Saturday, January 17, 2009

A sensible rant, but with restraint


On any given weekend night, in any given medium to larger metropolis you will find the people packed in. Into where you ask? Is it meetinghouses? Is it quiet coffee nooks? Is it their living rooms? Not so much. They are packed into the swankiest bar they know of.

Don't judge me for this. I was just in a bar less than 10 minutes ago. This whole culture is so unfamiliar to me that I literally felt like I walked into a space ship populated by aliens sizing me up to see what I'm made of. Here is what I feel. My voice hurts from talking over the pumping loud music. I saw about 6 friends, most of whom I have not seen for months. As I hugged them and said hello and started the conversation, I couldn't help but think it: is this the best place for me to catch up with these people.


Its dark. Its crowded. Its HELLA loud. People are out looking wealthy and happy, even if they are not. They are tipsy from drink. Although I am so grateful to have seen my friends all in one place I can't help but wish I could have been able to see all of them in another context. I know its too much to wish for to have us all meet at a metaphorical campfire and read some Poe while we cuddle, reminisce and roast marshmallows (again, metaphor).

What is it with these bars? What is it that brings these people together from an anthropological standpoint? Historically places like the well or the watering hole become places where people gather. Everyone needs water, right? Everyone needs it every day. What does the swanky bar offer that can be compared to the watering hole. Is it the alcohol? Is it the ability to see and be seen? Is it the opportunity to be a part of a community of like minded people? I am really asking.

The other thing I want to know is this: am I missing something? Are bars the bees knees and I am just missing the boat? My one hunch is that if I drank alcohol more frequently I would probably understand more the appeal of the bar atmosphere. But would that be a good thing?

One remnant of my mormon past is that I am not a frequent imbiber of alcoholic beverages. I'm really not against it in moderation, honestly. I just am not convinced that moderation is what is being practiced here. Am I being judgy? I'm looking for comments.

13 comments:

El Genio said...

I've never been a fan of bars either, and I don't think I ever will be. It's just not who I am.

Ausmo said...

No your not being Judgy. I have the same issue. Every other weekend my friends are off to bars, and I try to get out of it allot.

I'm just not comfortable in these situations. Like you said, there packed, loud and so much alcohol is being consumed. I love catching up with friends and chatting for hours. However in a bar, i lose my voice yelling over the noise and music, the conversation gets stupid pretty damn fast, I just feel out of place and awkward in these public settings too. I don't even mind being around the booze. I have had enough bad experiences with it myself that i have no interest dropping $100 a night to get wasted, but if my friends enjoy it good for them!

I do think it has allot to do with being brought up mormon. Lets face it most of us in our youth didn't get surrounded by drunk teen parties like most 16 year olds. (Well that is the case in this country, every kids parents buy them booze for parties from about 15 years old)

I guess its not being brought up in those environments make them feel so foreign even now, after being round it a fair bit the last few years.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

You must go to really expensive bars if you're spending $100!

It is true that bars are much less fun if you're not drinking the same amount as your friends are. if you're totally sober and your friend is drunk off his/her ass, then it's often not as fun, so you're right there.

However, I would say that the vast majority of Mormons and many ex-Mormons have a rather skewed idea of what "drinking in moderation" means. If you go to a bar once a month or so and get buzzed or maybe even drunk, I don't think that necessarily means you're drinking too much, or aren't drinking in moderation.

I actually had to work at changing the way I percieve drinking becuase I realised I was being judgemental based on my strict religious upbringing, and not out of actual logic or reason.

I guess my point is as exMormons, we often still tend to judge the real world in terms we were taught as children, instead of more normative and real terms. Being a moderate drinker doesn't necessarily mean you can't ever get drunk, but that if you do get drunk, you're not doing it all the time. And even if someone chooses to be a heavy drinker, I still don't think there's any reason to be judgemental.

However, I will say that while I like going to the pub with friends, we have to be able to hear each other talk, or it's no fun at all, and often I'd rather just go to someone's house and chill there, or go to a nice restaurant rather than hang out all night at a bar. I'm not sure how much of that has to do with being raised Mormon, or just my personality.

Also, you might try to go to bars/pubs that don't have loud music. There are many different kinds of bars that cater to different sorts of clientele - you might shop around with your friends until you find one that fits you better. Also, I think the key is variety - if your friends are only ever going to the bar, well then that gets boring. Going to the bar once in a while is fun, but it can't be the only thing you ever do, or only place you ever hang out with friends.

Blah blah blah, I'm done.

maybemaybenot said...

It isn't being judgmental at all to not like the bar scene. I feel the EXACT same way as you described here. Between the crowd, the dark and the loud music, it is just not an enjoyable situation for me at all.

And it has nothing to do with the alcohol because I go to restaurants, friends' homes, sporting events - you name it - where I sometimes do and sometimes don't consume alcohol. I have not found that I have any more fun, necessarily when I am drinking. There might be more silliness or laughter but not necessarily more fun or enjoyment.

I do agree with Craig, that as exMormons (or Mormons) we have a skewed view on the relative normality of alcohol consumption. So long as we don't have to drive, work, tend to children, etc., I don't think it is wrong to get a little tipsy from time-to-time. In other words, so long as you're being responsible having a lot to drink isn't inherently bad.

I do think getting drunk to the point of passing out, getting sick or having a hangover isn't the smartest thing to do. But I wouldn't judge my friends for it. Just choose not to do it myself.

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Well I really appreciate the comments guys. I have actually started to drink on occasion as well- mostly at dinners or house parties or situations like that. I DO think however that there is a level of residual judgement that I am carrying though from my mormon days. I mean I just can't shake the idea that drinking alcohol is nigh unto murder! Go figure.

I do still think that bars are a place where the only cohesive factor for their existence is alcohol. I think if the booze stopped flowing at the hottest place in town and they started serving "soft" drinks instead, the sizzle would quickly be snuffed out. But maybe I'm wrong! I am about 50% of the time.

The only drinks I like so far are mojitos, cosmos, and I did like this stuff I had in Greece called Mastiha. Its liquor made from gum trees, and is very sweet. Red wine totally takes like battery acid to me. Maybe someday I can be the sophisticate I've been hoping I'd turn out to be. :)

Alan said...

Totally agree with you Clark, I don't get and never have understood how anything but alcohol could enable people to endure the atmosphere in just about every bar I've ever been in. Except a smoke-free sports bar of course. I've had O'Douls and wine with alcohol removed and thought both were disgusting so the booze has zero attraction for me. Plus I'm too cheap to pay a 1000% mark-up for any product.

Friends, music, conversation, I love it all, but please, in a quieter place where intelligence, wit, and good taste are the binding agents, not booze.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

Alan, I just thought I'd mention that O'Douls is just gross, as is most mass-produced American beer (Coors, Budweiser, etc). You can't judge good beer by a nasty alcohol-free version. The same goes with wine.

Paying a lot extra to drink in a bar is a good reason not to do that, but isn't a good reason not to ever drink any alcohol. I'll admit that it does take a while to get used to alcohol. It took me about a year and a half to be able to enjoy red wine or hard liquors, but it really is worth it.

Alan said...

Pointed noted. My dad used to drink before he joined the church and says every beer he ever tasted was like carbonated sea water. So people come to different conclusions, obviously. But beyond that, my dad's dad did enough drinking for 5 generations' worth of family and my dad still bears the scars, emotionally and physically, if you know what I mean. So you'll understand why I say I have not the slightest interest in drinking alcohol and that would probably be true regardless of my church affiliation.

Keri said...

That's actually why I no longer go to bars. I stopped having fun at them when I turned 25. Too loud, too expensive, yadda yadda yadda. I'd much rather meet at someone's house and bring our own alcohol at one-fourth the price. :)

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Thanks for your comments guys! My first experience getting "drunk" was in a very controlled environment. It was 2007 while I was working in Vegas. A close friend and me both decided that since we had never drunk before we should experience it.. but we didn't want it to be expensive so we STUPIDLY went to the Von's next door to where I was living and bought the CHEAPEST bottle of red wine we could find and went home. Because it was HORRIBLE literally 4 dollar on sale wine (and it was 4 dollars for a liter and a half-- the big bottle!), it tasted like vomit. But we were so determined to get buzzed that we just choked that shiz down. After a while we were laughing and having a lot of fun. I vaguely remember us doing yoga poses and seeing how long we could hold them, and also doing runway walks.. imagining a scenario where a cop stopped us and asked to walk a straight line.. we thought it would be funny if someone was like.. "NOT ONLY can I walk a straight line right now, I CAN DO IT LIKE THIS!" and then runway strut past him perfectly. We were having fun.

The next day I was in the fetal position for like 8 hours, and then I finally threw up at 5pm. NOT a good next day, but then I didn't really drink enough water, and that was the cheapest wine ever.

Since then I have had a few better experiences FOR SURE, but I still haven't really drunk frequently. My mom talked a lot about her father's alcoholism while we were growing up, and how she felt we had a genetic addiction to alcohol. I certainly don't have that "one drink was all it took and now I'm addicted" gene, but my older brother did seem to take to it more, and drinks frequently.

I think its an interesting thing, because alcohol is so readily available and so effective at making something potentially mundane into something really fun. AKA a bar. A lot of people like to drink before they go to social events because they feel they will have more fun. Its just interesting to me the way alcohol has been made so taboo in our lives as mormons, while someone like my friend Keri, who by the way comes from an amazing home with wonderful parents, never experienced that taboo. Her family has a healthy attitude toward alcohol, and seems to understand the codes of moderation perfectly. My boyfriend also-- his family is Greek and they definitely drink sometimes, but truly drink in moderation-- never alone and certainly never to get wasted. Interesting!

Svenska & Sheaux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Svenska & Sheaux said...

i must learn to proof read before posting...


There is nothing inherently evil about drinking alcohol, as far as I understand it. Even in mormon scripture Joseph Smith was only told not to drink wine made by his enemies. There has defiantly been an LDS cultural shift, a harmful and unfortunate one in my mind, not only against alcohol, but towards anyone willing to drink it. Treating it like such a wicked thing has only served to further separate LDS from other Christians. It is not like LDS isthe only christian church which which teaches that one shouldn't drink alcohol.

I've never minded being at a gathering where people are drinking, unless, like you say Clark, they are just drinking to get sloshed, then it's just not fun because A) i'm not a part of the activity and B) being sloshed doesn't look fun!

I am a closet hoper that someday the Lord will be able to trust members of the church enough to say "ok, just like everything else, moderation people!" because I really think I would enjoy drinking wine with good friends... I mean, WWJD right? He'd turn any party into one with good drink! In his day, it was only manners!

It's a cultural thing that can be deconstructed very easily, but that is not to say there are not very good reasons to abstain. Religious brainwashing applied or not, it comes to a decision.

I honestly can appreciate your feelings on deciding to drink and deciding to do so in moderation.

I hope you don't mind me reading. I miss talking to you! Please keep writing!!

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Spencer! What a great comment. I don't mean to sound like an older brother or anything, but I am just so proud of you. I think you are a SUCH wonderful person and I am so proud to know you! I feel so encouraged for future generations in the church with people like yourself in the body of LDS. I LOVE that you are reading and I would love to hear your comments on everything. Your point of view is extremely enlightened and you have obviously built upon a solid foundation of common sense and good research. That is awesome. LOVE YOU!