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I Guess I'm Straight Edge?

Drinking culture sucks. Straight edge culture sucks. I’m stuck in teetotaling limbo.

I’ve never done a drug in my life. The closest I’ve ever come to addiction is binge-watching five seasons of Friday Night Lights. And the last time I drank alcohol was when I was a freshman in high school—half my life ago.

The first question you might have, which is the one most people ask me upon learning I don’t drink, is, “Why not?” which, to me, is an incredibly worthless question. You’re asking why I don’t do something? Shouldn’t the onus be on you, the drinker, here? There are tons of things I don’t do but you're not inclined to ask me why. Why not ask why I don’t go to church or own a cat or listen to country music? (Short answers: Because religion is a scam, because they are fluffy little assholes, and because I have all my teeth.) Yet when people learn I don’t drink, they demand to hear my reasoning with the fervor of a person who’s had their mother insulted.


So I guess my ultimate answer is: I don’t want to. Plain and simple. No one in my family has any problems with alcoholism, I don’t do it for health reasons, and it’s not because of any sort of bullshit sanctimonious reasons. It’s just a personal choice, simple as that, one I’ve stuck with for my entire adult life. But I’ve never, ever labeled myself “straight edge.”

See, when Ian Mackaye wrote the song “Out of Step” back in 1981, he was speaking only on behalf of himself and his own set of ideals. He never meant for straight edge to become a movement, which he has said numerous times. When he wrote the lyrics, “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t fuck,” he didn’t mean them imperatively and he certainly didn’t want people to take them as a set of marching orders for morons to form straight edge gangs and start beating the shit out of kids who were drinking, which was a totally stupid thing that happened in the punk scene for a while. (Or maybe still happens, I don’t know. If that’s still a thing that happens, it needs to die quicker than ska revival.) That’s why when Minor Threat re-recorded the song two years later, Mackaye updated the lyrics to emphasize, “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck” and added a monologue about how he wasn’t trying to establish a set of rules. He basically stopped just short of saying, “Cut this sXe gang violence shit out, you dumb straight edge dildos!”


Even though I choose not to wave the straight edge flag, plenty of my friends in high school did—had the XXX patches and tattoos and everything. And the ironic thing is that they all dropped it immediately after starting college and are now the type of potheads who take a scientific approach to getting high. They’ll constantly talk about how if you take weed and grind it into a fine paste, add the ashes of your dead grandma, bless it with a voodoo prayer, bury it in the backyard for five to ten years and then dig it up and brush your teeth with it, you’ll get super dooper high off it. Or something.

And that’s fine for them. I have nothing against pot or alcohol, if that’s what you wanna do. I mean, if I’m being pedantic, I’ll point out that smoking weed is a colossal waste of time and that alcohol and tobacco are a means of keeping the working class poor. Some people will get defensive when I say that and start pointing to articles they’ve read on www.I’ about how marijuana has cured acute glaucoma in house plants or how doctors say that drinking two glasses of red wine a day will prevent you from dying from bear attacks. Sure. If that’s what you want to tell yourself to feel better about your vices, go for it. I’m a man who convinces himself that eating 10 Doritos Loco tacos once a week “keeps his metabolism on its toes.” So you don’t have to justify yourself to me.

No. I do not want this.


Another common reaction I get when people find out I don’t drink is that they’ll tell me about how they also don’t drink and then they inevitably want to become sober buddies with me. Not to blow our bonding sesh here, but since this is a personal choice for me, I really don’t give a fuck that you don’t drink. Teetotalers who want to bond with other teetotalers are the same idiots who drive Priuses and honk and wave at other Prius owners.

Or sometimes people will tell me that they’re considering giving up drinking and ask for advice on how to live sober. Uh, sorry, but I’ve got nothing for you. Just do what you normally do in life but stop at the part where alcohol passes through your mouth hole. Does that help at all? It shouldn’t be that difficult since alcohol tastes like actual garbage. The smell of beer has always reminded me of those old drunk dudes on my dad’s softball team who would blow their beer breath in my face as they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. (I still don’t know, by the way, Mr. Donovan.)

People often assume that because I don’t drink alcohol, I must be in good physical shape and save a ton of money. Well, I just walked over to the other room to check my bank statement and there was $84.23 in my account. Also, I got winded doing it. So no. But one interesting result of being sober in an alcohol-focused society is that on Saturday nights, I am able to see the world for what it really is while drunk people are too far gone to notice. I see belligerent frat bros who want to pick fights for absolutely no reason. I see wasted chicks who think every goddamn song the DJ plays is about them. And I see couples who slur their words and fight over absolutely nothing. Sometimes I want to go shake them by the shoulders and be like, “Guys. Guys! You haven’t said a single substantive or sensical thing in over an hour. Just go home and go to bed, you drunk dummies!” Being sober while everyone else is drunk makes me feel like Roddy Piper in They Live when he’s got his magic glasses on.


Really, the only thing stupider than drinking culture is straight edge culture. This is an entire sect of people who bond over an activity they don’t partake in. It's like an AA meeting set to a terrible soundtrack. Straight edge bands have become the Christian rock of hardcore. Sorry, but how many fucking songs do we need about not drinking? I think we pretty much covered it with the first one. Every subsequent straight edge song has just been a carbon copy of “Out of Step,” with each one becoming more redundant and needlessly aggressive than the last. At this point, it’d be damn near impossible for someone to write a song about not drinking that hasn’t been done a million times before. And I really doubt grown men who wear mesh shorts in public are up to the task.

I do not want this either.

So here I am. Forever stuck in this weird limbo between cultures. I live in this solitary middle ground where I think phrases like “pre-game” and “raging” are just as lame as “true ‘til death” and “poison free.” I find Xing up your hands to be equally as dumb as shotgunning a PBR or Instagramming yourself doing a kegstand. And I think shirts that say, ”Beer Sucks, Drink Water” are as unfunny as ones that say, “It’s Always Five O’Clock Somewhere.” (Although in fairness, I think that one is universally unfunny and reserved only for deadbeat dads who have balding ponytails and drive beat up pickup trucks.)

But if labeling me “straight edge” makes it easier for you to process why a seemingly normal person doesn’t consume alcohol, then go ahead if you need to. But I won’t. Because I just don’t care enough. So I’ve started my own movement for the apathetic non-drinkers of the world. It’s called “straight meh-dge.” We don’t have a logo or merch or anything. We don’t sing anthems about it. Also, no one can join it. It’s just me. We meet on Sundays and watch Friday Night Lights. sMe pride.

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