Thursday, August 21, 2008

Debunking the Bunk - Alcohol

Most of us were raised that alcohol is bad bad bad. Parents flip out when they find their teenagers, or middleschoolers, or even elementary school children, have raided the liquor cabinet and gotten smashed. And understandably so, especially for the youngsters. Alcohol has a lot of really negative effects, and if you're not old enough to know your limits and to make appropriate decisions, then you're not necessarily going to stop when you should (kids think they're invincible, after all, right?).

I'll get to the positive stuff in a second, I promise :)

Some of the negative effects of alcohol:

* liver cirrhosis (usually happens in adults who've been drinking a lot time, but if you start when you're 10, I imagine you could smash you're liver by college or so, couldn't you?)
* vitamin deficiencies (and we all know teenagers aren't all that compliant with the health suggestions their parents give "take vitamins? are you kidding? I'm not 8!")
* loss of appetite (drunkorexia seems to be a new trend, mostly by women, who save up all their calories of the day for binge drinking, eating very little actual food)
* totally embarrassing yourself, getting caught on video by someone's cell phone, and having your drunken indiscretion posted on YouTube. Man, if you thought it was hard being a kid 10-20 years ago, try the internet age!
* lowering of inhibitions (this is bad for anyone of all ages. But combine young and invincible with alcohol and you get a higher likelihood of STDs, pregnancy, thinking you can fly off the top of a building, that kind of thing)

I remember as a little girl (like 4 or 5), I'd always ask my dad for a sip of his beer. He'd let me have a sip and I always hated the taste. Blech. But I'd always keep asking for a sip the next time he had a beer, because I guess I wasn't at that stage of development yet when I realized that it was going to taste the same every time. To this day, my dad thinks that I liked the taste, because I kept asking him. I think I didn't comprehend why he'd always drink it if it tasted that bad, so I figured if I tried it again it'd be better.

But I think this was a good approach my father had. Because if he'd said "no you can't have any, you're not old enough, it's bad for you," well then, my curiosity would be piqued, and who knows, I might have gotten all into it when I hit high school. As it is, I had an enduring impression that alcohol tasted disgusting, and I didn't start drinking much until I was 27 (not that I drink much now, but I've at least figured out what it is I like drinking). I think it's the whole culture of negativity around alcohol which lends itself to teenage drinking.

And yes, alcohol is bad for you, if drunk in excess. So while I'm debunking the fact that it's always bad, I'm not saying you should go out and drink a pool of red wine every night, because then you might come back to me and say "you said alcohol was good, and now I'm being sued by my neighbor when my pool of wine toppled over (when I stumbled drunkenly into it) and covered their lawn and stained their cute little white poodle red." (and that example is inspired by an actual story I heard once about a frat party which knocked their backyard pool over into the dean's backyard. Oops.)

However, it isn't the big evil we all thought it was. It definitely has its drawbacks as well, but recent studies have shown some benefits. A balanced article about the health positives and negatives mentions that studies have shown that moderate drinking (up to one glass (12oz beer, 5oz wine, 1.5oz hard liquor) for women, or two glasses for men can boost cardiovascular health, especially in middle age, and that these benefits trump the increased risk in breast and colon cancers. (I know it's because women are smaller, but damn did we get the short end of the stick on that one!)

So I definitely try to stay under that 7 drink a week minimum (though who knows how many ounces the drinks I order are, I don't grill the bartender or he'll stop serving me), for the most part.

I don't have kids yet, and probably won't for a while yet. But when I do, I'm going to take the approach that my dad did. They can take a little sip (maybe not of the girly-drinks like martinis, because they'll like those too much), to show that it's not this huge no-no, and I'll talk to them about how to drink responsibly once they're old enough (I'm thinking that conversation would probably be high school, since I know that high schoolers do that, and parents are mostly just in denial about it). Not to condone underage drinking, but to teach them about the dangers of it and tell them that if they are going to do it, how to be safe. Kind of like the alcohol version of giving kids condoms in case they need them, rather than just staying in denial. Of course, that's easily said now, since I'm not a parent.

I went to a party once where the hosts had two little girls (3 and 2, at the time). They were serving spiked punch, and the two year old kept getting her hands on it and drinking it down because it tasted yummy. And the parents were kind of laughing it off like "wow, guess she likes it, huh?" This is NOT the kind of tasting I'm talking about here. Because seriously, a 2 year old is too young to be downing vodka-spiked drinking like it's kool-aid, and seriously, it's got to be hindering her brain development. For the record, 10 is too young for this, even 15. If when the kids get to high school and their parents give the ok to have a spiked drunk at a supervised party, then I'm fine with that, as long as the parents have taught them about responsibility and are watching them to make sure they don't go overboard. And I know that a lot of people feel really strongly about this, so I welcome any kind of debate.

I feel like this turned a little bit into a Friday rant. Oh well. What are your thoughts about alcohol? What's your poison? Do you drink because it's healthy for you, because it tastes good, because you want to loosen up, get drunk, etc?

I currently have pineapple soaking in vodka for a party I'm having in two weeks. Mmmm.


MizFit said...

*momentarily stuck on that 2 year old. holy moley!!*

many thoughts. I was shocked when I first read about drunkorexia and then not. and then realized that half the women I went to college were doing the same thing I was just to mememe at the time to notice.

I know when I drank in college (giving nary a sh** about calories :)) it was all about the inhibition lowering or at least the EXCUSE of "I was drinking. I so didnt mean to tell him I liked him." as I never grew to like the taste much.

so now I dont drink (and people do always like to nag me about the fab benefits of red wine & benefits I just try and get elsewhere like with grapes).

really ever.

no reason at all. which is why I read your last part and thought PINEAPPLE? VODKA? I MIGHTSHOULD TRY THAT!


The Lethological Gourmet said...

Miz, I've never tried the pineapple vodka, but I've heard people rave about it. I'm soaking it for about three weeks before the party, so it should be good and well saturated (and I hope people drink a lot of it so I don't have a bunch left over for ME to drink, because if it's that good, I just might!).

People are often shocked when I tell them I didn't drink in college and the first time I was ever drunk I was 27. I can count the number of times I've been drunk on one hand. Hangovers aren't worth the drunkenness, to me. But that said, I do love me some martinis or some magners now and then!

Romny said...

Like you said, if you drink responsibly then it shouldn't be a huge issue. For me, growing up with English parents, drinking wasn't and issue. In fact, when I was younger I was allowed a small glass of Port (watered down) for Christmas. I never did the "let's sneak into my parents liquor cabinet" routine because for me, my parents taught us that yes, you can drink, but not to abuse it. Now that I'm older, I could take it or leave it. Granted, I still have my bouts of one too many but who doesn't? Let's say you are at a party having a good time, you aren't really paying attention and all of the sudden you realize you just downed 3 glasses of wine in 2 hours! You feel like poo the next day...punishment served.

Why do I drink? To relax..and this is going to sound bad but it also helps the "family gatherings" go a bit faster :)... That's my rant....martini anyone :)

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Oooh, I'll take a martini! Thing is, I don't normally drink much, but now I have this medication that doesn't mix well with alcohol, so all I want is a martini! Doh! Oh well.

I'm on that same boat with you...I'll drink socially, or to loosen up a little, but when I do hit that one or two too many, then ooomph, it sucks the next day! And then I usually end up going dry for about three weeks because I'm remember how sucky a hangover is...