Alcohol — The Real Star of the Show
We spend the weeks pushing forward, presenting our best selves and practicing mindfulness. Come 5 o’clock on a Friday evening, there is a real need to let loose. When living a purposeful life becomes tiresome, the idea of a cocktail (or seven) becomes enticing. Having a drink sets us free.
But oftentimes a night of drinking leaves us telling our own personal tales of Jekyl and Hyde. There’s a prevailing mindset of using alcohol to justify indulgence in our vices. But these stories are ubiquitous, if not only amongst our peers, certainly on T.V, especially reality T.V.
The cast members of these shows come to life when they drink; tensions come to a head, secrets are spilled and the drama is dialed up. As if directed by Freud himself, these characters transform from agreeable people to remorseless and relentless monsters.
Vanderpump Rules, for example, is a show about a group of waiters from a posh LA restaurant.The camera follows them as they date, work, eat and sleep. But nothing about the show is all that interesting — until they pour a drink down their throats, because nothing fuels the flames of drama like a cocktail. There is hardly a scene in which these characters aren’t drinking. Drunken alter egos emerge like the notorious Tequila Katie. They cheat, lie and steal and then defend it in the guise of a drunken mistake. These characters don’t drink to take a break from trying to put forth their best selves; they drink to take a break from the consequences of their worst selves.
On the same network is Summer House, a show about a group of young professionals from New York City renting (you guessed it) a summerhouse in the beach-town of Montauk, NY. Carl, a main cast member, is a dental sales rep with a flashy grin and effective pick-up lines.
When he is prescribed anti-biotics for tonsillitis, he refrains from drinking. Without the mojitos, the suave Romeo looses his mojo. And his fellow cast mates spend the rest of episode commenting on “boring,” sober Carl, almost as if he forgot how to have fun. Why should sober be boring?
A second roommate, Kyle, is a 31-year old entrepreneur who spends his weekends drinking excessively. We watch him down drink after drink until he’s slurring his words and calling his ex-girlfriend to spend the night. Moments later, the show cuts back to an interview in which Kyle admits he does not want to commit to her and acknowledges the heartbreak he puts her through each time he calls. This guy’s self-awareness is off the charts. Yet, it’s a loosing battle with temptation each time he drinks.
But it doesn’t stop at these two shows. The Jersey Shore and The Real World are notorious for excessive drinking too.
When you remove alcohol from the equation, what’s left? Ordinary shows about ordinary people living their ordinary lives. They use alcohol to turn up, fuel the drama and find an excuse to indulge in their vices.
And that’s what makes these shows so captivating. They drink for the same reasons as do you and I — to escape and let loose. These shows throw our own lives back in our faces, validating our most questionable thoughts and behaviors.
If we’re using alcohol to become someone a little cooler, bolder, dare I say more amusing, what does this say about our sober selves?
I often think back to my freshman year of college, how a cup of punch made me feel supreme, as if it gave me permission to dance on a table or comfortably walk into a room full of strangers — things my sober self wouldn’t really think to do.
But with each subsequent year, sober me and drunk me seem to become more attuned. I find that I need less liquid courage to say what I mean or take chances with friends, family or romantic interests.
Perhaps it’s a matter of growing into your shoes and establishing your identity. Maybe it’s growing firmer in your beliefs, acknowledging your flaws, their ugliness, your vices, and temptations and learning how to respond to them.
As we get better at incorporating the good with the bad, the gap between our everyday selves and drunken alter egos shrinks. There becomes less of a need to escape.
So ask yourself, who would you be without glasses of rosé and bottles of tequila?
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