I hadn’t even unpacked. But because the cute guy across the hall asked me to go, I found myself in a raging frat party on my first night in college. Like many other freshmen, I was there to scope the UC Berkeley party scene. It was my first frat party — any party, for that matter. It was also the beginning of my experience with drinking in college.
For the next three years, I cycled between periods of time when I wouldn’t drink at all and some when I would trek up to Frat Row every week in search of a party. It wasn’t until my senior year that I struck a happy balance between absolutely no alcohol and binge-drinking party animal. While I had always known that this happy balance existed, partying safe is easy in theory and hard in practice. Easy in theory because I think we all understand what it means to party safe. We know that we can always choose to not drink, and if we do, we can do so responsibly. We know how to count our drinks and pace ourselves. But do we always do it? It’s hard in practice because we are in college, where everyone seems to “go hard or go home,” and those who do not party are perceived as nerdy and antisocial. Plus, sound judgment is easily muddled by the influence of alcohol.
While partying safe is both easy and hard, I believe in three things that encourage me to do it. First, partying safe is a choice. It can be challenging because the environment that we party in may not encourage setting limits and being responsible — in fact, it often seems to encourage the opposite. It’s true that we can’t always control our environment, but we can always choose how we respond to outside influences. All of us have the right and the ability to stick to our choices if we are truly committed to them. The key is to make the right choices and to be absolutely unafraid of what others may think. Chances are that people don’t really care that much. And if they do, well, as the saying goes, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Second, there are plenty of people who care about party safety and drink responsibly or who do not drink at all. It might be hard to realize this, but maybe it’s because these students just aren’t as visible as the louder, rowdier party guests. Many students take simple precautions to reduce the negative impacts of alcohol, such as having a meal before drinking or limiting their intake to a certain amount per hour. These students are great examples of what it means to party safe.
Furthermore, party safety promotion extends beyond the level of the individual partier. At UC Berkeley and other campuses, students are creating a variety of initiatives to promote safe drinking and partying habits. One such initiative is the “Pregame Huddle”, formed by a group of interns at [email protected] The Huddle is a resource station that operates on football gamedays and aims to reduce the negative impacts of drinking and pregaming on the Cal community. The stereotypical association between college student and party animal is not always true.
Finally, I think partying safe is sexy. Having a great time the night before, then nailing a deadline the next day is sexy. Nursing a nasty hangover and missing a day of class is not. Partying safe does not have to mean being paranoid or uncool — it is simply a classy way to behave.
Partying safe is smart, sexy and 100 percent achievable. Perhaps if I had known all of this earlier, I would have been able to find my happy balance a bit sooner. I encourage everyone to find your own balance, whatever that may be, and I promise you a good time.
The author is a former intern for [email protected]