If the federal government really wants to start fooling around with the drinking age, it should start at the other end. What I mean by this is that the government should first do something about older drinkers before it starts meddling with the younger ones. There are several reasons why I think this:
1. Older people can drink a lot more than younger people because they’ve had more practice.
2. Also, they can afford more to drink. It’s tough to get all that drunk when you’re on a six-pack-a-week budget.
3. Older people have a lot more reason to drink than younger people. I drink more now than I did when I was twenty. That’s because when I was twenty I hadn’t been through three divorces and the Nixon presidency.
4. Older people are sloppier drunks than younger people. When older people get drunk, they do things like cry, call their ex-wives in Montana and sit around piano bars making fools of themselves trying to sing "Melancholy Baby." Young people, on the other hand, get sick when they drink too much. A few beers later they throw up and go to bed while their elders are still out crying, calling their ex-wives in Montana and sitting around piano bars making fools of themselves trying to sing "Melancholy Baby."
As we all know by now, the government has blackmailed the states into raising their legal drinking ages to twenty-one. Otherwise, the states would face a loss of highway funds. Fine, but how old should a person be before the government mandates that he or she must quit drinking and no longer be an embarrassment in public or be a threat to do something stupid like driving while plastered?
Thirty? No. Most thirty-year-olds still have no idea what they are going to do with their lives and need a drink every now and then to convince themselves that one day they, too, will own a Porsche.
Thirty-five? That’s still too young. By the time a person is thirty-five, he or she has the Porsche and needs to drink to escape the anxiety of wondering from whence the next payment will come. Forty? Heavens no, and there’s a good reason for that. I’ll be forty in a couple of weeks. I hate to think that I had to face that occurrence without the benefit of a few cocktails. So how about forty-five? Or fifty? Or fifty-five? Stop me anytime here. Sixty? Seventy? Why don’t we just pick a number at random and say: OK, you’re sixty-one (a number at random) and no more booze for you.
Unfair? We did that to young people, didn’t we? We picked what sounded like a good number, twenty-one, and we said: don’t care if you’re married, a parent, a soldier, whatever. Be twenty-one or be gone. You know what practically every kid says a million times? "It’s not fair," that’s what they say. And, sometimes, they’re right.
Lewis Grizzard was a syndicated columnist, who took pride in his Southern roots and often wrote about them. This column is part of a collection of his work.