Sunday, March 05, 2006


There was a time in college when I agreed with the idea of being Straight Edge (sXe for short). As someone who wasn't interested in drinking (hated the smell/taste of alcohol), smoking/doing drugs (didn't see any long-term benefits in using them) or fooling around (ditto in the long run), I thought straight edge was right for me. Boy, was I wrong.

I probably saw more straight edge extremists than normal straight edge folks back in the day, but the extremists showed me how out of line they could get. Hearing of people getting beaten down because they disagreed with their views, people slapping drinks out of people's hands and so on, I felt like this was the blind leading the blind. In my eyes, straight edge had become a religious cult with violence. This was not cool to me and I soon distanced myself from it. In this case in particular, I saw the dangers in having strong beliefs versus having ideas.

For the textbook definition: straight edge as a belief came from lyrics in a song by Minor Threat called "Straight Edge." Though lyricist Ian MacKaye was merely stating that being straight was better for him, others dictated Straight Edge as a dogmatic way of life. Thus began the problem. People felt it was necessary to dictate their alcohol-free, smoke-free, drug-free and fooling around-free (and in some cases, cruelty-free by being a vegan and advocating animal rights) lives to others, whether they liked it or not. Whatever means it took to get the message out, almost anything went.

A lot of younger people alienated by the partying lifestyle found straight edge to be a life preserver. However, when a loosely-structured group of people defines itself by strict boundaries, problems usually emerge. Groups of people felt they knew what was best for everyone and for those that didn't adhere to their beliefs, there would be trouble.

What I didn't understand about alcohol consumption for the longest time was the act of moderation. While my parents and my high school health class told me about it, I didn't fully understand moderation until I got into college. I used to think that just a little alcohol would cause blurred vision, terrible hangovers and car wrecks if you drank while you drove. Well, there is a wide distance between having a drink and one too many drinks. I guess I responded more to the slippery-slope kinds of warnings more than anything else in those days.

These days, I don't smoke, abuse drugs or fool around and rarely drink. I don't claim to be better than people because I don't have those vices, but I won't lie: I don't really enjoy being sober around drunk people. I've only been mildly-buzzed/drunk a handful of times in my life and I have never had a desire to intentionally get drunk.

For various reasons, I feel very uncomfortable being around people who act all loopy and silly because of their alcohol consumption. Whether it's at a party or at a show, I become incredibly uptight and essentially cut myself off from these people. I don't feel compelled to read people the riot act, but I don't feel like I can be open with people that are in this state. Oftentimes these people are loud, obnoxious and appear to have very little regard to the environment they are in. That's really uncomfortable to be around.

As uncomfortable as it is to be around this, I think about other positive ways to deal with all of this. I've always been open to help out my friends if they need help (whether it's a ride home, a glass of water, etc.), but I don't force myself onto my friends. I'm not interested in being a moral crusader because I need to get my head on straight instead of trying straighten other people's heads.

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