likely to experiment with risky behavior, could set the stage for a potential public health issue, given what we know about the health risks of hookah smoking,” said lead author Robyn L. Fielder, M.S., a research intern at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, in the article on Science Daily. Fielder says the findings corroborate prior research showing strong correlations between hookah and other substance use, but their research is the first to show that alcohol and marijuana use are prospectively related to hookah initiation.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), consisted of a survey of 483 first-year female college students and asked about their hookah use before college, followed by 12 monthly online surveys about their experience with hookah smoking. Of the 343 participants who did not report precollege hookah use, 79 students (or 23 percent) tried smoking a hookah during their freshman year.

As a parent, the concern is naturally that your kid is going to try this or that because that’s what other kids are trying. Hookah smoking seems a lot more enticing, I imagine, to many students who see cigarettes as outdated–and practically verboten in every public place anyway. But if they do a little research, they’ll learn that hookah smoking is not exactly a new phenomenon and originated in ancient Persia and India.

I have not asked my daughter yet if she’s come across any hookah-smoking parties at school. But with this new research, I’m inclined to ask. I’m not sure I’ll bring her to my parents’ house anytime soon, however, for fear that she’ll see their imported hookah and ask if she can bring it back to school for her sophomore year.


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Karen Owen, and the Difficulty of Facing Sexual Desire Head-On (Soberly)

“I was but a shot away from what is referred to as a “black-out state.” —Karen Owen

By now, many of you have probably heard of Duke graduate Karen Owen’s Powerpoint Presentation, in which she described in salacious detail thirteen hookups with top athletes at her alma mater. She said it was meant for three friends, but the document quickly went viral.

While some have hailed her as a feminist role model (of the “Do Me” feminist sort, since she initiated the hookups), others have vilified her as a party girl gone wrong.

In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan has another take on Karen Owen—while she comes on with swagger, if you read between the lines of her presentation and her subsequent comments, there’s regret, sadness, and ultimately, the sour aftertaste of rejection.

Irin Carmon, who interviewed Karen Owen for, takes issue with Flanagan’s portrayal of Owen as a “sad, slutty, drunk girl”:

The decade-long hysteria over a “hookup culture,” imperiling young women who have been brainwashed into binge-drinking away their ingrained biological desires for cuddling and babies, doesn’t match any reality I’ve seen or heard of beyond pseudo-concerned trend stories. There are some people who are more interested in casual sex, sometimes; some of them are women, and some of them are drunk at the time, and it’s not a death knell for a committed relationship somewhere along the way if that’s what you want. It’s not that gender inequality doesn’t inform the power dynamics of casual sex, on campus or elsewhere. It’s that it’s hard to believe these handwringers are interested, in good faith, in creating a better environment of safe, enthusiastic consent when they’re so busy ignoring the fact that women like sex too. Or judging us for it.

Whether you see Karen Owen as a feminist icon, a sad woman, scorned, or as a lightning rod for debate about women’s sexuality, there’s still the fact of the booze.

Almost all of her hookups started at a campus bar called Shooters. Most of the time, Karen was drinking. All judgment aside, it’s interesting to speculate what would happen if she never had a sip of booze. Would she still have pursued these hookups sober? Would they have been the same? (Rachel Kramer Bussell wrote a great essay for Drinking Diaries, called “Drunk Sex, How I Miss You (Sometimes, Anyway”).

About the culture college women face, Flanagan writes:

We’ve made a culture for our college women in which they have been liberated from the curfews and parietals that were once the bane of co-eds, but one in which they have also shaken off the general suspicion of male sexuality that was the hallmark of Andrea Dworkin–style campus activism; they prefer bikini waxes and spray tans to overalls and invective. So they have ended up with the protections of neither the patriarchy nor those old-school, man-hating radical feminists.

Maybe they’re all the better for it. Or maybe an awful lot of these young women at our very best colleges are being traumatized by what takes place during so much of this mindless, drunken partying when they’re steeped in alcohol, which brings out the least engaging aspects of their young selves.

I’m not sure I would describe a young woman’s sexuality as the “least engaging aspect” of her young self. Truth is, if you view the Powerpoint Presentation, it seems like most of the time, Karen Owen had fun. She was bursting with desire for these “fine male specimens,” and she fulfilled that desire. Maybe the only way many young women can feel comfortable claiming their desires is by getting drunk. Why is that?

Maybe that’s where the change begins—not with banning alcohol or using Karen Owen’s notoriety as a cautionary tale—don’t kiss and tell. Her story just points to the fact that, when it comes to owning their sexuality without shame, young women still have a long, long way to go.

Then again, most of the guys she hooked up with were drunk, too.


Alcohol on Campus: Nearly Everyone Drinks, So What’s the Problem?

Oktoberfest. Football game tailgating. Drinking games like “quarters” and “beer pong.” If memory serves me, October is a pretty solid drinking month in college. And for some students–particularly the freshmen who are overcome with their newfound freedom–overdoing it is an increasingly growing problem.

Thanks to the the BACCHUS Network, a university and community based network focusing on comprehensive health and safety initiatives, the third week in October is now billed as National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) at over 900 campuses across the United States.

Through a variety of activities, the national campaign provides students with ideas for alternatives to alcohol abuse and educates them on the personal choice of responsible alcohol use. At CSU Monterey Bay, for example, NCAAW events included a student panel, Gatorade Pong, Parent Night on East Campus, Movie Night, a “No Fear” Dance, Olympics Under the Influence, a Jello Wrestling Tournament, and a late night hip hop concert.

To give further attention to the issue of excessive college drinking, BU Today, Boston University’s online newspaper, chose Alcohol Awareness Week to publish a five-part series called “Alcohol on campus: nearly everybody drinks, so what’s the problem?” addressing several aspects of student drinking. The series provides the facts, the numbers, and the opinions of students, administrators, and experts on drinking–an issue that carries more weight for college kids than most people realize.

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