Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on October 13, 2008


typewriter4         For the most part, I’m amazed at how truly bright America’s college students are.  It’s amazing – every year we send over 4 million of you to Harvard and Western Michigan and the University of Oregon, and most of you have limitless futures (if you can only learn how to access your potential).  But sometimes I feel (in a completely heterosexual way) a little like Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny – and I guess that’s the point of this website.  I want to help you access your potential.  There’s a scene in that movie, the night before Vinny goes into the courtroom to try to get The Karate Kid acquitted from his alleged murder of the clerk, where Miss Mona Lisa Vito tells her boyfriend, “You know, Vinny, the truth is…that I think once you get in there…and you start doing your thing…that you’re gonna be really, really, really great. (Pause)…If you don’t fuck it up.”  And that’s the same message I want to give you – the 17 million “Cousin Vinnies” out there on our college campuses – your future is really, really, really bright…if you don’t fuck it all up by being a teenager and doing something that is irrevocably stupid now. So today’s lesson is all about how to avoid one of the more idiotic things that many college students do during their time as American undergraduates.

         Listen to me, there is no reason to take 21 shots on your 21st birthday.  Best case scenario, you survive the experience.  On my 21st birthday, I gave it a shot (21 of them, in fact), and that night I punched one of my fraternity brothers in the face, pissed off my girlfriend to the point that we nearly broke up, and then passed out in my own vomit for the next 2 days.  Because of this fiasco, I missed a Comparative Politics midterm, which I had to beg the professor to let me retake, still did horribly, and gained – what?  I have no idea.  Did I prove something to myself? – perhaps that my body could survive a grueling experience?  I suppose.  But wouldn’t it have been smarter to prove my toughness by running a marathon?  And, I’m embarrassed by some of the stories that I heard in the days that followed about my behavior.  What’s sad about this is that it’s probably akin to a best-case scenario for a 21-year-old who partakes in this stupidity.  The worst case scenario is that you die.  It happens – most people’s livers are incapable of processing that much hard alcohol in so little time – and sometimes the consequences of this inability are terminal alcohol poisoning.

          That being said, here are some rules for going out on your 21st birthday that should keep you alive, and keep you from jeopardizing your future:

          Rule #1) Figure out before you go out to the bars the amount of alcohol that you normally drink on a weekend night.  Multiply this by a factor of 1.5, and set this number as your limit.  I’ll explain: if you normally go out and drink 8 beers without extreme pain the next morning (if this is your normal mild hangover state), set your limit at 12 beers on your 21st birthday.  Likewise, if you normally have 6 cosmopolitans, you should drink no more than 9 on your big night.  Then, before you go out to the awesome hellhole that is the college dive bar, talk this limit over with your most responsible friend (not the friend that’s going to be drunker than you and picking fights with the football team, or your friend that’s trying to sleep with the football team), and let this person know that they can do whatever they have to do in order to cut you off if you want to go deeper than your limit.

          Rule #2) Eat a carb-heavy meal before you start drinking, along with plenty of glasses of water.  Then, throughout the night, continue to drink as much water as possible to dilute the alcohol and make your stomach feel full.  This will keep you from going to fast and overloading your liver.  Speed drinking is the primary cause of alcohol poisoning.

          Rule #3) Enjoy yourself.  If you aren’t having a good time, or are tired of having people buy you “3 Wisemen” shots, tell the people buying you the shots to fuck off, and don’t drink them.  Remember, you don’t want to die.  If you celebrate your 21st birthday successfully, you will end up being able to jump up on the bar at the end of the night and sing “Sweet Caroline” (BUMP, bump, Bummppppp) without falling off and needing 42 stitches in your chin!!!

          Rule #4) Make sure to purge your system of any excess alcohol before you go to bed.  That way, if you already feel a little sick, you won’t let those last few drinks out of your stomach and into your bloodstream.  This can make the difference between option A): being able to enjoy yourself in the morning with a slow recovery of greasy Jack-in-the-Box while watching a 6-hour MTV marathon of The Hills; and option B): spending the whole next day rolling around in your bed, softly moaning in agony as your body releases alcohol in that cold, itchy, gross sweat.

          Actually, when you think about, it’s all pretty simple.  But it’s amazing how often these rules are broken, and how sad it can be when you hear about an undergraduate on one of America’s college campuses who loses a brightly-filled future life because he was too dumb or scared not to be an idiot.  Don’t be this person.  Follow these four rules to keep your 21st birthday safe and fun, and live to read Lesson #22: One Tree Hill (or, The Beautiful People).

          NOTE: The complete list of forthcoming lessons is now posted.

8 Responses

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  1. Nathan said, on October 14, 2008 at 1:42 am

    Tim was in both my freshman and sophomore composition courses, so imagine my surprise when he signed up for my Intro to Film Studies course, spring semester 2007. Quite frankly, I was flattered that this kid thought well enough of me to not only take two of my classes, but three. The two comp classes could have been a scheduling fluke, but to see him after a two-year space of time suggested that, A) he liked my teaching style, B) I’m an easy grader, or C) the evil you know is ten times better than the evil you don’t. I’m sure it was some combination of all of the above.

    Tim attended class regularly, contributed to the class discussion, and turned in his homework on time, except for one time when he didn’t have a hard copy of the assignment, so he sent me his response paper as an attachment to an e-mail. Spring semester ended, Tim earned a respectable grade, and summer came to my Midwestern university town.

    Summer days here in Northwest Ohio are long, hot, and humid—the perfect combination for growing commercial crops of corn, soybeans, and tomatoes. Like the music in all the local restaurants and bars, some nights, the temperature doesn’t get out of eighties. Back in the eighties, BG garnered national, and perhaps international attention for having more bars and pizza joints per capita than anywhere else in the USA, and the university and community pride that stems from that moment continues today. After sundown, the Victorian-era, downtown district bubbles over with live music, and all the adult beverages one cares to consume. At the end of the night, the Corner Grill has surly service, but the best greasy cheese burger ever had at 2:00 AM.

    Two days before we celebrated our nation’s 231st anniversary, Tim went out drinking with friends, and probably had a few too many and decided that the night air would do him good, so he decided to walk home that night. As he made his way toward campus, something happened, and Tim fell down, on the CSX tracks. His body was found at 2:37 AM, on 3 July 2007, after being struck by a passing train. Witnesses reported that Tim had been lying on the tracks and that the train was unable to stop in time. He was 21.

    Now I’m not a person given to nostalgia, but I still have Tim’s e-mail containing the late assignment attachment—I can’t bring myself to delete it.

  2. drwizard said, on October 14, 2008 at 2:37 pm


    First off – we’re all terribly sorry for Bowling Green’s loss – that’s a horrible tragedy. But I’m glad you responded to this post, because almost everybody I know has seen something similar happen on their own campus, and it’s exactly what I’m talking about.

    Students, you’ve got to be smarter about the way you go out on the weekend. Because life is fucking awesome, and you want to get as many years out of it as possible before it’s over. Just think, if you make it to be 100 years old, you’ve got at least a 13% chance of seeing the Cubs win the world series, which would be a miracle at least as impressive as Moses setting a bush on fire with mind bullets. (And yeah, that’s directed at you, poster who identifies himself as K. Fukudome – and also a reference to Wonderboy – what is the secret of your power?).

  3. UVA Mike said, on October 15, 2008 at 12:24 am

    at this point, I’m really torn between my desire to pay respects to the first response to this post, and my desire to comment about how awesome that picture is of the punch in the face. i wish there was a separate comment thread that could go up, one being respectful and one being irreverent.

    so at the risk of sounding crass, how awesome is that punch in the face? also, it appears the guy in the beer picture has already done his homework and multiplied his 8 beers by 1.5 to get to his alotted 12. does this rule still apply for turning 53?

  4. funktifiedacoustic said, on October 15, 2008 at 5:46 am

    You might get arrested for just being drunk and not havin’ nothin’ to worry about.

    Probably got arrested for just being drunk and not havin’ nothin’ to worry about.

  5. Ghost Dog said, on October 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Funk: Are those John Prine lyrics?

  6. funktifiedacoustic said, on October 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    They are the lyrics of “Hey Yeah” by Pat McLaughlin from his album _The Next 5 Miles_. Pat McLaughlin just happens to be John Prine’s lead guitar player these days.

    These are not to be confused with Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”

  7. MS said, on October 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Attitude reflects leadership. – (see other comment concerning leadership in response to Lesson #19 Vote)

    This is a valuable post for a couple of reasons:

    1. It fills the void of often neglected, utilitarian information for “bright college students” who happen to still be dumbasses, by taking on a pseudo-parental (leadership) role. Meaning, as a professor, these are the life lessons I try to impart to my students on a daily basis via literature. And if I were a parent, and didn’t (for whatever reason) ever have the Polonius type talk with my child before sending him/her off to college, I would want them to read this blog – or better yet, I would like to be able to buy it in book form and send it to them in a care package during their first weeks away from the nest.

    2. After experimentation (why my response is tardy this week), I find this formula to be mathematically, scientifically, and biologically sound.

    3. Dr. Wizard keeps it classy. As evidenced by a comment left in response to Lesson #19 Vote, to which Dr. Wizard himself responded: ““How to suck at life” is the other side of “Dr. Wizard’s Advice.” Awesome,” I like to be the ‘underside of the table,’ while agreeing with much of what Wiz, PhD has to say is a slightly askance kind of way. That being said, I kind of like to keep it classy too. So for this lesson, there seems to be no ‘underside.’

  8. MS said, on October 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    …to this particular lesson.

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