Like all the horrible hazing stories from past years, the death of an Alfred student and other similar incidents recently reminded me of the value of thinking for yourself. Organizational plus peer pressure equals bad. The sorority idea was never really anything that interested me. Although my way has never been the strikingly popular route, it has been my way.
Yes, I drank underage, as do so many others. The difference is, I drank in the comfort of my home, with very understanding parents, or someone else's home where I wasn't going anywhere. Period. However, my take on socializing differed from the typical college way of life. I drink socially, playing cards or watching movies with friends. Getting stinking drunk in a crowded bar with a couple hundred strangers has never been my idea of a stellar night. I find the drunken experience one I really try to avoid repeating. It's not fun. Maybe some find it fun enough, that part before the digestive pyrotechnics, to repeat it nightly. That's their choice, as long as it's only their digestive systems they endanger.
When the excessive stupidity starts to raise questions in my mind is when I wonder if it were their idea at all. If someone is in a group, such as a fraternity or sorority, how much of your life is given to this organization? Someone's hard-earned money for dues, a very large amount of one's time for meetings, rush and pledge events, as well as the social activities that need to be attended. For me, the loss of my own thinking is not worth all my time and money.
It's not just the organizations that may play a part, but also the slew of double standards that college students looking to drink face everyday. As I heard someone say during random conversations this week, police cars sit outside PJ Bottoms and watch kids admitted with library cards as ID. I've also heard the defense that PJ's is just trying to make it. But really, how far is one business willing to go? Asking its employees to act against their better judgment and risk their liquor license every night doesn't seem like a smart way to run a business.
Just as it is somewhat ridiculous to preach abstinence as the only "good" method of safe sex and watch the statistics for STDs skyrocket, it is also ignorant to assume that if enough people tell a person that drinking is bad, they won't do it. They'll want to do it even more.
If people learn to have fun and enjoy those around them, perhaps have a couple drinks, then lay off two or three hours before operating heavy machinery (a two-ton automobile). Or make a big deal about a margarita party and conveniently "forget" the tequila as people are wrapped up in conversation or dancing, etc.
Of course, I may be going out on too much of a limb in a college environment. I have the perspective that I only drink things that actually taste good. In addition, I've never had an affinity for beer. I have learned from role models such as my parents, who gave me a glass of wine now and then with dinner, about moderation and making the people and the activity the focus, not the alcohol. I would rather laugh my butt off at a movie or a cheesy band or my friend bowling into the gutter, than stand in a hot, crowded bar and come home stinking of smoke and soaked with beer. That's fun about once or twice a month.
What it boils down to is confusion. Students are told from the day they know what alcohol is, that it's bad and evil. Then they see their older siblings or the most popular people in school, or even their parents consuming it to excess. They are told the legal drinking age is 21, but then they see movies and TV shows and college area bars putting alcohol in the hands of anyone that has hit puberty, maybe even with full knowledge of every university student in a 20 mile radius and local law enforcement. There is no frenzy about this lack of responsibility; there is no attack on the Greek system until the law gets involved, until someone dies.