Choose Not To Party

By Alex Newhouse

This year, I have not gone to a single party. I have not been involved in any of the party culture, I have only once even seen alcohol, and I go to sleep early on the weekends. Small gatherings of friends have supplanted loud, raucous parties. Video games, reading for fun and playing cards occupy my time instead of drinking, dancing, and yelling. 

I have never felt more liberated.

The debate will never end: is it, or is it not, socially acceptable to party and drink? Should we discourage alcohol consumption and partying? Or should we allow individuals to choose what they want to do, to consume what they wish, to make their own choices?

At such a bastion of liberalism like Middlebury, general social attitude weighs heavily on individual choice, generally dissuading any attempt to moderate the choices of students in how to spend their time. Look at the tailgate fiasco, for example. A simple, relatively unobtrusive rule has had an incendiary and widespread response because the administration dares to try and regulate the actions of the students. 

But maybe it is time to shift our focus. Maybe it is time to ask the hard questions, to take a long, introspective look at our community and wonder if such hardcore individualism is healthy for our community. Perhaps we should ask why we defend our supposed “right” to consume alcohol and to party so stubbornly. Perhaps we should wonder why, even with all that Middlebury does, the predominant social activity is still drinking and going out. 

Why do people start partying in the first place? I believe that it begins during the first week of freshman orientation. Most people want to meet people and make friends, and most are very afraid of being caught alone and without a friend group. Partying is a quick, easy and ubiquitous way of meeting people. It allows students to bond where otherwise they would never have met. It’s an efficient way of filling up your phone with new contacts.

What this does, however, is eliminate other avenues of forging connections. Although students make friends with their hallmates by proximity, friendship building outside of the hall seems to have been left up to parties. Instead of creating deep connections, parties encourage shallow acquaintances.

But this is a common argument against partying, one that most people have heard of. But once you’re past your freshman year, when you do have a group of good friends, what is the harm in going out every once and a while? I argue that the harm is that people become dependent on it. It becomes the only method of social interaction, the only entertainment, the only occupation on the weekends. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays become cycles of going out, recovering, going out, then recovering again. That dramatically reduces the value of weekends. Go outside on a Saturday at nine in the morning, for example, and you will find the campus almost silent. The days become subordinate in favor of the nights. 

Since I have quit going out, I’ve found weekend mornings to be valuable and rewarding. I’ve walked into town and enjoyed coffee at the café. I’ve taken trips to Burlington with my friends. I have read books for fun because the full days give me time to enjoy other activities. Hikes, games and trips are all open to me because my days aren’t spent recovering. I wake up at nine o’clock instead of one, clear-headed and awake instead of weary and in pain. 

I don’t think that my choice is to superior to partying. Partying is certainly entertaining and fun, and I have many hilarious stories from parties I’ve attended. What I’m challenging is not partying itself, but the consistent and almost single-minded dedication to going out every weekend. People say that there is nothing to do at Middlebury, and that’s why people drink and party so much. While there are few college-sponsored events, this accusation of a lack of things to do is just wrong. There might be nothing to do at night — but a full day opens up a wealth of opportunities.

I challenge the students of Middlebury not to go out for a weekend. Wake up early, walk outside and breathe in the fresh air. Go get some food in town. Play a pickup game of football with your friends. Read a novel, write a poem or pick up a hobby. Get some friends together and cook dinner for yourselves and then play a board game. 

Find the opportunities to forge truer, deeper connections with people. Take a risk and don’t party one weekend. Drinking and partying are not the only things to do here. Choosing not to party has made me happier and has allowed me to find my best friends at this school. 

It is time to ask ourselves if partying is something we want to steadfastly protect. It is time to challenge ourselves to fill our time meaningfully and differently.

Artwork by SARAH LAKE

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