You know those wildly off-the-wall extroverted adolescents? The ones you joke should never drink when they’re older, because they already live in an elevated craziness? I used to joke that that was my sister.
Apparently, it’s me too, because twice this past week my peers thought I was drunk when I was actually 100% sober. I find myself a bit offended, but mainly entertained by their suspicions.
Last Saturday was R-Glow, which the advertisement posters around campus described as a “tribal rave experience.” I didn’t see any cheetah print or African masks, but we were not lacking in sensory overload. Around 11:30 pm, when I’d really prefer to start heading to bed, I ignored my internal clock and kept my promise to my friends to go with them. Just aiming to be comfortable and colorful, I pulled on my neon purple sports bra, white cami, and orange and blue Nike shorts. Just in case I wanted a drink at the cash bar, I stuffed my ID and a $10 bill into the secret key holder on the inside of my shorts.
The gym was dark, illuminated only by roving colored spotlights, flashing strobe lights, and glow sticks. An aerial dancer loomed above the crowd, spinning, bending, and splitting in mid-air, anchored only by the hanging silk fabric she wrapped around herself.
It does not take me long to get down on the dance floor, so, amidst the rhythmic base of the deafening dub-step, fog machines, and exploding confetti, we pulled out our best and weirdest moves, very much Napoleon Dynamite style. It was way more exhausting (and fun) than an aerobics class. I went wild from the start, and, pushing past that initial wave of sleepiness, I didn’t stop the whole night.
After an RA meeting a few days later, Chris, a fellow RA said, “I saw you getting down at R Glow, Jess. Dang, you were crazy – I’ve never seen that side of you!”
“Haha, yeah, it only comes out every once in a while when I don’t let school stifle me. But you know that was just me, right? Like, I hadn’t had anything to drink?”
I enjoy the occasional glass of wine or pint of craft beer. True to its depressant properties, alcohol does loosen people up, and it can add an extra fun factor. But once I got moving at R-Glow, the idea of a beer sloshing in my stomach did not sound that appealing. So I passed.
“There is no way,” shaking his head adamantly. “I don’t believe you.”
Really?! This guy knows me well enough.
“Wellll you should, because I was stone-cold sober.”
We’ve all heard the “You-can-have-an-awesome-time-without-alcohol” lecture, but it really is true. I might be legal, but I still don’t drink that often, and when I do, I tend to be a one (or two) and done kind of gal. Part of not drinking in excess is about honoring both God and my body, but it is also just about being smart and aware.
Wednesday was the celebration of our founder’s birthday, famously known as Bittle Bash. The tradition includes a bonfire, a parade of students walking to Bittle’s grave, a “real-life” appearance of Roanoke’s first president himself, ending with a borderline raucous night of karaoke and drunken history professors. Since it was my last year to participate, I decided to take some time for myself and my sanity to enjoy this mid-week celebration. Loosened from the unceasing bonds of required reading, I felt free, alive, and very much like my real self (as opposed to the semester-long student). As we all marched through the biting air to the cemetery together, I skipped, sang camp songs, and ran between groups, fueled by a stream of academic absent energy.
Two days later, my education class and I were presenting our service-learning projects in the library, and I asked the freshman next to me if he enjoyed Bittle Bash. As we talked, it didn’t take too long for him to ask, “Were you…a little drunk?”
Unlike Chris, this guy really didn’t know me, so I just smirked, happily responding, “Nah, man, I just get a little high on life sometimes.”
And I like it that way. Particularly in the wake of the shocking Rolling Stones article on the frat party environment and gang raping at the University of Virginia, I like that I don’t need a drink, and in fact, often don’t want one. When I had to take the alcohol.edu course before my freshman year at Roanoke, I remember learning that most college students think other college students drink more than they actually do. Sometimes I feel like a loser watching a movie in my room on a Friday night, envisioning the rest of the world getting ready to go out. But then I go on a duty round, and I find six other pods filled with perfectly content people watching movies in their PJs just like me.
In the party culture so prevalent in high school and college, too many people presume alcohol is a necessary component to having a good time. But it’s just not, and I hope I testify to that truth. I like that I can enjoy a drink when I want to, but that I can have just as much fun without one. I like that I can dance confidently for hours, that I sing karaoke poorly but without hesitation, that I can be so outgoing people that don’t know me well assume I am in an intoxicated stupor.
It turns out a drunken soberness is a pretty good state to be in.