Emily Articulated: Welcome to the Jungle

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

You’re in the jungle. Light is flickering through the canopy of leaves, painting colorful streaks across the dirt floor. You turn your neck to the left and see a pack of hyenas cackling in  excitement and erratically pawing the earth surrounding a dead carcass, blood painting their snouts. 

Emily Erickson.

Amidst the feeding frenzy, you notice a calculated swish of a tail in the trees above the pack. Following the golden pendulum with your gaze, you spot one grand paw, and then another, and then a thigh, and finally, the body of a massive lion, licking his lips in anticipation of his coming meal.

Hearing a voice calling to you, you turn your head to the right, immediately ducking to avoid the loose arm of a swinging orangutan, joining his friends in the branches above your head. Still searching for the voice, your head is swivelling and your ears are straining to make sense of the commotion enclosed within the canopy. Until you hear it again. And it becomes clearer and clearer. 

“Ma’am, what can I get you to drink tonight?” Suddenly you realize you’re not in the jungle. You’re in a bar. Surrounded by Millennials. Oh god.

If you’ve ever strayed into A&P’s after 11 p.m. on a weekend night here in Sandpoint, you understand how difficult it can be to discern the differences in the scene described above and the social setting of rowdy residents engaging in alcohol consumption.

As a Millennial that earns grocery money by pushing boozy cocktails on my patrons, and personally enjoying a plethora of malty beverages (I am from Wisconsin, after all), I am in no position to judge the drinking habits of my peers.

That being said, there is an article-worthy dynamic between Millennials, our society and alcohol consumption. If you scroll through popular accounts on social media sites, you’ll inevitably see a bikini-clad group of cheering girls, with their ring leader on bended knee, vice-gripping a beer-bong filled with half a liter bottle of Barefoot Rosé.

Accompanying these videos are the photos featuring glazed, half-eye opened, flat-brimmed wearing dudes with t-shirts reading “Black Out King,” and “Saturdays Are For the Boys,” liked and shared by droves of frat-house heroes.

When thinking sociologically, there appears to be a romanticization of excessive alcohol consumption, especially within the Millennial population, perpetuated by our concept of appropriate social interaction and ultimately, by social media.

Instead of riding that oh-so-perfect happy buzz train achieved through mixing in a friggen water in between goblets of wine, we strive for getting “effed up,” because that’s what we’ve seen reinforced as being “fun,” and “youthful” (because we all know, nothing is more exciting than scraping a sobbing Becky off of the toilet paper littered public bathroom floor).

We are programmed to pregame our social events, not just to save a few dollars or for extra laughs, but rather, because we aren’t comfortable interacting with one another until we are wrapped in our warm and fuzzy alcohol-induced confidence blankets. And when properly wrapped, we have a documentation-ready device at our fingertips, geared at sharing our “carefree” drunkenness with the world. 

Having lived in the most binge-drinkingest region in the United States, Northeast Wisconsin, I am no stranger to alcohol not just being an addition to the social scene, but rather, being at the heart of it.

Because of my exposure to the widespread celebration of boozing across all ages, I think it’s worth, at the very least, exploring if this romanticization of alcohol is another society-wide trend, simply highlighted by the Millennial compulsion to share everything we do.

Maybe it’s just as common to see a Gen-X Todd calling for another round of Jameson shots while tipping off his barstool chair, or to see Baby Boomer Linda knock over her third extra dry Kettle One martini in an attempt to order a bottle of wine, as it is to see drunken Millennials flailing about like the metal balls in a pinball machine.

And perhaps it’s because we Millennials feel compelled to post how fun and carefree our lives are on social media, simultaneously shotgunning a PBR and ordering take-out tacos for the world to see, that we’re just more prone to taking the fall for this societal-wide romanticization of excessive drinking behavior.

Because, given the stories I hear from the drink-slinging side of the bar, there were quite a few Todds and Lindas back in the day that would have given the Millennial Brads and Chads a run for their beer money. They just didn’t have a smartphone on hand to catch themselves and their peers in the act.

Now, before I get accused of being an uppity prude, it’s worth noting that I can hang with the best of ‘em when it comes to drinking beers, especially if there is a cornhole board in the vicinity. But cultivating opportunities for thinking about the ways in which we participate in creating our own culture and reality is definitely a worthwhile endeavor, even at the expense of sounding hypocritical.

So next time you see a Todd falling off his stool, Linda scrambling for her strewn olives or Becky’s mascara starting to well within her tear ducts, consider maybe this drunken jungle isn’t exclusive to Millennials, but rather, our society as a whole. And for the love of god, order them a water.

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