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Dear Quirkyalone: Why am I less remarkable to sober people? September 7, 2009

Posted by Onely in quirkyalone.
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“Dear Quirkyalone: Advice for QuirkyLiving” is a weekly guest column by Lisa and Christina (crossposted at Quirkyalone). It appears every Monday. When you’re making up your own road map for (quirky)living, you need thoughtful advice. We’re here for you. Quirkyalone and Onely welcome your questions; send them on to onely AT onely.org.

Dear Quirkyalone: I’m a Quirkyalone from SF, kinda floating between school and not school right now, and I was wondering: I often feel like the rest of my generation of college aged folks is only interested in interacting with one another while drunk. In recent exchanges at parties, I find that I am remarkable to my drunk acquaintances, yet less so on days after when they become sober. Why do you suppose that is? — Gian

Dear Gian,

In order to answer your question, I’m going to make two assumptions:

1) that your new acquaintances were not simply too drunk to remember you afterward; and

2) that when you say “in days after” you’re not talking about “the morning after.”

I think you already know that you can’t use a person’s drunk personality as a barometer for how they’ll treat you in the sober times. Now with that caveat out of the way, let’s look a little deeper:

Drunk people are likely to be more interested in anyone and everything. That’s why people drink–to see the world in new ways. Or maybe that’s LSD. But in any case, when your drunk interlocutor told you, “Gee, your worm farm sounds just fascinating,” he (we’ll assume he’s a he) may very well have meant it. Alcohol suppresses activity in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain responsible for planning and decision making. So at the time of your conversation, his impaired prefrontal cortex caused him to “forget” or overlook how much worms remind him of some unfortunate experiments on the playground in middle school, or the fact that dirt in his fingernails gives him the willies. But when his brain sobered up, the realization that he’s not really that into mulch and compost came blasting back into his consciousness, along with the headache. Hence his decision, “I guess I won’t call that nice worm girl after all.”

Another possibility is that in his haze of drunken hopefulness, he assumed that when you said ‘mulch and compost’ you meant something else. Then once his full facilities returned, he realized, “Oh, she probably really did mean mulch and compost. Sigh.”

And still another possibility is that those “folks” may have been embarrassed at their former exuberance–while they were drunk, they dropped their guard, exposed some of their inner selves, right?–and so they tried to compensate, to regain some of their cool, by being less exuberant in the sober light of day. This sheepishness is ironic because often those same people drank in order to become more confident–and college students are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon, being relatively young and insecure.

You might want to look for a different crowd, maybe one with some older people. You can have platonic friendships with men and women of all ages. You don’t say whether you’re into drinking yourself, but if it’s something you don’t want to forego completely, then maybe spend Friday drinking with your current friends and try a dance class or anatomical drawing course on Saturday, where you might connect with people who have interests other than alcohol.

–Christina

P.S. To all our readers in the U.S., happy Labor Day!

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