It’s Monday night at about 11:30, but I’m doing something different tonight that I haven’t done on a Monday night in a while; I’m staying sober. Yes, I am underage (19 years and 6 months to be exact) and it won’t be until my Junior year of college before I can take my first legal drink in the United States. But I am not the only one who drinks while under the legal age limit; there is an estimated 63% of underage college students that get drunk on a minimum basis of one night a week (Foster, 1996).
In Mexico I can be drunk any night of the week because of the 18 year old age limit on alcohol; so if I were in Mexico right now drinking, I would be drinking legally. Europe as well has very low or no drinking age laws at all. In Germany all you have to do is reach up to the counter and order a beer. In fact, mothers give their infants a substance called maltzbeir, which has several important proteins and carbohydrates essential to healthy growing (Dane, 1997). All this from the country that has no speed limit on it busiest highway and doesn’t have a problem with drunk driving. France as well has a custom of giving its youth wine to drink instead of water. They do this because the waterways of France, especially Paris, are so filthy and contaminated, it is not prohibited to drink from there, or even bathe in it. For France’s sake, the drinking is more than just a social allowance; it is a survival one too.
The one difference between the aforementioned countries and the United States is the United States is the only one in the world with a problem with underage drinking. We are the only country that has to ID everyone who looks under 40 at the door or at the register. We are the only country in the world where we set up organizations to stop people from drinking instead of teaching everyone how to do it in moderation.
When American teens go out and drink, they don’t drink because it tastes good (that’s not why I drink), they do for two totally separate reasons. One reason is the buzz received off of alcohol: the feeling of surrealism around oneself and the bloated self-confidence. As people who drink for the very first time at an older age such as 16, 17, and 18 year old, they get entranced with that drunken feeling because it helps them escape the do’s and don’ts of their lives. Teens in America are so fed up with life sometimes that they need to drown their sorrows at least once a week to make it a little more bearable.
The second reason is because of the natural rebellion instinct inside all humans. If someone tells us to Stay Off The Grass: America’s youth would play soccer there. Don’t Smoke: “give me a light,” they would say. Don’t drink alcohol: “hey, let’s go over to Jimmy’s house and raid their folk’s liquor cabinet.” We are all prone to some sort of rebellion to the higher authority against rules we believe are unjust. Teens feel that they are just as smart as adults and just as responsible adults and they should deserve to drink like adults. Everyday I see reasons hat would back up as well as contradict the previous statement, but more of the former, than the latter.
It is a shame the United States government does not agree with this philosophy, or else the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1986 (Robertson, 1992) would never have been passed. This Act is one in a long line of laws that start just after prohibition was repealed, before then the legal drinking age was 18. With the age at 18, there was little controversy over the age limit because the youth of America had the same values and ideas as the older generations, and there was no fear of rebellion. Plus, there were no cars around to crash, per se.
I also do not agree with the double standard of sorts that the United States government has put on the young people of America. The things that we can be forced to do at 18, as well as the things we are allowed to do at this age too. We are allowed to rent and purchase pornography; purchase a firearm (a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights), apply for a credit card, be sentenced to capital punishment, be sent off to war, enter into a legally binding contract, get married, get divorced, enter a foreign country, and rent a car in most states, but not be allowed to buy a beer. I know if I were ever to be drafted into the next World War, I would want to get legally hammered the night before being sent off to boot camp. But the law says that I can’t even do that.
Now, I know in recent history there has been some very convincing evidence to support the contrary to my argument. Deadly car crashes involving intoxicated teens; date rapes where one or both parties were under the influence of alcohol; fights turned deadly, or near-deadly because of poor judgment brought on by alcohol, but all of these things could have been evaded if we had made the consumption of alcohol legal to these persons. Then they wouldn’t be driving drunk home from a beer party thrown across town because their parents wouldn’t let them drink in the house. Or the two horny people wouldn’t be in trouble because they wouldn’t have gotten that drunk in the first place. And maybe the fight over the last beer wouldn’t have taken place because both parties could have gotten up and drove to the liquor store and bought some more. See, now doesn’t everything seem to make more sense.
I agree, however, with the fact that some young people do not know how to handle alcohol, and even some adults I know still don’t know how to handle it. I have seen on a personal level a underage teen call his limit on alcohol and stop drinking, and a full grown adult keep drinking until they are vomiting all over the place and made an ass out of themselves.
I do not know how alcohol got to be such a big issue on the minds of the American people. I see it as something that can be used by all if those using it know how to control themselves and their situations. Know how to pass on the next round of shots. Know when to call a taxi for a ride home. Know when to turn over your keys to the designated driver. And most importantly, know when to say, “I’m not going to drink at all tonight.”
I have some regrets in my life, but all of them have been while I have been sober. I have not once have I personally done something while drunk that I would ever take back. I like the person I become when I’m drunk, to an extent. I become a more outgoing person, a more personable person, and an overall more enjoyable person to be around. I have met amazing people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise while drinking and I am not ashamed to be seen drunk.
A lot of people that I have met regret their actions when drunk, but surprisingly none of them are my age. The youth of America’s ideology is to live for the moment and seize the day. We don’t want to wait around and see what’s going to happen to us, we go out and do things ourselves. We make decisions that may seem hasty at the time, and some may be, but no regrets. We run from the law to avoid an unjust minor in possession or consumption ticket. All great stories to tell, good times, and no regrets, and that is what we as a generation are all about. Some may call this ideology naive and short sighted, something to hold against this Generation X.’ Our government and individual legislators will forever use this story to exert power in their favor, much like out parents. It is lack of knowledge on their part that keeps us down and restricted.
As for my generation of young people, those who drink as well as those who don’t, I have this to say in conclusion. Don’t hold the young back from what they could accomplish. Don’t limit them from living as long as they are not endangering others. Support the drunk driving laws by letting your children know that it’s okay if they get drunk, just don’t drive home. Or better yet, stay home, crack open a beer, and watch the game. Don’t destroy the youth of America trying to protect it. Let them learn early that if you drink too much you can fall off your tricycle. Let’s finally learn something useful from Europe and make the 21st Century something we can all hoist a glass of ale too and say “this is to better days past, and more on the way.”