As a few-week freshman wrapping up his transition from one stage of life to the next, I may or may not be in the position to proclaim that parties in college are not all that different from the ones we went to in high school.
Besides the fact, of course, that they’re better. Any of my friends here can tell you that I’m as willing as anyone to trek across Evanston in pursuit of those sweaty, suffocating frat bashes relegated to apartments earlier in the school year thanks to the freshman freeze. The strange thing, though, is that I hated high school throw-downs – the ones that trashed the nicest houses, dwarfed all other Saturday night plans and had the capacity to produce more vomit than a bottle of ipecac. I never enjoyed those parties. They felt aimless, and with the social segmentation of grade school in full effect, everyone always seemed to know exactly whom they wanted to stick with in the first place.
The main attraction at those classy events was, of course, the alcohol. Since no one there was of legal age to buy it, duties of provision came down to those who had fakes and/or really lax parents. It all generally worked out somehow, and once the booze was purchased, the Afrojack was at full volume and half the teenage population of the town had begun to filter in, all socializing – at least in the conversational sense – ceased. Like police dogs, the guests went straight for the drinks, and that was that.
I might be simplifying a little bit, but in my limited range of experience, such evenings were largely identical, with slight variations in address and brands of vodka. I’m a fan of thinking and talking; I had a hard time coming up with reasons to go to these parties when all they ever seemed to create was a jungle-like atmosphere in which few people were coherent enough to speak with. Yet even at the ones my friends threw, which were always a little smaller, alcohol often remained the center of attention. If you weren’t engaged in beer pong or some form of drunk schmoozing, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. Alcohol could get a party going, but somehow it made the night feel less significant in the process.
Fundamentally, college parties are no different. They still put spirits on a pedestal, and Lord knows they’re equally chaotic. The vomit quotient isn’t necessarily much lower. Yet somehow, remarkably, these parties are more fulfilling. They’re fabled and romanticized, beloved in a way that no hometown house party ever managed to be. The simple rationale for such an improvement is that we’ve all grown up a bit – we’re no longer the same petty kids we were in grade school, glued, for the most part, to our friend groups and blown away by the availability of substances that could get us shitfaced. But I don’t think it ends there. Parties here are woven into the fabric of everyday life. They’re not diversions from an academic regimen we all hate; they’re merely a chunk of the leisure sector in the pieces that make up our week. As such, they don’t feel like acts of recreational desperation. They’re just another way to have fun – clean and simple.
These are, as far as I’m concerned, the reasons for college’s social superiority. It’s not the alcohol; what gets you drunk at a high school party gets you drunk at a college party. So why the need to plaster ourselves in order to validate what a good time we’re having? In Spain, the legal drinking age of eighteen permitted me to enjoy a glass or two of sangria with my dinner. At the table with me were my parents and younger siblings. My goal, if anything, was not to get drunk. And still I have to admit – and I know this won’t be a popular perspective – that I found this milder approach to drinking to be far more pleasant than anything I had experienced at a rager. Do I advocate drinking with your family instead of your friends? Not a chance. Can you go to a restaurant and legally order drinks with your meal, considering you have the ability to vote, smoke, appear in a nude scene and die for your country? Nope. Thanks, America. But is it really necessary to get smashed, nauseated and borderline incompetent in order to fulfill the potential of a party? Well, you tell me. I’d argue that life’s just a little more special when you can remember it the next day.