What Will We Do When We're Sober?

August 10, 2020 / Ethan Ramos.

Every time I want to shake it, we have to take an hour detour to someone’s poorly decorated, dingy apartment to down a gross bottle of Tito’s just so everyone can “have a good time.”

Every time I want to shake it, we have to take an hour detour to someone’s poorly decorated, dingy apartment to down a gross bottle of Tito’s just so everyone can “have a good time.”

“The only way you’ll get me on that dance floor is after a few drinks, because I feel nervous when I jiggle my rolls in front of strangers.”

Melodrama, Lorde’s Grammy-nominated album of the year, baffled, wooed, and amazed the youth of 2017. Her themes of heartbreak and capturing fleeting moments encompassed what it means to grow up as an angsty teen. “Sober,” the second single released before the album debuted, gave everyone a new taste of Ella’s (Lorde’s) vision: how we as youth use drugs such as alcohol, weed, and other mind-altering influences to gain a rush of power. Dancing, socializing, or even having a good time never came so easy. Ella questions throughout the song: What will happen, though, when we’re sober? When we actually have to be human and interact in a human way without alterations. When we have to dance in front of everyone without remorse. Every time I want to shake it, we have to take an hour detour to someone’s poorly decorated, dingy apartment to down a gross bottle of Tito’s just so everyone can “have a good time.”

I mean, don’t you just want to dance? No drugs, just dancing. Sober dancing is about as obsolete as cursive writing. Sure, people want to see the extreme version of their friends’ character or exist without insecurities, but isn’t the normal version of ourselves enough to have fun?

“These are the games of the weekend.”

After college orientation, everyone I met flooded their social media with them drinking, screaming, and downright acting a fool ⁠— which we can all understand. It’s college. Our parents won’t ask us to send them a picture of where we are, forcing us to stage a fake photo in someone’s bathroom. No, we’re free. It’s a dangerous yet precious independence. One of the few boys I met at orientation saw me one night at a party. This petite, white boy was dancing his little heart out. After pushing my way through the bouncers (that’s another story), I stumbled over to ask him how many drinks he’d had to be dancing as fierce as he was. He claimed he’d had none. Then, I asked him how much pot he’d smoked. He said, “nada.” Molly? Speed? Diet Coke? Nothing. He was busting moves in his windbreaker because he wanted to. That puzzled my young heart: how someone possessed enough bravery to enter a party sober and dance as well as he did.

“Bet you wish you could touch our rush.”

In some circles, drugs are accessible around every corner. Some kids are about three text messages away from getting their hands on any substance of their choosing. The accessibility creates a struggle amongst adolescents to remain sober in youthful atmospheres. When going to a memorable event, such as a concert or a party, it’s sometimes seen as socially incompetent to go without artificially altering your mind to make the experience more “enjoyable.” I don’t know about you, but I want to remember the night instead of having jaded memories. Frequently, I find these same people saying, “I wish I were more high or drunk,” once they’re already trashed. Why not just enjoy the moment? What is the right amount of inebriation? What is enough? Drinking enough so you vomit on your friend’s Persian rug, and eat mac and cheese on their couch so you don’t get alcohol poisoning? Trust me, that’s not fun.

“It's time we danced with the truth.”

Toward the end of every Melodrama concert Lorde gave, Ella tells everyone to stop what they’re doing, forget who they are, every trouble they’ve ever had, and just dance with her. She sings one of her last songs, “Green Light,” a song that discusses getting over the troubles burdening all of us ⁠— waiting for the green light to be free, to dance without embarrassment, to release every feeling built inside of us. To just move. As she began to sing, I noticed a phenomenon usually not seen at concerts. Everyone put their phones away and danced. All the spirit she put into the songwriting and performance is what we gave back to her. You could feel the electricity pulsating from one person to another as we jumped up and down, dancing with Ella. I felt such happiness. Like we were on each other’s team; like I could never grow old.

Nothing has matched the exhilaration I felt at that moment, to feel infinite.

“Midnight, we're fading, 'til daylight, we're jaded.”

As I gazed above at the aura of lights crowding the ceiling, I felt emotional. I could feel the energy of twirling bodies move. Those surrounding me that I had never met seemed like long lost friends reunited, bonded by dance. Everyone’s skin sparkled under the glow of the disco ball, swaying their hips to the beat of the band. Nothing could touch me. Not my grades, the boys that used me, or the friends that were never really my friends. I escaped, dancing millions of miles away from all the troubles life had imposed. Any time I thought I would fall from jumping too high, there was always someone to receive me. There were no limits to how far I could reach. At that moment, I realized the party wasn’t just about the pageantry of dressing up or having fun. It was about freedom.

“But what will we do when we’re sober?” ■

Story by
Ethan Ramos.

Layout Juleanna Culilap.

Grace Alexander.

Stylists Kaden Green & Mia Wei.

Katherine Tang & Yeonsoo Jung.

Ifeoluwa Kehinde, Darnell Forbes & Chiadika Obinwa.

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