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Why Do Yalies Drink So Much?

Based on my own personal experiences, it seems safe to say that a large number of undergraduates at Yale are alcoholics. My friends, for example, seem unable to gather in groups of more than, say, three, without bringing out the vodka. I, as one who doesn’t drink, find this a little unnerving.

Why do I hang out with them, you may ask? Well, other than their raging alcoholism, they’re very funny, very bright, very interesting, motivated, and intelligent people. Perhaps they’re a bit more introspective than the usual 20-year-old, which admittedly tends to lead to things like existentialism and drug use. But they’re hardly at the brink of despair and isolation. Apart from weekend nights, when they resemble nothing so much as a bunch of inebriated chimpanzees, they are well-adjusted, leading members of the Yale community.

And They’re not alone. I always have to laugh when my parents ask if anyone “binge drinks” at Yale, because there isn’t any other kind of drinking here. A good number of people start drinking around nine p.m. and just keep going until they throw up, pass out, run out of alcohol, or manage to make it back to their room with the object of their desires, at which point they are usually too drunk even to get their clothes off.

I don’t have anything against alcohol in general. The thing that frightens me about the drinking here, though, is that it is so determined. I can’t count the number of times an otherwise sane person has said to me, “I’m going to get really drunk tonight. I’m just going to drink till I pass out.” Why do so many lucid, thoughtful, realistic people think that saturating their cells with alcohol to the point where they lose most motor control will be either (a) more fun than anything they could possibly do sober, or (b) any more helpful in solving life’s problems than it was the last 5,794th time they tried it?

Personally, I think that Yale is a wonderful but stressful place. There is enormous pressure in this community to perform well. What we most need to escape from, I think, is our own minds. It’s hard to be anywhere at Yale without your brain engaging in high gear. It’s perfectly understandable that Yale students need a way to escape a bit. But we cannot seem to accept the idea of just relaxing and consciously spending some time not thinking. It’s just not the Yale way. We don’t do yoga. We don’t sit around and stare at the walls. Instead, we go drinking, which is physically dangerous and makes us even more emotionally volatile. There must be a better way.  the end


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