Because I love my prefrontal cortex, because I have an inordinate amount of pride and for this reason don’t like to make a fool of myself in front of other people, and because it’s illegal, I don’t drink.
I am pretty liberal, and believe fully in things like gender equality (I might have been a bra-burning feminist had I not missed the movement) and religious tolerance. Because my form of liberalism shares a boundary with that brand of rebellious, non-conformist liberalism that is in support of excessive experimentation, it is not out of the question that I might consider underage drinking acceptable. In fact, many of my more “liberal” friends do; I have friends who drink on Friday nights at home, who drink in foreign countries, who drink to get drunk, who drink to be less shy, who drink to excuse unwise actions to come, and who drink to forget unwise actions of the past.
Because I was also raised in Seattle, however, I do things like eat all-natural, organic foods while wearing Birkenstocks and wool socks. And, really, who wants to dump ethanol in your body and brain when you’re going to all that trouble to eat granola instead of real food?
In addition to the very important concern regarding granola, many of my friends who do not drink don’t do so themselves because of the embarrassingly stupid things people do when drunk.
Senior Marielle Schweickart said, “It’s a self-respect thing. I don’t want to come to school on Monday and have everyone be talking about how I got drunk and acted really dumb.”
Another senior who doesn’t drink, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “I prefer to remember what happens at the parties I attend.”
Not everyone I know shares this opinion, however. Most of the people I know who drink do so because they are curious, because it’s “fun,” or because they don’t want to be the only one who isn’t.
Interestingly, most of my friends are college-bound IB students, sometimes obnoxiously proud of their intellectualism. It is these people whose drinking shocks and surprises me most, because ultimately, it’s concern for my brain that keeps me from consuming alcohol.
Following the granola reasoning, I wonder, why invite neurocognitive deficits when you’re paying terrifying sums of money for an education? Your habit of biting your nails, your fear of small spaces, even your secret love of bad pop music — all the things that make you who you are exist in the three pounds that are your brain. To dump high levels of alcoholic neurotoxins there not only impairs motor control and cognitive function immediately afterward — it will probably cause impaired memory and visuospatial function later in life. This is especially harmful to a younger brain still undergoing neuromaturation. This is the expanded, more detailed version of Schweickart’s explanation that “it’s a self-respect thing.” Your brain is where your self is, so respecting your brain is synonymous with respecting yourself.
I am not at all opposed to drinking in moderation once it’s legal and once my brain and body can better handle it. This is about drinking to get drunk. To those who do drink, that’s fine with me. I don’t really want to hear about it in any great detail, because I love not only my prefrontal cortex, but yours, too. Ultimately, it’s up to everyone to make their own choices; it’s not my confused 18-year-old self’s place to preach, but it’s frustrating to me trying to understand why people would want to impair cognitive function when life, in all its unexpected messiness, is challenging and exciting enough sober.
Hannah Joo is an Inglemoor High senior.