Do Beer Emotions Count?

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“Neon shines through smoky eyes tonight

It’s 2 AM, I’m drunk again, it’s heavy on my mind

Excuse me please, one more drink

Could you make it strong ’cause I don’t need to think”

Dave Matthews Band

How can you know what he really means if he says one thing when drunk and something else when sober? Which is the true feeling?

I have always wondered about this. Even in the era of traditional dating, we knew that a guy was more likely to open up after a few beers. But we were never sure how to interpret drunken declarations of emotion. It’s much worse now. Successfully navigating the hookup culture necessitates repressing emotions, lest they prove inconvenient or awkward.

Moments of mushiness are rare between two people in the early stages of a relationship. Often, guys don’t want to provide encouragement to relationship-minded girls, and girls are wary of coming across as too needy and demanding. Sex occurs, meaningful dialog doesn’t.

When I was a freshman in college, I had been seeing a guy for a couple of months and I was crazy about him. We went to a New Year’s Eve party together, where he got really, really drunk. As I tucked him in for the night on my couch, he grabbed me and said, “Wait, I have to tell you something. I love you.” Wow. No one had ever said that to me before. I was very happy. He was hung over in the morning, but acted normal. I never heard from him again.

We were both on a college ski trip a couple of weeks later, and he studiously avoided me, both on the slopes and off. I was very unhappy. Two years later, I cornered him at a party, basically got all up in his face and demanded an explanation. (This time I was the drunk one.) He didn’t want to answer at first, but then said, “To be honest, I couldn’t believe I said what I did. I remembered it the next day and it freaked me out. I was embarrassed.” That’s all I got. I would have liked to go outside and discuss it for about two hours, but no dice.

I’ve always wondered if he meant it drunk and got scared sober. Or if he was BS’ing me drunk, and didn’t want to own it once he sobered up. Either way, I wish we could have talked about it. I still liked him two years later, even though I was dating someone else then. He was killed in a car crash shortly after that, falling asleep at the wheel. It sounds trite, but I remember feeling what a waste it was to keep those emotions in check. Emotions should be messy and all over the place. Good or bad, I’d have liked to understand him better.

Here’s how Urban Dictionary defines the phenom:

1. Drunk Sincerity: After a certain point of inebriation, one begins to say things that sound good in their current mental state, any of which said sober would sound utterly retarded.

Person A: “You know I’ve always loved you.”

Person B: “That’s just Drunk Sincerity, go sleep it off.”

2Beer Tears: When, after a few drinks, one will proceed to become an unhappy drunk, and begin to cry and shed tears about anything remotely bothering them, e.g., crying about ex-boyfriend, inability to microwave easymac, spilling a drink on one’s shirt.

3. Here’s a typical example of a Beer Emotions text:

ii love u i mean it. I love them too but i love you more and ur so hott lets hook upp come to thhe party xxx

The next morning:

“God, I’m so sorry I texted you, it was just drunk love, seriously. We’re okay, right?”

What are the facts about beer emotions?

  • ” In vino veritas”– “in wine there is truth” — is sometimes attributed to the natural philosopher Pliny the Elder. The observation made in the 1st century has been borne out over the millennia by many a remorseful inebriate. And, in truth, alcohol given as intravenous ethanol was an early form of truth serum.
  • Alcohol stimulates the reward circuits in the brain, such as the nucleus accumbens, that give rise to pleasurable feelings. It doesn’t suppress emotional centers, but instead impairs cognitive-processing capacity. So you experience all your feelings, but lose the ability to make decisions about what to express.
  • While a drunk person may be more likely to confess their secrets, they are not incapable of lying, nor will they necessarily share any information that is asked of them. All of truth serums work in the same manner: They depress the central nervous system and interfere with judgment and higher cognitive function.
  • When Mel Gibson sounded off in a drunken, anti-Semitic rant in 2006, he claimed it was the booze talking. Experts disagreed:

“When anyone drinks there is a neurological and psychological regression, and the higher the blood alcohol level, the more primitive and hostile the response that comes out,” says Gary L. Malone, MD, an addiction psychiatrist and the medical director and chief of psychiatry at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. “Alcohol can’t make you think or feel things.”

And:

“People should be held accountable for what they say drunk as well as sober, and forgiveness should not be based on ‘the alcohol made me do it’ adds Carleton Kendrick EdM, LCSW, a family therapist in Boston. “Alcoholics will tell you that they try to watch what they say when they are drunk, but that’s a conundrum because alcohol frees the tongue to say what is in the heart.”

  • Many people use alcohol to “loosen up.” Indeed, alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions, which allows people to feel less guilty about their activities. Studies have shown, however, that alcohol will not make people do things they would not normally consider doing while in a sober state of mind, except that alcohol increases the chances of stumbling, falling, crashing cars and making other blunders. Alcohol gives people a little more courage to do what they desire, and less aware of what they are doing. But, alcohol is NOT an excuse for one’s actions.
  • The definition of legally drunk is an alcohol level of .08-.10%. At .05%, emotions become intensified, by .08%, judgment is affected, and at .10%, emotions are exaggerated.

What does this mean for you? Well, do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news is that people basically speak the truth when they’re drunk. The bad news is that they can still refuse to own it once they’re sober. I mean, you can’t exactly ply the guy you like with beers 24/7 in hopes of a romantic moment, now, can you?

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Interpret beer emotions as a fairly reliable gauge as to where the dude is sitting emotionally.
  • Keep that knowledge to yourself. It can be useful when you are seeing a guy to know what he’s really thinking, but you squander that if you spill the beans.
  • Look for a natural progression in his communication, whereby he begins to express his emotions when sober. If he always represses or denies his feelings in the morning, he is not good boyfriend material. In fact, he is probably a complete waste of time. In the end, intentions don’t count. Only actions do.
  • Understand that it is not always appropriate to act on one’s feelings. If your ex is dating someone else, but still has feelings for you, you don’t want to be getting entangled with him. Sometimes suppressing emotions is the right and fair thing to do.

What do you think? How have you dealt with this issue? Are you surprised by these findings?