Dear Class of 2023,
I want to tell you something that I wish someone had told me when I was your age. You won’t listen. I wouldn’t have either. But I’m going to tell you anyway.
I know you have all been warned about the dangers of drinking alcohol when you are underage. You have been told that it is sinful, or bad for your brain and body, or that it isn’t what smart kids do. I heard all of those things, too. I drank anyway to rebel against those voices.
What I didn’t know – what I wish I had been prepared for – is once you reach the legal drinking age, you join the “now drinking is compulsory club.” You are now required to drink. It is required to celebrate. It is required to grieve. Alcohol is required to show that you are a fully-grown-ass adult who is living a full life. If prospective paramours see that you don’t drink on your dating profile, they will keep scrolling.
People drink at work. People drink at kids’ birthday parties and baby showers. People drink while they shop for groceries in some places. Meaning, there are some places where that is totally fine but also lots of clear boozie seltzers that you can put in your water bottle, and no one will notice you are getting a nice buzz in the cheese aisle before you head to your child’s soccer game while wearing your “Rosè All Day” t-shirt.
Your coworkers will shame you if you don’t come to happy hour. Your friends will forget to invite you on the Italy trip. No one will pass you a crack pipe and then, when you demure, ask, “What are you, a fucking Mormon?” They will do this with tequila.
We are obsessed with alcohol; it is inescapable. I’m not here to tell you “just say ‘no’.” All I want to tell you is that you can say no. In fact, in a culture this soaked in the stuff, saying “no” to alcohol might be the only way to truly rebel. It might just be the most punk rock thing you can do.