Sunday, 23 October 2011

Wasted youth

On the Champs Elysée, Paris October 2008.

Karin Schimke

Almost Teetotal

It starts off well enough.
I'd venture,
fun. A kind of warmth
softens my sinews,
I laugh more easily,
things muddy become clear,
conversation flows
doesn't cease
to flow, so that
things clear become muddy,
muscles become flaccid.
I discover then,
too late,
that a bit of control
is a good thing, but
continue to exercise
unedited stupidity:
Say pointless things
that confuse me;
dance on higher things
because the floor feels
suddenly limited;
turn up the volume
because turning it down
        - or just leaving it -

are not options;
to the final resting place
on cool white tiles
with a view
to the underside of things,
from where I can propel the solid
pain that us my head upwards
by the sincere belief that
sour choking gagging effort
over the exhausted bowl might
       this time -

bring release from the
that getting pissed
is fun.

If it's all the same to you,
I'd rather not.

In Difficult to explain

The first remembrance of alcohol is when I was in Grade 8. My sister's class had to host the Matric ( that's 12th Grade, last year at school here) Ball and my mom was there as well to help. A big bunch of my friends ( all girls, please) had a sleepover at my house and some of them had stolen a bottle of altar wine from church. I can't remember how exactly, since I was not there. We proceeded to drink the wine but WHAMBAM my mom returned home to bust us with glasses of wine in our hands. I must admit, we did not think the whole drinking thing through properly. Should have thought about when she would get home.. Or at least we should have drunk ( drank?) in my room and not in the kitchen, since it is the first room one walks into when entering our house.

My mother proceeded to give us a lengthy speech and then as punishment I was not allowed my cellphone ( Nokia 3310 bitches) or access to the TV for a month. It is the only punishment I can remember ever having gotten. I can't even remember being hit one time.

So after this first flirtation we once got hold of a small bottle of Amarula and drank that between the four of us, but that's about it.

Grade 10 is when alcohol begins playing a role in my social excursions. I would borrow my sister's driver's licence or Id or student card and go out with her or with friends who were either of age or had their sibling's IDs or had fake student cards. It was all very illegal.

It is not like the group of us got wasted very weekend or like we were completely irresponsible, but I look back now ( as if it has been that long) and would never act as carelessly. We would go out and then walk back to a friends house, which in SA is not the best idea as girls, alone, in the dead of night. Sometimes her brother would walk with us with his baseball bat, or we would just ask strangers for lifts. Now I could never do the same thing.

Now I think: "Ah, driving tonight. Where did you park the car? Will someone be able to hijack you from there and stuff you in the trunk? Is someone driving with you? Oh, this is your second Hunter's Dry, better order some water next. "

It is not like I don't want to drink any more at all, it is just that my sense of responsibility outweighs my desire to drink too much. Perhaps we drink to forget, we drink to have more courage, we drink to be more sociable, we drink to be more likeable, we drink because we don't want to be in our right mind. And  by drink I don't mean the occasional glass of wine or a beer here and there. I mean getting wasted, losing your house-keys, waking up in strange places, having no money left in your wallet, and a general "feeling-like-shit" the next day.

Ultimately, I am glad to have wasted my weekends when we were still at school, to have gotten drunk in relatively safe environments and to never have done too stupid things. Many people who get to university and taste individual freedom for the first time get lost in the partying and drinking of the first year and fail academically. I am only 23 and already feel too old to be doing that.

A few weeks ago the debate here was if the legal drinking age should be pushed up to 21. I don't know. Will it change anything? By the time one is 21, you are in your last year at university. Hmm. How many people would just continue drinking illegally? How has it affected countries like the US? Apparently two-thirds of South Africans support a drinking age of 21.

If a higher age lessens the amount of alcohol-related accidents and deaths, I say do it. But if there is no significant difference, I think parents should rather focus on instilling in their children moral values where each is responsible for the self. As a society we cannot still have some sort of following for people like Jub-Jub who kill children by drunkenly drag-racing through the streets in the morning. It is all very strange: a man is found guilty of assault for almost spilling whiskey on President Zuma, but more serious accusations like rape or murder somehow fall though the cracks. I don't understand it.


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