Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's Do This

Okay, so let's do this. Let's talk about alcohol. I know a great deal about alcohol. I've consumed a great deal of alcohol - comparatively, I'll bet I drank more the week I graduated from college than Rube has her entire life, and I almost didn't graduate from college because I was too busy getting drunk to write my senior thesis. I had a year to write it, and I finished it in three days. I got a D.

Alcohol made me fat. I got really, really fat. But I was fat, active, and strong, like a fucking ox that could put away a handle of Jack and twelve pack, no problem. Fucking watch me. I got this shit.

We would have drinking competitions, you know, twice a week or so using various mediums. My team always won. In the world of college drinking, we were goddamn Texas. We were a sorority full of Starbuck. We were fierce, competitive, smart, hard, and sexier than everyone because of it. Some of them were a bit slutty, and some were prudish. I don't know, I'm just rambling right now. Either way, after a while we started calling any competition that involved drinking "wrasslin." With a last name like Rossi, it wasn't long until everyone started calling me Rassles. The progression was natural.

In a small college, you can't just expect to be accepted into the High Drinking Culture because you go to parties. You have to handle your shit like a professional. Don't be a public slut, always stand up, don't talk shit behind anyone's back, never fight for the attentions of a guy, but don't be afraid of ruckus.

We were snobs about it. Jell-o shots were for pussies. Dancing was fine, but conversation was better. If you need to puke, ask for help and go gag yourself outside. No shame in the puke 'n rally as long as you fucking own it and don't blame it on Alcohol. It's your fault that you don't know your limits, not Alcohol's. All Alcohol ever did was taste delicious and make you popular. We entrenched ourselves in this ridiculous, idolatrous ethical dogma of pack-class, competition, and booze.

And we did it...why? To impress guys, basically. I mean that's what everything boils down to, right? We were hoarding all of them to us, so that when they talked about us it would be with respect and friendship, not the way they talked about all the gutterskanks and critters. We were fucking "cool", no question. Other girls were submissive fucking cake-bakers who giggled and couldn't think for themselves and spent all their time sucking up and sucking cock.

It was easy to look down on the girls who couldn't handle their liquor, it was easy to judge them and basically hate on them from up high without ever really talking about them. We basically ignored them with silent disapproval, and made a point to laugh louder and pal harder.

Sometimes I feel disgusted with how highly we thought of ourselves because we drank "as well as the guys" or better. Even still, hanging out with male college friends, they always talk about how we could party just as hard even though we were girls, like it was a handicap or something, and we fed off of it.

I regret having that mindset then, because I probably missed out on meeting a lot of very cool women. At the same time, I'm proud of the person I'm growing into, so much that I don't regret being a snob at all. Gyna, one of my best friends, went to college with me, but we became friends a couple years after graduation. We knew each other, sure, because our school had 2,000 people. But I exclusively paid attention to people who woke up, hit the bong, drank themselves stupid, paddled each other with stop signs and threw beer bottles at cop cars. She was an academic and therefore too serious. How many other girls did I ignore because they couldn't hang? Why was so much of my life focused on being someone who could hang?

Everyone was too serious, and we were hilarious.

But college was all about using. We used people constantly. Guys did not take advantage of us: we took advantage of them. When I lost my virginity - and I was the last one of like, all my friends to do so - I was bonked out of my gourd, but it was superfun and I bled everywhere and I didn't give a shit, I was just proud that I could fuck without shame and attachment. In the following weeks he didn't seem to understand that he was just a means to an end. He thought we bonded, but I really thought he was kind of an idiot.

That's something that the using culture solidifies: the last two people at the party, lurking over everyone trading war stories. That's what it's about. The Last Men Standing.

I thought I had a problem. I considered that I might be an alcoholic. Obsessed over it. I gained so much weight my senior year and slept so much over Christmas break that my mom thought I was pregnant and made me prove I wasn't by seeing a doctor. I couldn't get health insurance for four years because of that visit. I told my doctor, "I'm in college, I drink a lot and eat ramen and Taco Bell everyday," and the doctor wrote that I abused alcohol. I did, of course. But I couldn't get health insurance for years, and I couldn't get a job that offered it.

Sorry, I'm just kind of babbling here.

After college, I quit drinking for about a year, no problem. Working three jobs, one of them at an elementary school. I just kind of decided that I didn't want kids smelling booze and cigarettes on me, so I stopped completely. It was easy. Everyone was shocked. Again though, people thought I was pregnant because I stopped drinking, but I was losing weight so after awhile they caught on that I was serious about being sober as long as I worked with kids.

Before I forget: Don't tell me drinking is not a feminist issue. If it gets to the point where someone assumes I am pregnant because I am (1) female and (2) sober, there is a fucking problem. Not just with me, but with the people making that assumption. If people are looking down on girls for their inability to handle their alcohol, it's a problem. If girls feel the need to get drunk to get laid, if they think the only way they can prove their worth is by getting drunk so they can look as cool as guys, it's a problem. And the reason it's a problem is because they're judging their worth as individuals on the scale that men judge other men, not the scale on which people judge people.

It's a problem because I associate that drunken behavior with men instead of with women, when there are just as many women who have a drinking problem.

Stereotypically, a drunk girl is just plain visually easier to spot. She's got longer hair that gets messy, she's tripping over her heels, her make up streaks. When she passes out wearing a skirt and a skimpy top, she's bearing more skin, accidentally exposing more hidden parts. Because you can see her fail to live up to the class act she spent so much time prepping to portray, it's easier to judge her. It's a shame.

Anyway, I watched my friends pile up on DUIs, which pissed me off because I was sober and they were obviously fucking stupid. There's no reasoning with that. I'm not going to sugarcoat that, you get a DUI because you do dangerous, retarded things. Sorry Zen Mama, but it's true.

After that, I started bartending and moved to Chicago. Drinking again. Fortifying my position in the using culture of Chicago came easily since I was a bartender (fucking industry people think they're rock stars) and played in a locally successful band (fucking music people think they're rock stars). So I always hung out other bartenders and musicians, some escorts, professional fetish models, tattoo artists - and I was tame compared to those fools, even though I could outdrink the lot of them.

Keeping myself away from drugs and coke was easy because I never had the desire to do it, but I drank a shit-ton to make up for it. The scene pulls you in, and you start feeling nostalgic for a time that existed before you were born and you feel like this, this is what it feels like to be a part of a movement, this is seduction, this is living, we are special and everyone else is livestock. You're the Rat Pack, Studio 54, you're Hunter Thompson, you're Bukowski, you're at the Roundhouse in London, you're listening to blues on Maxwell Street.

Our culture fetishizes icons of the past who lived hard and died young. The role models of my generation are the insolent punks and swank, gutsy pop culture figures that had so much intrigue and defiance surrounding them. They defined rebellion and sexed it up; we are a poor imitation of such a controversial and world-changing lifestyle. And thirty years from now when writers have immortalized our exploits in novels and movies, a new generation will emerge obsessed with us. It's so weird.

Since last summer and my subsequent two-month sabbatical from imbibing, I've cut down on alcohol considerably. Mostly because I was actually scared about my health. Okay, and because the hangovers were getting unbearable. After blacking out twice in a month, it was time. Seriously, I never blacked out. In ten years of drinking, I'd lost time once, and then twice in a month? Never again. Never.

I still go out a couple days a week, and I won't pretend otherwise. But instead of the goal of getting fucked up beyond inhibition on a case of PBR and battling a hangover at work the next day, I slow it down. I'm there to socialize and have a well-honed brew.

I could never be anti-drinking. I made too many friends using alcohol as a bonding tool, some of whom turned to AA or NA eventually, but I firmly believe the key is moderation and responsibility. I love the taste of beer too much to give it up completely. Am I addicted? Yes. I'm just going to go out and say yes. I guess my newest outlook on drinking is enjoying the alcohol for what it is (in low doses like The Elder) rather than how much liquid courage I stock up. Sure, I plan on getting drunk on my 30th birthday.

The worst part is, I'm still disgusted by women who are all giggly and falling over each other, fawning and fighting over men like angry chickens. I don't understand the cat-fights because I was above it on principle, and therefore a way bigger snob.

I don't know. I have no conclusion or point to all this, I guess. Just adding my business. Does this even make sense?

27 comments:

  1. I would like to apologize for writing something so long and pointless. I feel like this whole entry smears the validity of anyone else's opinion by being completely futile and self-obsessed.

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  2. Rassles you are not babbling at all, this makes perfect sense to me. This is actually the total other direction of where I thought you might go with this. Look at you, always surprising me. I know you are a seasoned drinker, I have read you for a long time and sometimes I wish I was the girl who could hold her own at Pubba Chugga Choo Choo, I envy the comraderie and friendships built and I know you have fun. Again, and I think you get this, my resentment is at being treated differently as a female, "society" having different expectations of behavior and then different consequences if one of us step outside what's considered ok, whether it's abstaining or seeking treatment. I also know a lot of women who are unhappy in their lives, with their husbands, families, jobs and they drink instead of change and I feel like sometimes society wants these women to shut up and mellow out(have a drink, or a pill or a happy meal whatever) instead of get angry and fix shit. As always, thank you for your wholly unique perspective and I love that you are one of those people who I know always says what they mean. Even though I'm a prude, you know I continually suggest meeting you in Chicago for a beer when I visit Milwaukee, you may just have to hold my hair.

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  3. Call me thick-headed, but I still don't see this as a feminist issue. If someone assumes you're pregnant because you're sober, how is that a feminist issue?

    A couple of weeks ago my niece turned down a drink. Did I wonder if she was pregnant? Yes. Does that make me some sort of chauvinist? No.

    In a way, our mothers and grandmothers fought so that today we can drink/vote/work/fight wars like men. Battle won. How can you turn that freedom around and call it a feminist issue?

    Truly, I'm perplexed.

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  4. Because they didn't stand up so we could be treated like men, they did it so we could be with respect. Treated like equals. Holding women up to the standards of men is ridiculous, and part of the reason for that is because men have ridiculous standards they impose upon each other to prove their masculinity, not their capability.

    The double standard in the drinking culture is raging, and you can either get drunk and "act like a man" or get drunk and act "like a fucking girl."

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  5. There's this stereotype of the drunk female that can't handle hanging with the big boys, like ha-ha! Look at that stupid girl! She thought she was a grown up, and she's nothing but a hot mess!

    I guess it's also because I fell into that trap: I started drinking heavily to prove I was one of the boys, because I thought they hold me at higher value. And I was right.

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  6. I mean, after awhile I drank because of anxiety and because I liked being drunk. But my initial reason was incredibly misguided, and I know that many girls out there are doing the same thing.

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  7. Okay, I'm back because I have more conflicting thoughts, as always:

    The OTHER reason I feel like it's a feminist issue is because people blame feminism for the increase in female alcohol abuse, when really I feel like all feminism did was made it okay for those secret drunks to come out of the booze cabinet, and the social stigma attached to that is still so backwards and judgy that you can't say women and men are being treated with equal respect when it comes to alcoholism.

    A woman suffering from alcoholism who has children is automatically labeled a bad mother, first and foremost. A man suffering from alcoholism who has children is not automatically labeled a bad father, he's a product of an overworked and underpaid society that accepts male alcoholism as a hilarious and necessary evil.

    A man behaving dangerously is acceptable because he is a man, and men are more aggressive than women. The idea that a woman is equally as likely to behave dangerously makes her a bad woman.

    It's bullshit.

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  8. Rass--I just see this from a different point of view. Chalk it up to our 30-year age difference. Head south--we'll duke it out in person. :)

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  9. Rassles - Your comments remind me of a scene straight out of 1960's Mad Men. It just isn't so anymore. At least I haven't seen that in my life.

    Trust me, when I announced I wasn't drinking anymore, nobody questioned whether I was pregnant (okay, that was a bad joke).

    I also don't think women are thought of as bad mothers if they drink while men are not. I have personally witnessed the Wisconsin court system ruling in favor of a woman with a drinking problem over a guy who committed a white collar crime. The judge was quite harsh on him but didn't seem to care much about the DUI for her.

    I also don't see female drunks treated differently than male drunks when in the middle of their drunk-fests. I almost can't believe we live within 100 miles of each other because I've partied my ass off in Chicago and I have never seen it. Elder is right - it must be age related. Maybe as with all things, older women are given some degree of respect, even when they're drinking their weight in wine.

    But Rass - I don't think your post was long and pointless at all. You may be providing us a clue as to how your generation is regressing back to the days of Mad Men. I have heard generations are cyclical, repeating patters with every fourth generation. Maybe your generation has gone back to stereotyping women who drink heavily. I find that perspective so fascinating. I think I should come to Chicago and drink with your crowd and see how they treat me - as an older woman - oh fuck, wait - I can't drink anymore.

    Which brings me to my final point. I adore you for recognizing all the gory details of your past drinking and consciously making a decision to limit yourself these days. However, I would strongly caution. When I was your age, I did the same. I kept it together for a few decades in fact but if you carry that gene known as the demon addiction, it will ride your ass into the ground - it will catch you. You can't run and you cannot hide, because it's a God damn smart monkey who rides your back and waits until you are at your most vulnerable moment or perhaps your strongest moment, when you feel invincible - and it will step on your face until you are unrecognizable in the mirror.

    I have tried so hard to go out and say to myself, I'll only have one or two, then I gotta go, but the one or two is simply priming my pump. I knew I had a problem when I knew I couldn't stop.

    BTW, my blood results came back on my DUI. I was .220. The legal limit is .08. I fucking thought I could drive. Just like my drugged out brother thought he could fly when he jumped off a three story building on Quaaludes. I was wasted out of my mind - hence the term, impaired, hence the decision to drive.

    I am grateful we are airing this here. Think about it, we have taken one issue and broken it down into the generations.

    Mongo is coming to Chicago soon, and I know there are more than a few of us with connections to Wisconsin. I think we should plan a night out with and without drinks in Chicago. I'll pretend I'm drunk, just to prove my point!

    But seriously, send me your prayers and positive energies because this shit is hard.

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  10. Oh, I forgot to address Formerly Fun. I think because I sprung into my teenage years right at the end of the peace, love, happiness, burn your bra, get doped up, be free with sex movement - people my age tend to see societal expectations with a much different eye. My older friends who actually lived those years as young adults feel they kicked ass and took names. Some do still turn to drink or "happy pills", some don't. But none of them give a flying fuck what society expects. So much so that I think they may have blinders on as to what is actually happening on the ground. The things you and Rass describe are blowing my mind here.

    One friend who is my age prescribes anti-depressants to her husband. When he gets bitchy, she asked if he's taken his "I love Robin" pill today. All of my friends are strong women who just refuse to take any shit from men, boys or kangaroos. In your late 40's you come upon this power that raises you above the feeble minds of these people who call themselves society.

    So maybe it's generational, maybe it's geographical or maybe it just depends on the individual. I feel like we're the women of the View, discussing today's hot topic. When is Ted Dansen due to arrive?

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  11. ZM, are you talking about Howe and Strauss? Because that shit is fascinating.

    By their standards, I'm part of the Millennial Civic generation and the 13th Nomadic - the cusp of Gen X and Y. I'm defined by wandering and contributing nothing to society other than amoral pragmatism from one generation and trophy entitlement from the other. Which makes sense, I mean, the only thing we've given people is hipsters who demand to be cool because they say they are, and everyone who is not a hipster abuses the definition so mercilessly that talking about it with people who aren't "in the know" is fucking exhausting.

    And I agree, it's probably age-related.

    But at the same time, I mean, what were you guys like in your twenties?

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  12. Also, and this is important: I don't expect people to behave a certain way. I've never met someone who just came out and explicitly stated anything I expressed up above, and I promise you that if I tried to start this honest dialogue with my friends they would tell me to shut the fuck up and stop taking shit so seriously.

    I don't think ANYTHING I described is conscious behavior at all, it's just what I've gathered from direct observation. And I'm sure that if you talked to other ladies my age who are drinkers, they would never admit to everything I described, and I think they would just be fucking lying to themselves and trying to be noble.

    Also, I disagree. I don't think it's generational. A good deal of my experience with people judging women is talking with people in their forties and fifties. I was a fucking bartender at a neighborhood blue collar pizza joint, and those guys were sexist as fuck, and the women weren't much better. Now I work for a non-profit, and throw fundraisers for white collar old men, and they're just as sexist, but in different ways. They treat you differently if you're a young woman, it's just the way it is. I'm sure they don't even realize they're doing it.

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  13. I'm sorry that I talk about this shit so much, and that I have so much to say, but I'm obsessed with it and fascinated by it. This kind of stuff really strikes a chord with me, and people tend to dismiss it as nonsense and that just makes me fight harder.

    I don't think anyone is really wrong or right here, but the coolest thing about perception is that we see what we want to see. I actively LOOK for shit like this, so I see it. I'm sure that I'm overreacting sometimes and I'm probably misinterpreting sometimes. When you expect to see things a certain way, that's most likely the way you're going to see it. I don't want things to be this way, it's just what I observe.

    Also, I'm a tragic pessimist, so of course everything is sad and negative for me.

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  14. Rossi, I think you and I are superanalytical and probably neurotic too. Not only do I do stuff but then I spend a lot of time analyzing why exactly I am doing it. I am 37 so we are not aligned age wise but this all fascinates me too.

    And you are right, most of what we do is conditioned by our environment and upbringing and not readily visible to us. For example, I care about how I look, probably way too much, because I have been reared culture that values female beauty(very narrowly defined). I have learned complicated and time consuming beauty rituals, I have adopted painful heels and other things in the name of looking good. This isn't a natural of being, it is a function of external things acting upon me. Now that I realize this, it's not like I have thrown out all my makeup and never wear the shoes that leave me feeling crippled by the end of the day. Now, I at least know where it comes from but it is so heavily ingrained in my psyche that soemtimes I don't even realize it. It's hard to change some issues regarding feminism because we are all right in the middle of it. That's what fascinating about having different women commenting and writing, you guys bring up things I might never have thought about.

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  15. I absolutely hate the current hysteria around individual health care (eat well, exercise regularly, don't drink or smoke and everything will be fine). I know there are more ways to ruin life than death, but do you ever feel that your health concerns are manipulated? Who's campaigning to reduce driving (for example)? Who disdains car owners?

    Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes (http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html).

    Compare with:

    Mortality
    Number of alcoholic liver disease deaths: 14,406
    Number of alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides: 23,199
    Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2007, tables 12, 23 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm).

    And if you want to sleep tonight, don't even bother to check out pollution related death statistics.....

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  16. Rass-In my 20s I definitely drank more--like almost every day at lunch with my boss. Plus happy hour after work. I drank, I drove and I smoked. I wouldn't dream of drinking at lunch now. But do I get drunk on occasion? Bet your bippie I do--girls' weekend at the lake a couple of weeks ago is a prime example.

    As for looking for inequities, I don't. I'm not confontational or deep-thinking. But I still think that our age difference colors our views.

    But isn't this a great example of why we got involved in this site in the first place.

    MMMMMWAAAAAAA to you all!

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  17. Rass - I find the generational stuff mind boggling as well. So you're part of the nomadic cycle? Interesting that you're on the cusp. When I attended the conference, the speaker asked everyone in the audience to raise their hands if they were born between 1960 and 1965. Like a good girl, I raised mine. Then I was told the people born in that five year span (me 1963) do not belong to any generation. We are not boomers, we are not X-ers. We are the lost ones who have managed to produce the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse, criminal tendencies, mean to puppies, you name it.

    Since then, I've seen data naming those five years as Generation Jonesers. What does that tell you? I'm fucked by my gene pool and my fucking date of birth.

    But isn't it interesting that you and I are both cuspers? We don't take life at face value, we have to observe, dig deeper and then blog about it. We may be on to something here.

    In my 20's, I didn't drink a drop. I had a stick up my ass the size of a California Redwood. I was a single mom, working three jobs and hating anyone who drank or did drugs, kicked a blind date out of my house for bringing pot, etc. Guess you could say I'm making up for lost time.

    Cat - love the stats but disturbing at the same time. Really?

    And to all - just for clarification - we are still talking about drinking as a feminist issue right? Because lawdy knows I am on board with the idea of the sexist man - he does exist and quite often, his name is narcissist.

    I'm researching it now, I think narcissistic men could be our next hot topic.

    Mongo - ?????

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  18. Also, I interrogated a 29 and 31 year old woman in my office today on the topic of drinking as it relates to feminist issues. They both gave me that deer in the headlights look. My assistant, the 29 year old went to UW-Madison. She has told me drunk stories from those days that curled my toenails. Yet, during our many drinking outings over the past four years, she has generally maintained control. If she has a driver, that's a different story - so smart, that's why I hired her. She was with me the night I drove home and felt so horribly responsible for not recognizing my state and driving me home. But that's yet another sign of "you may have a problem", you can drink to oblivion and look perfectly normal.

    It was not her fault. I let her leave and five minutes later, I realized I needed a ride. Why didn't I just call her? Impaired - it's not just an expression.

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  19. Parts of this discussion about which Rassles and I agree:

    1) Everything.
    2) Especially hipsters.

    We're the same age, so I really think there's something to the generational differences discussion. Absolutely fascinating, ladies.

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  20. @ Cat - i feel like that's a topic worthy of a giant blog post, but i could never say it better than this: http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/02/05/gender-health-and-societal-obligation/

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  21. also: i agree that there are very different societal expectations around alcohol - though i'm not sure that i'd automatically classify it as a feminist issue, i don't know that i could argue persuasively that it's not. i'm 37 (so a Gen Xer) and while *i* don't feel the expectations, i do see them expressed in younger women. seems like there are obligations to drink "like a guy", but at the same time never be out of control, never be embarrassing, never compromise your dignity, never do anything you might regret later. (it goes without saying that for guys, a drunken night out is the source of chuckles and shoulder-punches)

    surely it's just another double standard, but interesting in that i feel it's one that's very much only targeted at women in their teens and 20s.

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  22. I say a person should drink in one of two ways:

    1) Every now and then with dinner and and weekends away with friends like the one Elder described above
    2) As if desirious of having a diseased liver

    All of this in-between, back and forth shit only confuses me.

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  23. See? I'm so out of the loop when it comes to drinking that I don't really have anything to contribute.
    About the only place I'm useful here is if someone is done drinking and would like a little help staying done.
    Otherwise? I got nothin'.

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  24. Rassles. Shit, where have I been. I'm missing all your posts that make me wish I lived in Chicago.

    Your experience is IDENTICAL to mine. A major part of my drinking in college was with an internal voice telling me to not behave 'like a GIRL' to be accepted by the guys as a friend and not a fuck. To not behave like a girl you had to not carry a purse or wear heels or any other compromising clothing that could be a problem if you fell down or whatever. To not behave like a girl you had to be able to drink pitchers of Four Peaks Kilt Lifter all night long and still be able to hold your own on topics ranging from Economic Injustice to Religion's Role in Modern Society to Why You Are Cool To Hang Out With Compared To Other Girls. You never ever kissed a boy in front of other people or talked openly about which one at the table you slept with the night before or which one you were likely going home with that night. The Code of Conduct among my group of friends in order to maintain my status as one of the cool girls was more nuanced than fucking state dinner etiquette at the turn of the century.

    I had convinced myself that may way of partying made me one of the guys.

    I don't really have any other point other than to say that I definitely look back on my time and see how I was shunning other women, shunning behaviours I associated as being inherently 'female' and that I was behaving in a way for the exclusive approval of other men or the approval of other women who themselves were highly respected by other men.

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