On Living in College Towns

Confession: I live in a college town.

I won’t go so far as to say that the town lives and breathes education in the way it does, say, football, but it is definitely a college town.

Where else can the remark: “I drink to release my inner orange,” following a long discussion about research practice and millennials, possibly make sense?

If you’ve ever lived in one of these fine semi-urban establishments, then you too have seen the college-student theory of partying: get wasted on Thursday and sober up (maybe) on Sunday. I can’t count how many students have come to class inebriated or confessing their various vices of nights past. Indeed, one of the primary distinctions between my former job, where I taught at a residential college, and my present one, at a commuter school, is that students come in (or don’t) complaining of hangovers…the residential students were still drunk. It is a matter of degree, I grant.

Anyway, I started mulling this in the grocery store on Friday night. I hate going on Friday nights because I am often so exhausted from the week that having to make a decision in the store becomes a chore. Too, as any fellow alcoholic knows, tired is not good. And tired is particularly bad when faced with availability of alcohol.

There is this trait among alcoholics where we begin purchasing our drink of choice at various locations, lest any one catch on to how much we consume. I was never very good at this, owing in part to the relatively small community I live in, but also because I didn’t really have to be concerned…because I live in a college town with a serious drinking problem; I was merely one of the faces in a crowd.

Of course, at my worst I was still paranoid about being shoved out of the closet, as it were. I did purchase at various grocery stores (mostly out of convenience, though), and that was another way to hide, I suspect, because who looks askance at the wine in the grocery cart? Could be for any reason. Even if buying in large quantities, one remains anonymous–merely that person who must be giving a party.

And, being in a college town, this makes perfect sense. Have party (especially during football season)? Will drink.

So, weekends remain the most difficult for me; I’m tired and often frustrated. I often find myself shopping on Friday evenings to stave us over until Sunday, so that the three teenboys aren’t forced to eat the countertop. And as I wander through my grocery store, I will inevitably be near “the aisle” and I will consequently have “the argument” with myself.

So far, logic prevails. The joy of waking up without hangovers prevails–hell, the joy of sleeping through the night (mostly) prevails. And I muddle through.

And I worry about the kids I teach, when they miss Fridays and/or Mondays. I worry about my colleagues who come in with the glazed expressions of hangovers. I worry about me and my arguments and what I will need to do to remain sober. And I worry that I live in a college town as an alcoholic with Tough Guy, who has the genetic equivalent of an IED waiting to be tripped…who asks me about marijuana and Amsterdam and alcohol and heroin. And I am grateful that he asks. Every day, I am grateful that he asks and doesn’t slink off silently.

Perhaps I need to work on another grateful list–and reread my old one. Recreate my shame list and reread my old one. Stay thankful and stay realistic.

While I worry in this beautiful, tired, cranky, struggling, brilliant college town.


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