Drinking Age

Nearly two decades ago, in the great state of Alabama, the legal age at which you could purchase alcohol was 19. Now, I wasn’t much for drinking when I was in high school but I had friends who had little problem getting a six-pack of beer or a couple of bottles of Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink whenever the mood hit. I had my first beer and Boone’s Farm (we were nothing but class, man) on the night of graduation…and a couple of nights later got my first mixed drink–a Long Island Iced Tea–in celebration of grad week. There was little problem getting any amount of alcohol whenever and wherever we wanted. There was always somebody 19 around.

I went off to college at the age of 18 and turned 19 in the spring semester of my freshman year. Having joined a fraternity the previous fall, suffice to say that beer, wine & liquor trickled down to those brothers & pledges who wanted it. I wasn’t much for drinking that first semester, either. In fact, when our pledge class played football against the Kappa Sigs next door, we bet 25 cases of beer and one case of Mountain Dew especially for me. But, if I’d wanted it, it was a slam dunk to get it. And, keep in mind that, at that time, the great state of Alabama controlled the sale of hard liquor through special stores owned & operated by the Alabama Beverage Commission. Still, no sweat.

Here’s my experience:

Those that wanted to funnel beer and play beer pong and do 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes and have a bike race and wanted to do Jell-O shots and slam 8 Snakebites in an hour and drink Vodka & Gatorade (supposedly got things to the bloodstream faster–urban legend or no? we had no internet to do research then so the belief went unchallenged) to celebrate the Tigers’ victory over rival Alabama in the SEC Championship basketball game or who would sneak a flask into the student section to mix the drinks in the “commemorative” plastic stadium cups did that very thing.

The legal age had nothing to do with it.

Well, today’s Dallas Morning News weighed in on the recent discussion on lowering the legal drinking age from the current 21 to a proposed 18.

Their argument AGAINST THE MOVE goes like this:

“The argument for lowering the drinking age to 18 goes like this: They’re old enough to fight and die for our country, to vote, buy cigarettes and serve on a jury. Under the law, they’re adults. So why can’t they drink?

If only it were that simple. Ever wonder why Texas law doesn’t allow anyone under 21 to obtain a concealed-weapon permit or why car rental companies reject renters under 21?

It’s not just age but maturity that defines adulthood. And there’s a far greater assurance that 21-year-olds are closer to the level of mature responsibility – including the ability to restrain impulsive behavior – that must be required of people who drink.”

And their conclusion is that the current law should remain in place.

Now, there might be good reasons to keep the drinking age at 21. That isn’t my point. My point is that their reasoning is flawed.

See that little phrase “including the ability to restrain impulsive behavior?” Yeah. That’s demeaning to anyone who is a teenager.

To suggest that the average 18-year-old can’t restrain impulsive behavior? That’s your rationale? C’mon. You should be smarter than that…especially editors of a respected newspaper, man.

What I’ve found is that I can roll into an area sports grill in my community at 9:30PM on a Tuesday night and there are 45-year-olds carrying on in such a manner that would indicate they were not restraining impulsive behavior. But, in reality, they knew what they were doing. They were just carrying on and having a good time doing shots at the bar. That street where “maturity defines adulthood” runs both ways, DMN.

And I’ve seen 18-year-olds who know right from wrong choose to refrain from consumption. I’ve seen 18-year-olds who know right from wrong throw up in the Wendy’s parking lot.

My point is that to suggest an 18-year-old can’t control their urges in any sense–firearms, sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll–demeans them. 18-year-olds are fully aware of what’s up. Some are wise. Some aren’t. Some have momentary lapses of reasons. Some choose the wisest course of action. And those that did well yesterday might not do well the next day.

But 45-year-olds are the same way, man.

Character isn’t about age…and there are kids in Holland who can drink beer & wine legally at 16 (please, correct me if I’m wrong on that, Dutch readership) and some of the kids have a few beers and dance to bad techno music and that’s the end of it. Others drink too much and throw parked/locked bicycles into canals.

But the issue is character, in my way of thinking.

And if I can count on a recent high school grad to keep their weapon clean, I feel like somebody can teach an 18-year-old the ability to consume moderately. Like I said, the issue is character…not treating an adult as if they can’t control their impulsive behavior. So, DMN, while there might be 100 good reasons to keep the legal drinking age at 21, this one isn’t the right one.

Maybe, just maybe, if we raise the bar of expectation (much like boot camp does for 18 year olds) they might just rise to meet them…instead of dumbing it down and saying they can’t control themselves. Well, they just might meet that expectation, too.