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Oct 20 2015
by Sia Kennedy

What It's Like Being Straight Edge in College

By Sia Kennedy - Oct 20 2015

“Wait, you’re straight edge? What’s that?”

Straight edge isn’t as popular as it once was, if you could even call in “popular” in the first place.

In the 1980s, a band named Minor Threat named a lifestyle movement that grew in the hardcore punk scene throughout the late ‘70s and into the early ‘80s. Straight edge, as it came to be called, describes a lifestyle where followers swear to remain abstinent from drugs, cigarettes and alcohol—for life. At the turn of the 21st century, fewer people were “claiming edge” and making that commitment, leaving straight edge in punk subculture obscurity. A lot of us edgers are around though, and we’re navigating the murky waters of college social life.

So now when I tell someone I’m straight edge, an explanation typically follows. I don’t usually go around broadcasting that I’m edge, save for the X tattoos on the backs of my shoulders, making the whole conversation the product of a lot of pestering, typically to have a drink.

“No, thanks,” I’ll respond with a friendly smile.

The person will insist, “Seriously, have a drink! Just one!”

It’s harder to keep the smile. “Really, I’m okay.”

“Come on! What, you don’t drink or something? Is it for religious reasons? One won’t kill you!”

“Actually, I’m straight edge. I’m really not going to drink.”

And that’s when they ask, and I’ll give the CliffsNotes version of what straight edge is.

The responses I get are anything from indifferent to… interesting. I’ve been lucky that most people I talk to are cool with it. They respect my decision, back off with their offers to drink and don’t mention it again. That’s the great part about college: people are mature enough to not really care about what others do with their lives. There’s an unspoken, mutual appreciation for them not hounding me to drink, and for me not hounding them to NOT drink.

I’ve been asked some weird questions though. The most common one is, “So how do you have fun?” usually accompanied by a smirk.

I hate that question. Is it really so shocking that I can enjoy myself while being sober? Is it really that weird? I don’t ask you how you have fun while drinking or smoking, so why do you ask me how I have fun while I don’t? To answer the question, I’ve gotten involved with activities on campus that I love being a part of. Plus, I’ve met some amazing people who support my choice to be straight edge.

My college experience isn’t going to include getting drunk at frat parties. I’m not going to tape over the smoke detector of someone’s dorm and smoke a blunt with my friends over an acoustic jam sesh. I’m not going to have a wild 21st birthday party, because what milestone is there for me to celebrate? I’m not going to toast champagne at my wedding. And I’m okay with that.

It’s okay if you want to do those things. It’s okay if you want to stay sober until you turn 21. It’s okay if you want to drink but not smoke, or vice-versa. It’s okay if you want to make a lifelong commitment and claim edge like I did. Remember that this is a decision about your body. No decision you make about your body and your personal health is weird or strange. College can be a confusing time, but whether you’re straight edge or not, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your decision.

So what’s it like being straight edge in college? It can feel a little lonely at first when everyone's partying, but for the most part, it’s just not as big a deal as some people make it out to be. Staying sober in college isn’t hard. You’ve just got to find your support system. For me, that’s the straight edge community.

Find your support, and go conquer college—sober style.

Lead Image Credit: Straight Edge Worldwide

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Sia Kennedy - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sia Kennedy is the Managing Editor for Fresh U UNC and is double majoring in Peace, War and Defense and Russian. In her spare time, she can be found working with UNC Student Television or crying over her Russian homework. She tries her best not to get hair dye everywhere, and her main goal in life is to be the real-life Peggy Carter. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram siakennedy!

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