Are We The Blackout Generation?
You wake up Sunday morning, roll out of bed, and drag yourself to the nearest brunch. While you wait in line, you run into friends and discuss the previous night. Or you stand there anxiously, stomach grumbling, waiting for a chocolate chip pancake, and overhear the person behind you: “I was so drunk last night,” or “my night’s kind’ve a blur,” or even, “I blacked out.”
Such remarks have become so commonplace that I’m now desensitized to them. Rather than responding with shock or concern, I respond with apathy. At times, I may find humor in the debauchery of someone’s drunken night. Being too drunk to properly function comes with the territory of college life. Such a casual approach allows us to resist confronting a problem that is all too prevalent in our culture: excessive or “binge” drinking.
Despite the statistics warning the dangers of overdrinking, the best wake up calls often come from personal experiences. This past weekend, for instance, I was forced on three separate occasions to recognize the detriments of drinking. The first occurred when I pulled up to my dorm after dinner with some friends. An ambulance was parked in front of our building. “Oh, no,” my friend muttered, “wonder what that is…” My other friend replied, “There’s a date party tonight.” We all nodded, content with her answer because of course, no date party is complete without somebody ending up in the hospital. As we entered my suite, we quickly realized that it was our own suitemate who called EST after her date drank himself into an unconscious mess. He was throwing up, convulsing—clearly the makings of a great night.
Watching her date struggle to lift his head, muttering incoherent words under his breath was enough to make anybody cringe. However, that same night I learned that another one of my friends managed to land himself in the hospital. He drank too much, fell off his bed and was rushed to the hospital to get stitches. Finally, the next morning I got a call from my best friend from home in hysterics. It turned out that the night before, she had blacked out and had sex with two guys; she didn’t remember either encounter. I put down the phone and at first felt frustrated, and then later, just confused—what was going on?
My confusion forced me to analyze why our culture regards binge drinking with such a lack of concern. The excessive nature of college drinking is normalized into our culture and has turned into something we don’t even question anymore. When we guzzle down drink after drink, we are inducing memory loss and we are putting ourselves, our health, our relationships, even our lives at risk! Yet, every weekend, we start again, just waiting to see who blacks out next—immune to the consequences.
There are certainly psychological implications of excessive drinking. What does it say about our generation that we are so desperate to lose control, to temporarily escape from reality? Even more disturbing to me is the prestige a person can gain from overdrinking. Rather than condemning those who drink in excess, they’re often esteemed. People enthusiastically start their nights by declaring that they intend to get “wasted.”
Statistics prove that this is a nationwide problem. Excessive drinking plagues universities and colleges across the country. The more people drink excessively, the more normalized such behavior becomes; this only perpetuates its acceptability. At universities across the country a “work hard, play hard” mentality prevails. I don’t really see where the fun lies in ending my night throwing up, falling off a bed or having sex with a stranger.
We need to start becoming more aware of the seriousness of excessive drinking, of blacking out. We can start by sensitizing drinking vocabulary, adding negative connotations to words associated with overdrinking. It’s in our own hands to try and disrupt the ritualized practice of excessive drinking that’s become a distinct trademark of our culture. After my overwhelming weekend, I couldn’t help but fear that my generation would never be able to drink responsibly, that some day in the near future we would be labeled as “the blackout generation.”
Amanda is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.