Drinking is considered a rite of passage for American men, or at least for American males. It’s not uncommon for a father to take his son out to a bar for his first drink on his 21st birthday. Said drink is usually a beer–-the manliest of the beginner drinks–-or maybe bourbon or Scotch. Wine or other “girl drinks” are likely not encouraged.
Hardly anyone seriously argues that all drinking is immoral or harmful. Most studies maintain that moderate drinking is beneficial. But binge drinking—consuming at least four to five drinks in a two hour period—“is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States,” according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet.
“More than half the alcohol consumed by adults is downed during the course of binge drinking,” according to Time magazine. The harm this causes extends beyond the binging individual to society as a whole, in terms of “dangerous driving, assault, risky sexual behavior and long-term illness.”
On paper, a place like Texas seems like it would be a more hard-drinking state than most, with its reputation for everything being bigger and rowdier. Actually, it routinely ranks around 25th of the 50 states for its binge drinking rate, only 16.3 percent (almost midway between Utah at 11.4 percent and North Dakota at 24 percent). Still, there are many alcohol and drug rehab centers in Texas.
Texans probably subscribe to the belief that men should be able to hold their liquor—defined by Merriam-Webster as “to be able to drink alcoholic beverages without becoming too drunk.” Maybe men shouldn’t drink that much every day, the thinking goes, but they should be able to.
But while the CDC notes that “Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent”—that is, they don’t need to drink to avoid experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms—binge drinking may be more harmful than full-on alcoholism. Consuming large quantities of alcohol, even only occasionally, can cause more brain damage than drinking smaller quantities more often.
The desire to binge drink seems to be the result of group think, herd mentality, or peer pressure. You’re at a bar, everybody is drinking, and it’s expected you should drink, too, and about as much as everybody else. If you don’t, you’re a wuss. According to a columnist on Psychology Today, he never had that problem because he couldn’t care less whether he was considered less than manly.
I could say the same thing. I drink, but I’ve never been black-out, falling-down drunk. It’s not so much that I’m proud of it as I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t know if it’s necessarily manly to be sober, but I would agree with “Sean” on the Art of Manliness discussion board, that “What is not manly is constant drunkenness. To paraphrase Demosthenes, The ability to hold large amounts of liquid is a quality more appropriate to a sponge than a man.”
Why anyone would want to be drunk or otherwise intoxicated is inexplicable to me, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be indicative of manliness. If anything, it’s indicative of a need to find drug rehab centers in Texas, Utah, North Dakota or wherever else. I don’t see why I should want to be out of my right mind. There are many opportunities for embarrassment and tragedy, quite apart from being drunk.
My life isn’t always great, and there are times I want to be distracted from my problems. That’s when I read a book, listen to music, watch a movie or play a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. Getting drunk is brain damage, however slight, and I don’t want to damage my brain.
I can’t say this is a tough ethical stance to take. The fact is I just don’t care. I generally like myself too much to consider the whims or wishes of the group. I’d rather not associate with you than to go against my principles or to pretend to think like you to get you to like or accept me. I try not to be obnoxious about it, but neither do I hang out with people who routinely or deliberately try to get drunk.
Drinking has nothing to do with being a capital-M Man. Paying my bills, helping to support my family, treating people as I would wish to be treated, standing up for my principles, being a good citizen and neighbor—those are the attributes of being a Man (or a Woman). The rest is posturing like a rooster.
Photo: Getty Images
Stephen Bitsoli is an SEO content writer in Michigan, writing articles about addiction. A journalist for more than 20 years, and a lifelong avid reader, Stephen loves learning and sharing what he’s learned.