“Oh, he was just drunk.”
I wonder how many times in my life have I heard that excuse – the free pass for whatever someone does while inebriated. It implies that nearly anything someone does while inebriated is somehow allowed, because they are unable to control themselves while drunk, and more importantly, that no one is allowed to have any negative feelings about their behavior while they are out of control. Being drunk is, in certain circles, the ultimate free pass to be an asshole.
This isn’t the phrase used when someone does something universally heinous, like murder. “Oh, he was so wasted, he didn’t MEAN to kill Aunt Gertie!” That one really isn’t going to pass muster with anyone, I shouldn’t think. (Although I’m sure that juries have heard that “defense” for centuries.) It’s the smaller crimes, the antisocial behavior and the damage left behind when someone is “just drunk” that I’m talking about.
Someone says something terrible? It can’t hurt your feelings, as long as the person who said it is inebriated. See, they didn’t mean to say it, it was the liquor speaking, is the thought behind that. So… we are to accept that there is no part of that person’s brain that actually thinks those terrible things, things that were said because the person’s inhibitions were down. That they would not have said them if sober does not mean that the words weren’t spoken, the meaning felt, and feelings hurt. If those things were said sober, there would be ramifications. A fight might happen. A relationship may be damaged. The speaker’s reputation may be sullied. But the defense of “He was just drunk” is meant to absolve the speaker of all of those ramifications. So where does that leave the offended party?
In recent years, I often find myself out in bars, watching my husband’s bands perform. One of the unfortunate consequences of being in a bar with drunks, particularly the “regulars”, is that they are allowed to perpetrate their usual buffoonery without consequences, and I am expected to quietly, even cheerfully, accept their behavior towards me without being perceived as being a killjoy. As someone attached to the band, who hopes to continue to keep playing in that bar, it could possibly be seen as a mark against the band if I complain about the regulars, so I tend to suffer in silence. That does not mean that I agree with the age-old catch-all that whatever is done while drunk is acceptable, or that I enjoy their drunken attentions or aggressions.
The example of the obnoxious “regular” that I want to use as my example is a guy I’ll call Dean. Certain members of the band know Dean from the area, and he is a tradesman who they have had do work at their home. From their experience with him, he is a great guy who would give you the shirt off of his back. He also has an unhappy home life, which he takes regular vacations from by going to the bar and getting wacked out of his socks. I actually feel some sympathy for Dean, because you could pretty much be talking about my own father from this description. As long as he isn’t driving home drunk (which I don’t know as a fact, but I hope he doesn’t), none of this is my business.
When it becomes my business is when he decides that his drunken clowning around is more fun that whatever anyone one else in the bar might be interested in doing. As it happened to be Halloween, there were people in the bar in costume, and the tiny dance floor was being used more than usual. My friend desperately wanted to dance, but since the floor was pretty crowded, and because there was one very enthusiastic old man who tended to dance by taking up a lot of space with wildly swinging arms and knees, she wasn’t having much luck. When her favorite song started to play, she got up, the only person there at the moment, and was getting her groove on. Just then, Dean came running onto the floor, doing some version of the robot, and started “dancing” across the floor, deliberately bumping into my friend, a complete stranger to him, several times. She became so frustrated at literally being run off of the dance floor, she just came back and sat down, while drunken mess boy continued to do his stupid thing. Oh, he was just having fun. He can’t help it, he was just drunk! Well, my friend was not happy being chased off of the floor during her one time to dance, and why should she be okay with that behavior? Why is his having drunken fun more important than her having fun?
At another time during the same evening, I watched Dean take the wings off of the costume of a woman dressed as a butterfly, and do some admittedly comical things with them. However, when he tried to step into the tiny straps to have the wings wrap around his junk (again, pretty funny), it was obvious he was about to break them. The woman who they belonged to was clearly not happy that he was about to break her property, but you could almost see the internal argument going on in her head…do I want to take them away from him which will be difficult, and I will be seen as the killjoy? Or do I just watch him destroy my property? After all, he is not responsible for his actions…he is just drunk.
There is another regular at that bar who for some reason is desperate for my approval, and whenever he is near me, he literally gets up in my face for a high five, or wants to try to talk nonsense to me, while draping his arm around me or trying to sit on my lap and such. I have tried every conceivable “nice” way of steering this one away from me, but nothing deters him from bothering me. I have taken to never making eye contact with him, so that he can’t think I am trying to engage him, but that has only stepped up his need to get my attention, to the point where that particular night, he would put his body between me and the band, and wave his hands in my face until I acknowledge him. I don’t even really know this person, but have been assured that, again, he is a great guy when sober. Well, I don’t know that person. I only know this drunken man who aggressively demands my attention to the point that I am uncomfortable staying wherever I am seated, because he won’t leave me alone.
Why is that okay? Why do most people defend his actions to me, as oh, he’s just drunk. He’s really a nice guy. Well, no, his actions are not nice, they are increasingly aggressive and obnoxious towards me, and I am a killjoy for not accepting the universal drunken excuse. Me, sitting and quietly watching the band and listening to music, wrong. Drunken man hoisting himself on a married woman time and time again, demanding her attention, perfectly fine.
Perhaps I should be getting shitfaced, hanging all over the married men in the bar, intruding on peoples’ conversations and insisting they pay attention to me, and knocking people off of the dance floor? Then, I could step up in status from killjoy to, “It’s okay, she’s really a great person…she’s just drunk.”