Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

12 Mar 2006, 16:08 p.m.

MC Masala on Alcohol

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2006 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Still chasing down a link to last week's column; InsideBayArea has redesigned its site. My column this week is basically a giant response to my parents, my ex, Leonard, DARE, and especially Brendan. It's insufficient as a response to Brendan's essays, but it's a start.

But I only started drinking after I'd gotten some maturity, as a person paranoid about self-control and the epistemology of experience, just as I only got a credit card after I'd started supporting myself and living within my means. Your mileage will vary.

Brendan wrote, of being a teetotaler among drinkers: "Their choices don't define who they are; I don't think I'll ever understand why mine apparently does." The pat answer is that all our choices define us. Also, especially when the abstainer is abstaining from something that people in his society commonly consume or do, the conscious choice of the abstainer forces the person who doesn't abstain to examine her unthinking choice, possibly finding it wanting. Look at how US meat-eaters often treat vegetarians or vegans, imagining self-righteousness where there's often none.

My first semester at UC Berkeley, I went to some seminar/workshop at a gender resource center on campus. There, I learned some interesting and useful factoids about reproductive health, safety, and the like. But one thing I was told there I've never quite gotten over: people's identities are independent of their behavior. Example: a man who has sex with men may identify as straight, not gay or bisexual.

I reflexively believe that choices generate identity. (Yeah, there are some identities you get born with, too.) You choose to teach, you're a teacher. You choose to lie, you're a liar. You choose to abstain from alcohol, you're a teetotaler, and that's an unusual and shaping choice if your milieu partakes. A man who has sex with other men but identifies as heterosexual is entertaining delusions. This is a huge topic and I'm probably being too harsh and narrowminded, somehow, somehow.