I was something of a late bloomer when it came to alcohol...and sex...and looking older than 12. But for now I'm gonna focus on the alcohol thing. I didn't become a regular drinker until I was 18 years old, during the summer that followed my first year of college.
By the way, how much of a failure is the enforcement of our drinking age when someone starts three years shy of it and sincerely considers themselves to be a "late" bloomer?
The sauce just had no appeal to me in High School. Nobody in my circle of friends was really big into partying. But, I didn't feel restricted by my friends. I genuinely wasn't even that curious to try drinking. Acquiring booze and keeping it a secret from my parents just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. This was also during a time when I was creating an identity for myself as a "healthy guy who works out", something I clung to so tightly during those formative years that it actually became a real part of me. For me, not drinking was an easy way to feel like I was better than my peers who did. This was a time in my life where anything that increased my self-worth was worth hanging on to, no matter how irrational.
"Oh, you and your friends drink to have fun on the weekends? Not me. I run 5k's on Saturday mornings. What? No, I'm not training for a sport. I just do this because it makes me better. I'm accountable only to myself. How great am I?"
Plus when you're in high school, life is enough of a mystery. I didn't want any of the epiphanies of young adulthood being cock-blocked by an altered perception of reality. I suppose It hadn't yet occurred to me that epiphanies could be found within mind altering substances.
So, I arrived at college a teetotaler. You show me a brand new college freshman who doesn't drink and I'll show you one of the loneliest people on campus. If I had a time machine I would go back to 2007, slap my beardless face and say, "Get off your high horse and drink already. Abstaining doesn't make you better than anybody. Really, it's "not your thing"? You haven't even tried it. What is your "thing?" Watching a grainy, pirated copy of "3:10 to Yuma" alone in your dorm room on a Friday night...SOBER!? That's a pretty miserable "thing"." If I ever have the opportunity to speak to a graduating class of high school students, this will be my message.
But I just didn't want to be a cliche. I didn't want to be yet ANOTHER college kid whose main extra-curricular activity was getting fucked up. To me, centering a whole night around binge drinking was right up there with having a Bob Marley poster on your wall and throwing a Frisbee around an open green space. But, cliches and stereotypes exist for a reason. Bob Marley looks cool with smoke billowing out of his face, tossing around a Frisbee is fun and college students get smashed in social settings because it's a great way to bond with other humans. Every drink sheds a layer of carefully constructed inhibitions that stand between you and an honest connection. It's a useful pharmaceutical tool. If you're cold, you wear a sweater. If it's bright, you put on sunglasses. If you're in an unfamiliar environment, getting to know new people while still struggling to know yourself...you drink alcohol.
I finally began to come around to this idea during the summer following my freshman year. Since then I've observed that booze has a consistent track record of making good times better and loud, crowded bars tolerable. I've never been a big sports fan. When I'm sober, sitting for hours to watch a live sporting event makes no sense. With a few drinks in me, it starts to make a little. I'm glad I finally decided to give alcohol a fair shake. I was late to the party but I showed up with a handle of tequila, ready to catch up.