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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A Take On Drinking, Partying & Co.

< that there’s a breed of revelation that’s not so much a new groundbreaking piece of knowledge as a sort of coming-to-be whereby one realizes explicitly (and sometimes abashedly) something fairly obvious that has been fermenting under one’s nose for quite a while, like when I was six and I realized that not all countries use the dollar, or the next year when I saw that my parents just ate the cookies my brothers and I set out for Santa, or two years ago when I finally understood that people actually, without irony, say “pop” instead of “soda” in the Midwest.

I had one such silly realization this past summer, and it went like this: after leaving Carleton, never again will I be happy to drink beer that sells for just over thirty cents a can, enter a large hot basement where I can barely move because all of the people around me, or mix vodka with Kool-Aid powder and Mountain Dew.  None of these things are really done out there in post-college land, where the real folk dwell.

I was unsure of how to react to this newly explicated nugget of knowledge.  As I turned it around in my head, I slowly came to understand that however lewd and unpleasant such college-specific situations may be, they really are worthy of reminiscing over.  Just as one cannot explain with any precision or coherence what love is or what being drunk feels like, it’s not easy to say what exactly the phenomenological pull of college partying is.  I know that while I do and will continue to cherish the ability to indulge in a more low-key sort of way far more than I ever have or will appreciate the college party scene, there’s something unique, some special quality about being in a certain state of mind amongst many other relatively carefree young people.  What is the nature of this?

Again, the “facts of the matter” don’t quite get there, just as reading music off of a page will not make you experience the sound.  The facts are: (many) Carleton kids (often) gather, get drunk in creative ways, gather into still larger masses, “dance,” do various inadvisable and possibly destructive things, and hook up.  Leaving it at this is simplistic.

But the casual onlooker, say an alien being of a distant planet with no knowledge of human civilization, may wonder why we engage in said activities with such vigor.  After all, we’ve been told repeatedly and can probably discern for ourselves at this point that this behavior is not good for us.  It’s been tattooed on the inside of our skulls: alcohol is risky, it’ll lead to such and such health concern and this or that incident by way of poor judgment. We know.  DARE told us, and it’s become a boring line of argument for many.

Perhaps the social pull of alcohol and the people who encourage it simply matter more to college students than the finger wagging we all had to endure in the high school auditorium.  This seems the most obvious reason: we drink and party because we’re encouraged to do so by those whose opinions matter the most to us – our peers.  With that in mind, the finger waggers probably contribute to drinking and related shenanigans in college more than they prevent such things, for the college students making such decisions revel in the fact that the fun they’re having isn’t permitted.  It’s not just entertaining – it’s rebellious, which is sexy and appealing. Ironically, the finger-waggers are well aware of this and yet they continue to think they’re making change by simply telling young people to stop.

Regardless, social influence is only part of the story.  There seems to be another key reason college kids, and Carleton kids, go out and party: the experience of doing so.  I don’t mean getting drunk, socializing, and hooking up – these are obviously constituents of the experience, but that’s not what I’m referring to.  

It seems one thing college kids do a lot of, besides going out (and studying…) is talk about what they’ve done, what others have done, what they might do.  Students at Carleton, I’ve found, love to recount what happened at the last sweaty Hill House rager or Dixon century pong game nearly as much as they love actually going to such events.  We hear people say they “did it for the story,” and proceed to recount said story for the next few years.  A lot of enthusiasm goes into reliving particularly crazy nights, and part of the reason we keep going out seems to be to gather still more.  The unpredictability of drinking and partying, therefore, is essential.  

This seems a more adequate explanation for my projected reminiscence.  I really will miss the raw experience of the Carleton scene, no matter how inappropriate and insulated it can be.  There’s something unforgettable about being aimless and loud.

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