My Last Drink: A Student's Views on Alcohol

I consider myself to be a social drinker. What that means in my head is that I’m happy to drink the equivalent of 1 or 2 pints a night without any desperate need to get drunk particularly, but I wouldn’t be too worried if the evening carried on and it did end up that way. I go to the pub with my friends a lot, and generally try to avoid the kind of people who use ‘being drunk’ as a synonym for ‘feeling confident’, or who pre-drink compulsively before nights out like they’re workers on some kind of alcoholic conveyor belt.

My last drink was on Saturday night at my friend’s 22nd birthday, which we were celebrating at an upmarket venue in South London called The Balham Bowling Club. This is a change from normal, as people in our circle of friends have generally just finished university, and we usually go to a Wetherspoons, a cheap chain of pubs haunted by old men spending their dole money on half pints of bitter. We hang out there, feeling fairly out of place and talking about the nice bars we’ll go to when we’re older and have some money.

I could only afford to buy one drink on Saturday, after I found myself with only a pound coin and some change after buying a pint with a five pound note. Economic worries aside though, the night brought up a thought that I used to have a lot before I went off to university. In those days I’d regularly go to the kind of bar where drinks were expensive and the average age was about 27, and the thought I used to have then was, “wow, older people are kind of a bunch of idiots.” The people there would usually use ‘being drunk’ as a synonym for ‘being irritating', and the same thing was happening on Saturday night. The general feel of the place was of 17 year olds getting drunk for the first time; while I was waiting at the bar I kept getting hit by this guy’s arm, and when I looked around it was because he was swaying to the music with his hands in the air and his eyes rolled back in his head. Guys were shouting across the room, women were partially passed out in seats in the corner, and people would approach you and drunkenly tell you long stories about themselves that it was impossible for you to be interested in.

Our group of friends weren’t acting like that at all though. We’ve all just come out of university, where many of us drink fairly regularly, and as a result seem to act with more maturity with regards to alcohol than those 5 years our senior. I’m not saying that none of us ever vomit or act stupidly from drinking, but we can hold it down better than, say, a teacher who’s had early nights for the past 5 years because she’s got a 7am start in the morning. “What about those students you see shouting ‘down it, fresher’ on rugby socials?” Yeah, well those guys were never gonna be mature enough to learn to drink responsibly, and you’ll find them acting like that in their local Vodka Revs in about five years time too. You’ll also find people who, as students, would just have been feeling a bit of a buzz after 3 drinks acting like the stereotype of brits abroad now that they’re 26 and in accounting.

It’s possible that this has nothing to do with losing levels of tolerance, maybe this is a generational thing, or it’s the impact of office culture, or the people in these bars have never drunk regularly, whether at university or otherwise. What I do think though is that binge-drinking culture at university is over-played in people's minds at the expense of the idea that the university experience allows people to learn to control their drinking. Whether they then forget about this once they've entered the world of work I'm not sure about yet. Maybe I’ll be waving my arms to whatever R&B number is being played in the yuppie bar I happen to be frequenting when I’m 27. What I do know is that for the time being I’ll be going back to Wetherspoons, where I can hang out with some real drinkers.