For a while, it was pretty fun. It was nice to jump into a situation where no one knew me, where my inhibitions had been extinguished by alcohol, and where I could do most everything pretty anonymously. I ended up with some cool stories, and had a couple pretty memorable experiences. But after a while, my opinion about it all started to change, beginning the internal dialogue that I’m going to outline here.
Since I wasn’t much a partier in high school, I didn’t have any experience with it going into college, so it was naturally an environment that I didn’t feel very comfortable in. I do think that it’s almost incumbent upon a person to feel comfortable in any given environment before he/she can accurately assess it, but there’s also something to be said for never really feeling comfortable in an environment. Partying was something that from the start, I had issues with, but early on I could ignore those issues and have a reasonably good time. But the more and more I went out, the more I started stepping back and looking at each component of the night, and ultimately, the more and more pathetic it all seemed to me.
If you say you’re going out, generally, it really means this: “I’m going to get very drunk and look for someone to have sex with.” There’s definitely nothing intrinsically wrong with that, as having sex is a natural impulse that people definitely feel a need to fulfill on a day-to-day basis. But because of various religious, societal, and parental attitudes, as well as a general self-induced fear of the unknown, when you haven’t had sex, it becomes almost a crime to think about, much less actually do. It is built into people to feel shame about thinking about/having sex when they’re young. Thus, the only way people will have sex at this point is as anonymously as possible. This means limiting eye contact, looking away when the lights turn on, undressing only when it’s totally dark, and leaving as soon as the act is through. The next day, it’s often the case that one or both parties feels bad about what happened the night before, as well as probably hung over.
And yet, the next weekend will probably go the same exact way. Same drinking, same dancing, same desire for anonymity, same dark removal of clothing, same sex, same feeling of shame afterwards.
It is a microcosm of humans’ desire for sense pleasures. These pleasures are characterized by a brief sensation of happiness followed by a longer period of either sadness that the pleasure is over or regret that it happened in the first place. The interesting thing, too, is that if you ask the best writer in the world whether he gets more joy out of his writing or out of casual sex, he will absolutely say his writing. If you ask the best horse rider in the world whether she’d give up her horse riding life for random sex every weekend, she’d absolutely say no. The things that we dedicate ourselves to, the things that give us sustained pleasure for potentially our whole lives, these are the things that we truly enjoy. But since we only live in the present, and since certain things that are put in front of us in the present seem so immediately attractive, it’s all too easy to get distracted from those things that we really love and that will reward us in the future in favor of a shot of alcohol or a half hour of random sex.
It can get taken to an exponential degree, too. People will end up planning their entire days/weeks/months around what they’re going to do next weekend. People drop upwards of $1,000 a year on alcohol. Then, at the end of it, what has been gained? Another sense pleasure, another notch in the belt, another story to tell, that’s about it.
I want to be clear that I’m not going to chastise anybody for pursuing casual sex, or making it an important part of their life, or anything like that. Everyone’s got their own preferences and everyone wants what they think is best for them. I’m really chastising myself with all of this. I have things I do that I love. I love to read, write, draw, and build deep relationships, and at this point, it seems to me that letting too many sense pleasures get in the way of those things would be only detrimental to me in the long run. Plus, having had both casual sex and sex with someone I love, I know there is absolutely no comparison. When you’re in love with the other person, you don’t have to be drunk, there’s no shame in undressing, and there’s no bad feeling that comes afterwards. It’s so much more than a sense pleasure, it’s the deepest, most intimate connection that you can experience with another person on a physical level.
So is this a farewell to partying? Probably not. I don’t want to make it a big part of my life, but now and again it’s something that I’ll likely do. What this is, is an assessment of feeling and position, and a general set of goals for the future. Sense pleasures will come and go but the love of something or someone lasts a very long time.
I’d much rather be comfortably in love than look away when the lights turn on.