I just finished reading about the University of Iowa student who is now being billed as the “drunkest girl ever.” And although I don’t advocate physical violence in any way, I’d really like to grab this girl by the shoulders and shake her.
If you haven’t read the story, here are the Cliff’s Notes: Her name is Samantha (Twitter handle – wait for it -- @Vodka_Samm), and she was arrested Saturday for behaving in a drunken and disorderly fashion at a University of Iowa football game.
When Samantha, a U of I senior, was taken to jail, her blood-alcohol content was found to be a staggering .341. The legal threshold for intoxication is .08 percent BAC, and the lethal limit falls between 0.40 percent and 0.50 percent.
This young woman is really, truly lucky to be alive this morning. And yet, here’s what she tweeted after her release from jail:
Just went to jail #yolo — Samantha (@Vodka_samm) August 31, 2013
Blew a .341 in jail — Samantha (@Vodka_samm) August 31, 2013
Im going to get .341 tattooed on me because its so epic -- Samantha (@Vodka_samm) August 31, 2013
I just finished raising a couple of kids. God knows, I didn’t handle everything perfectly over the course of all those years, but thankfully, my kids turned out well.
And my kids drank. I presume they both still drink occasionally, but they’re adults with bachelors’ degrees and good jobs and are self-supporting, so my presumption is that they manage to spend the great majority of their time sober.
I can tell you with certainty, though, that when my kids were in college, if either had been in Samantha’s situation, their dad and I would be dealing with certain things this morning. And maybe Samantha’s parents are dealing with those things; I don’t know, and I don’t mean to judge them.
But I mean to judge her. And I mean to judge the alcohol-obsessed culture in which we’re raising our kids.
I know, I know. I’m old. And much of the time, I’m not a lot of fun. I like serious things, and letting my hair down isn’t a particular strength of mine. But believe it or not, I was young once. And I drank too much on several occasions.
Thankfully, though, a taste for alcohol didn’t stay with me, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I drank. My decision not to drink is more a matter of not enjoying alcohol than being morally opposed to it; it has its place, and a glass or two of wine per day even carries some health benefits.
To be clear, I have absolutely no issue with adults who drink recreationally and can handle their alcohol, and who use it in moderation; most of my friends drink, and family members drink, and I love them dearly. I’m not holier-than-thou; I just don’t like to drink.
Beyond the scope of my personal experience, though, my greatest issue with alcohol is the messages that our society sends to our kids regarding its excessive use. Among them: Alcohol will make you more fun. Alcohol will make you less shy. It will make you sexier and more desirable. It will provide you with a life of nonstop frivolity.
Actually, here’s what excessive alcohol use will likely do: It will make you lose your inhibitions. It likely will cause you to make stupid, stupid decisions. It could cause you to lose your driver’s license, the respect of your family and friends, and even your job. It could cause you to kill someone, if you’re behind the wheel drunk. And it could cause you to die.
I think the reason excessive alcohol use among young people irritates me so much is that it’s often bundled with self-esteem issues. Anytime I drank too much in my younger days, it was because I wanted it to ease my feelings of awkwardness. I wanted to feel less serious and less fat. I wanted to be able to sing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with my sorority sisters without feeling self-conscious. And I wanted boyfriends to see me as fun, uninhibited, the life of the party.
I was a senior in college when I decided to knock it off. I was at a party in which Everclear was mixed with punch in someone’s bathtub. I drank a ton of it, and I somehow got home (thankfully, I didn’t drive; there’s no way I could have).
I was living at home, and made it up the stairs and stumbled into my bed. Next thing I knew –- or, as I was told, anyway -– my sister, who raised me after our mom died, was shaking me awake, then making me get up and walk. She’s a nurse, and she was considering taking me to the hospital. Luckily, home remedies -– plenty of water, and rest -– did the trick.
There was no social media then. But if there had been, even I, chronic oversharer that I've always been, wouldn’t have tweeted about what was certainly a pretty high BAC. Why? Because I was mortified. In my family, and in the larger environment in which I was raised, being that drunk would have been regarded as pretty gross.
Did I ever drink after that? Sure, and even as an adult. But never that much, and never with the intent of being someone I wasn’t.
And that leads me back to Samantha. She doesn’t seem to be a stupid girl; kudos to her for being almost ready to graduate. But shame on her for this, which she tweeted the day after her arrest:
“Ive gotten so many hate tweets because I was drunk...uh I get good grades sorry for being like every other college student.”
Samantha, yay for the good grades, but boo for trying to excuse your behavior. You’re not like every other college student. You’re one who probably believes the commercials about Cristal and Patron, and one who hopes that throwing back just one more vodka and Red Bull will turn you into a Kardashian.
You could very well be an otherwise smart girl, so why not get yourself under control? If you truly like yourself, show it.
And please don’t be afraid to get help if you need it. If you have a problem, please understand that I’m not making fun of you. I’m making fun of the way you chose to handle an incident that should have embarrassed the hell out of you.
Here’s the most basic thing, Samantha: At the very least, if you don’t see a reason to change your lifestyle, don’t tweet about it.
Why? Because a fun-hater like me may interview you for a job one day, and even with your very own meme and "Sam .341" t-shirt, you won’t get the job.
And someday, that will matter to you. A lot.