Dillo Day: Not For Me

This just says it all, no?

[TMI Warning]

Today is Dillo Day, a Northwestern tradition that dates to 1972. It’s a music festival that happens each year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We get to see several musicians, including some very well-known ones (B.o.B. this year) for free.

Of course, because Northwestern is a college, it is only natural that Dillo Day is more known for being a drunken shitshow than a music festival. The drinking often starts before noon (or even on Friday night) and continues till everyone is semi-conscious in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Actually enjoying the music is nearly impossible, unless you also happen to enjoy being hit on and groped, pushed and stepped on, and presented with some great views of people making out or having sex in public.

And now I’ll make a confession. I find drunkenness, and drunk people, disgusting. It’s not that I merely find drunk people annoying and inconvenient. I find them, and their lifestyle choices, repulsive. I don’t understand why the hell you would want to end your night getting intimate with a toilet bowl, or why you would want to be too far gone to even remember some of the supposed “best” days of your life.

My issue isn’t so much with the alcohol itself, though my relationship with alcohol has always been sort of hard to explain. My parents are social drinkers; they can hold their alcohol well and rarely get drunk. When they do, they’re louder, more social, quicker to laugh. In other words, they’re more fun. I’ve never actually seen them get very drunk, although one summer my dad went to Israel without us to see his friends and apparently had quite a bit to drink one day. It happened to be the same day that our fridge broke down, and my mom, completely clueless in terms of household appliances, called my dad long-distance and hysterically explained the situation, her fears regarding the baby formula going bad, and so on. My dad’s response was, apparently, a hearty “I don’t give a fuck!” and a dial tone.

And that was the worst of it. I’ve never seen my parents stagger, throw up, or hand their car keys over. I’ve never seen them down multiple shots in a row. (In fact, the only time they drink vodka is at dinner parties with friends, when every shot taken comes with a toast of some sort of emotional significance. Meaningless drinking this is not.)

Consequently, my own experience with drinking has been quite different from that of most people my age. I enjoy wine, mixed drinks, flavored vodka, and champagne. I like to drink wine with my parents over dinner and I can’t imagine New Year’s Eve without champagne. I like to be a bit tipsy, enough to make things a bit cheerier, and myself a bit more bubbly. But I have never been drunk, and I don’t plan on it. (In fact, I was furious a few weeks ago when a friend of mine suggested, laughing, that my friends will “make” me get drunk on my 21st birthday. Excuse me? Nobody can “make” me put anything in my body that I don’t want to put there. Any friend who tries to force anything on my body, be it sex or drugs or alcohol or a piercing or what have you, is no friend of mine after that.)

Last night, thinking about the shitshow that today would inevitably be, I found myself wishing that I were normal, that I could have fun in the way that everyone else can. I wished I wanted to do what they do. But I’ve never been that person. I’ve always been serious and I’ve always preferred to be completely in control of myself at all times. My disdain for drinking to excess is as natural a part of me as my preference for Pepsi over Coke, or the fact that I like to sleep on my stomach and not on my back. How do you change these things?

There are no words to describe such a feeling of isolation, which is one of many reasons I don’t talk about it often. I never fails to shock me how easily I’ve accepted everything else “abnormal” about me–my diagnosis of depression, my bisexuality, my foreignness–but I cannot accept this.

And most of all, I just want to understand. I complain about these things and my friends tell me with a shrug, “That’s just how people are.” But why? Why take an opportunity like an all-day free music festival and turn it into a drunken mess you’ll barely remember afterwards? I even understand drinking and partying when you’re bored, but why on a day like this one? Why is this desire as natural for them as my aversion to it is for me? I want to understand this in a sociological and psychological sense. But I don’t.

I sound like a boring, prissy goody-goody with a stick up my ass. I know I do. But the funny thing is, I’m really not. When I’m in a genuinely good mood, which, thanks in part to my shitty environment, is not often, I’m always laughing and making jokes. I love dancing and trying to sing, exploring Chicago with friends, and frequently acting like an idiot. I’m known to occasionally skip class and go tanning on the beach, and to write my papers the night before they’re due because I was too busy hanging out with friends before. I love fun. But I hate partying. The two aren’t one and the same, you know.

So there you have it. Dillo Day is a disgusting boozefest, and it’s not for me. I guess that makes me an outsider as long as I’m at college (and possibly for quite a while longer). I don’t understand why, as a culture, we are fixated on the idea that people should be moronic and depraved until they turn 30.  I want to know why our society believes that being an idiot in your 20s is some sort of prerequisite to having a happy, successful, and meaningful life–and why everyone thinks I’ll “regret it” if I don’t follow this path. I want to know why college students are required as if by law to drink and party and smoke pot and have a lot of casual sex (another thing I really don’t enjoy), or else they’re boring and “lame.”

I’m fucking tired of being judged. It makes me really angry. Stop.

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Kids These Days

I am going to do something I rarely do–label something with an “ism.”

A post on CNN’s health blog, The Chart, points out that oral sex can increase cancer risk–valuable information, to be sure. But for some unknown reason, the blog frames the information like this:

Here’s a crucial message for teens: Oral sex carries many of the same risks as vaginal sex, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of oral cancers in America in people under age 50.

“Adolescents don’t think oral sex is something to worry about,” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘sex.'”

Actually, the author of this blog and the professor quoted in it might be surprised to know that adults also occasionally engage in oral sex, so this might be a “crucial message” for them as well as for teens. In fact, sometimes these adults even view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘sex’!

But of course, there’s no need to miss another valuable opportunity to insert a “kids these days” reference into a completely unrelated topic. Which is, yes, ageism.

On another note, since when does a random doctor or professor get to unilaterally define “sex”? Just because oral sex undoubtedly carries risks doesn’t make it equivalent to, say, vaginal or anal sex. Different people ascribe different significance (or lack thereof) to different sexual behaviors. To many people, oral sex is not as “serious” or meaningful as penetrative sex. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be aware of its risks, but it does mean that no higher authority can or should try to define “sex” for everybody.

Northwestern Doesn’t Care About its Students

Evanston, Illinois, which is where I go to school, has a stupid housing ordinance that states that no more than three unrelated people may live together in a house or apartment. It’s intended to ensure proper upkeep because, apparently, people who aren’t related to each other don’t care about the state of their housing, whereas people who are related do. (???)

Anyway, up until now, Evanston has not been enforcing the rule. But now it’s going to. Hundreds of Northwestern students will be evicted this summer because they live in houses or apartments with more than three unrelated people.

And today, the Daily Northwestern reports that the Northwestern administration will not attempt to lobby Evanston’s city government regarding this issue despite the fact that it directly affects so many students.

The Assistant Dean of Students’ response? Students should move farther away from campus.

Let me give you some background on Evanston. Although it’s obviously safer than some Chicago neighborhoods, there were eight homicides in Evanston in 2010 compared to just one in 2009–something that the University and the city police don’t seem to be too concerned about. Every couple of weeks, the entire University community receives an email alert regarding a crime that has just been committed on or near campus–muggings, assaults, break-ins, you name it. Last year, a man attempted to assault a woman in one of our academic buildings.

And with all this, the University administration thinks students should move even farther away from campus, risk even longer walks home in the dark, and live even further apart from other students–all to avoid getting off of its ass and lobbying against an outdated and useless rule.

Landlords, too, will be hurt by the enforcement of this law. The first Daily article I linked to mentions the fact that many of these houses and apartments really aren’t of the quality that families moving to a supposedly wealthy place like Evanston would be looking for. Many of the houses for rent near campus used to be for sale–until their owners realized that nobody’s going to buy them. Without students to fill these houses and apartments, many of them would probably be left empty.

Furthermore, Evanston officials have stated that the reason they’re starting to enforce the ordinance is to crack down on student parties. First of all, that won’t work–the number of people living in an apartment doesn’t determine whether or not those students have a party; that’s preposterous. In fact, if people have to live with fewer roommates, they may be more likely to throw parties so that more people come over.

Also, as the Daily article mentions, having students live in concentrated areas makes it easier for the police to patrol those areas. If students start living miles away from campus and having parties there, not only will that piss off even more Evanston residents who otherwise wouldn’t have had to deal with it, but it will also make it harder for the police to stop the parties.

But, most importantly–at least, to me–the hope of stopping college students from partying (something that’s never going to happen anyway) is not worth jeopardizing their safety. Evanston isn’t a small town in Ohio. It’s a city that’s located close to a major metropolitan area. It has very real crime issues. I am shocked that for how much money I’m paying to go here, the Northwestern administration won’t stick up for its students and battle this ridiculous ordinance. Instead, it’s asking us to move farther away from campus, dilute the sense of community that is already so fragile at this school, and expose ourselves to a greater risk of becoming the victims of crime.

I should’ve invested my $200,000 wiser.

[Update] Several of my friends have pointed out that this ordinance was probably originally enacted in order to prevent minorities (who ostensibly have lower incomes and would benefit from being able to share houses or apartments with other people) from moving into Evanston. I’m still looking for a credible source confirming this, but if it’s true–and it probably is–then that’s just one more reason to repeal the law. If the city of Evanston is using a racist law to attempt to control student partying, that is ridiculous. Not to mention that the law probably does disproportionately affect minorities.

Dressing for Depression

This Jezebel post caught my eye the other day. It’s called “Dressing for Depression” and basically suggests ways to put an outfit together when you’re depressed. As you might know, one of the symptoms of depression is that it becomes really, really hard–sometimes practically impossible–to do simple everyday things, such as getting dressed. This post aimed to make it a bit easier while, unfortunately, utilizing ridiculously flippant language to discuss a serious disorder.

When I first read it, I didn’t really know what to think. I try not to get offended at things before I give them some serious thought, so I did. And although I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse the author of ableism (like some commenters did), I think she could’ve been a lot more sensitive with her writing.

First of all, the title. “Dressing for Depression.” Depression is not a social event, or any kind of event at all. It’s a pervasive state of despair, fatigue, and self-loathing. To a person who actually has depression (and not merely the blues), “dressing for depression” means dressing for everyday life.

[Update: Apparently, Jezebel changed the post’s name to “Dressing When You’re Depressed.”]

Second, the way the post begins is this: “Maybe it’s SAD. Maybe it’s clinical. Maybe you’re in a breakup. Or maybe you just have the blues. Whatever the reason, it’s better to wear clothes (trust me).” Saying it this way basically equates SAD, clinical depression, breakups, and the blues. These things are not equal. If the author stuck to breakups and the blues, the rest of the post would be pretty appropriate, but SAD and clinical depression are disorders, not mood states, and as such, they’re not considered part of a healthy, normal life. Breakups and the blues, on the other hand, are a routine part of life for most people and can be overcome without medical treatment.

Later on, the author writes: “Basically, there are two real options: wallowing and rallying.” Actually, if you’re actually clinically depressed, there are two options: wallowing and having someone force you to see a psychiatrist. Suggesting that people with depression can “rally” and “pick themselves up” and “put on a good face” and all that other garbage is so ridiculously belittling and offensive. Depression isn’t simply a disorder that makes you put yourself down; it’s also disorder that prevents you from picking yourself up.

For those who apparently can magically rally themselves despite having a serious illness, the author has this advice: “Go crazy. Think garter belts, and false lashes, or perfume. Yeah, it sounds weird, but sometimes desperate measures are called for! Fake it til you make it — and, as we all know from “The King and I,” you may fool yourself while you’re at it.” Fake it til you make it is what people tell depressives when they find themselves too inconvenienced by the presence of someone with a mental disorder.

Even without the cutesy and belittling language, the post is rather useless. Good clothes, contrary to the author’s suggestion, don’t help most depressives feel better. I would know; I have a closet full of them, and I was depressed for years.

One commenter said it well: “You know how I dressed for depression? In a hospital gown. Way to trivialize a serious illness.”

Exhibitionist Journalism

So, yesterday this little gem was posted on Salon.com, an online news magazine that I generally like a lot but that, unfortunately, frequently falls into the trap of sensationalism. The piece, by Holly Kretschmar, describes the author’s experience with cooking and eating her placenta after giving birth to her first baby–a course of action recommended by her doula, which I understand is some sort of earthy midwife whose services Kretschmar was inspired to engage after she miraculously conceived despite fertility problems and a doctor’s estimate that her chances of conceiving naturally were .0001 percent. Apparently, this arbitrary, albeit fortuitous, glitch is reason enough to throw out the concept of science entirely and resort to all manner of cuckoo rituals.

Anyway, the doula recommended a placenta recipe and Kretschmar enthusiastically tried it, chronicling her experience in this article that Salon for some unknowable reason decided to publish. The piece went into terrific detail about how the placenta tasted and what texture it had, and Kretschmar, a vegetarian, pontificated on the joys of eating of oneself: “It occurred to me that this meat of mine was truly sustainable, a renewable resource created without killing. In a way, our culinary experiment was the ultimate act of consumption: eating life without taking life.”

I’m not even going to go into the numerous reasons this entire enterprise is repulsive (for instance, that silly little taboo called cannibalism), because, when it comes down to it, Kretschmar made a personal choice to eat her own placenta. Okay. It’s a free country. But the more important question (at least to me) is this: why the hell write and publish an article about it?

The fact that she finds it interesting is not (or should not) be enough. Plenty of people find their bowel movements interesting, but I’ve yet to see a published article about that. Websites like Salon generally have standards for publication, the standards we all learn in journalism school–newsworthiness, timeliness, and impact, for instance. Articles about personal experiences that ought to be kept private, like bowel movements and, yes, placenta eating, just don’t make the cut. Usually.

To me, it seems that this article served a dual purpose for Kretschmar and for Salon. The author gets to exhibit herself to the world as some sort of new-age open-minded hippie and satisfy her own need for attention, and Salon gets to drive up pageviews by disgusting and angering its readership. (A quick peek at the comment thread of the article confirms this result.) The only party that doesn’t win in this scenario? The readers.

This is exactly what’s wrong with journalism nowadays. It used to be that publication was reserved for the best of the best–articles that could inform or inspire. Then blogs and other social tools appeared on the scene to fill the niche of personal media. And then, respectable publications like Salon decided to steal blogs’ audience by publishing just the sort of self-serving drivel they’d previously (and rightfully) ignored.

I’m not saying blogs don’t serve a purpose. They do. Perhaps Kretschmar’s friends would’ve loved to read about her foray into placentophagy. But the rest of us don’t need to know, and most people who read websites like Salon are intelligent enough to know a blatant publicity stunt when they see one. Give us more respect, Salon.