Stereotypes about Americans’ penchant for excess are rooted in reality, and this can be seen in how we drink alcohol. Like obesity, crass humor and general douchebaggery, Americans go big and then go home to sleep it off before groggily waking up to embarrass the world again. U-S-A! U-S-A!
But we can do better! SO much better!
It may be weird to think about, but Americans used to be worse about their liquor habits. There have been laws on the books against alcohol sales nearly as long as settlers have been in America–probably because folks loved their drank. (According to The Complete Book of Spirits : A Guide to Their History, Production, and Enjoyment, The General Court of Massachusetts made strong liquor–including rum, wine and brandy–illegal in 1657, which obviously didn’t last that long.) Societal controls like church and general shaming were not enough, leading to neighborhood organizations and state legislation.
By 1830, people consumed an average of 1.7 bottles of hard alcohol a week–not much when you think about a college student, but the contents were probably in bigger bottles and made of stronger stuff. Imagine your great-great-great-great grandpa plowing the fields while drunk on gin; that was probably happening, as the Gin Epidemic that plagued England (the introduction of low-cost alcohol) made its way stateside. And then there was that little thing called Prohibition. Basically, it’s a wonder America is still functioning.
The country somehow collectively got its shit together and set aside alcohol imbibing for special occasions. Because day-drinking is now seen as more assy than classy, Americans needed to find more legitimate reasons to pound back the devil’s drink: nights, weekends and holidays–like cell phone carrier minutes.
Now, I’m not a historian (I only play one on the internet), but I would equate the rise in the popularity of lower-tier holidays with alcohol abuse. It’s a given that people will get blitzed on Memorial Day and Fourth of July (AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!), but it creates a negative cultural vortex when religious events like St. Patrick’s Day and freedom celebrations like Cinco de Mayo are now reasons for dickbags and gringos to paint the streets with bar food-laced bile. And Labor Day, honoring contributions of workers, is now a day of overtime for people’s livers. And then there’s the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve–pretty much any day that involves interacting with family members.
So there is a correlation between cocktails and celebration, but where can we go from here as a nation? How can we utilize MORE time drinking? Do we ride that alcoholic bomb bareback like a drunk on a mechanical bull? Do we erect new forms of mortification that the Facebook generation (I bet they hate being called that) can defy in secret? I have a better idea.
Like great Americans before us (John Adams, Ernest Hemingway, the fat twins in the Guinness Book of World Records), I think we should play chicken with the giant bottle of brown liquid in the room. America, let’s hang our hat on being great at something again. And that thing will be projectile vomiting.
- For starters, all–ALL–national, regional, unofficial and Hallmark holidays should be paired with drinking to excess. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day, Sweetest Day: all of these and more should be accompanied by several million cases of Bud Light and enough creepy uncles to make you regret letting them in your house AGAIN.
- Forget only cool businesses letting you drink on the job like Don Draper: it will be beer o’clock (ugh) ALL DAMN DAY. Try completing that Excel spreadsheet while seeing two computer monitors at once! Can’t wait to hear the quarterly reports through slurred speech, Chief Financial Officer Fred Blotto! Good luck driving that forklift, sloshed construction worker!
- When is too soon to let your kids have alcohol? It is common in European cultures to give children samples of wine at meals and special events, but Americans demonize libations to the point of teens and college students abusing it in private. Therefore, I think we should lighten up and let kids drink ‘er down at earlier ages. After all, bottles can hold more than milk.
- As long as dumb reality shows like Dancing With the Stars and American Idol are on the air, there should be mandatory drinking contests administered by local governments. (One shot for every eye-rolling moment of unintentional cheesiness.) If you’re watching while sober, you’re inflicting mental anguish on yourself.
- You have to drink every time you say “I know, right?” in a non-ironic manner.
We as Americans can put more spirits in our special days, more drink in our days of the week, and more hooch in our holidays. It’s the only way that we can get back to greatness in the best way we know how: excess. And if we have to drown our sorrows in $2 Boone’s Farm swill to do it, then by golly, get to your nearest family gathering and make a spectacle out of yourself. It’s for the good of your country, soldier.