When my oldest son was a freshman in college 2000 miles away from me, he called me one morning, clearly hungover. I was terrified. Not because he was hungover per se. But because at that moment I realized that he had entered the realm of learning to drink and I had sent him 2000 miles away knowing he would take this class but preparing him for it not at all.
With memories of freshmen who died of alcohol poisoning spinning in a room in my head, I wrote him an email in which I tried to give him some guidance.
An unexpected moment in parenting to be sure, and arguably not my finest hour.
Except. Just as I believe we teach the benefits of abstinence alongside the necessity of birth control when we teach our children about sex, I think it is naive and possibly harmful to send them to college without some basic information on the art (or science?) of drinking.
What follows are the guidelines I sent my son, which I offer to anyone who is sending their own child to college soon.
And if you happen to know a publication that might buy such a piece, please let me know. Have I mentioned I am unemployed?
10 Commandments for Drinking
1. Love yourself with all your heart and your soul and your mind, and your future as your present. Always begin an evening knowing exactly what you must do in the morning! Look at your calendar. That ALONE will help you have the right level of control as the evening goes on and the drinks go down more easily.
2. Thou shalt avoid the dry heaves by choosing your drink in advance. Decide what you can handle (beer? Rum & Coke?) Go to the party prepared to drink THAT and only THAT. AVOID the ‘trash can’ drink (all kinds of liquor dumped together) like the PLAGUE…which will make you so sick you will think you’ve been struck down with a PLAGUE in the biblical sense. [Note: This sort of mixed drink is DEADLY—or worse—after a night of this you might still be alive, you will only WISH you were dead.]
3. Fill your own glass. Always. That way, you can be sure to keep commandment #4.
4. Honor your maintenance buzz . Switch to pop BEFORE you have had too much to drink and the room is spinning! When you are aware that you are happy, still engaging in witty conversation, and moving without falling down or slopping your drink all over your shirt…switch to pop for awhile. Drinking is fun when you can get a light buzz and MAINTAIN IT. Drinking is something you most certainly WILL REGRET when you drink RIGHT PAST the optimum buzz.
5. Bear false witness about what you are drinking if you need to get those who would have you drink yourself stupid off your back. If you have enough backbone to routinely know when to say when, AND to actually say when to ANYONE (Including a babe who you are certain wants you in the most tawdry sense of the word), then you are a better man than most. But if you think you could cave to persistent pressure to drink too much, have your ‘get ‘em off my back answer ready.’ (A glass of Coke is always a Rum & Coke to those who want you to be as drunk as they are.)
6. Thou shalt not covet thy roommate’s girlfriend. Breaking this one can only leave you unsatisfied with your own life and possibly cause you to miss the subtle invitations you are receiving from all the beautiful girls around you who are NOT in a relationship—but might want one with YOU. Additionally, breaking this one will guarantee failure should you get locked out of your dorm and need to appeal to your roommate for help.
7. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thyself. Remember who you are and protect your convictions. In other words, do not get so drunk that you do something you would never do sober. Taking off all your clothes, climbing a tower, and singing Afternoon Delight while numerous cell phone cameras point and shoot at you would apply.
8. Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself. Be in control enough to BE THE ONE who tells someone else to quit drinking OR who takes the keys away from someone who shouldn’t be driving. Be tough enough to endure their temporary rage for their eternal gratitude.
9. Do not take your own name in vain. Stay in control of what you say and do and you never feel shame and regret for having done something stupid for which your only (lame) explanation was that you were too drunk.
10. Honor your life that you shall live long upon the earth. If you know you’re going to drink, walk to the party or go with a driver who you know does NOT drink…for health reasons. A driver who says, ‘I just won’t drink THIS time’ cannot be trusted. Trust me on this one.