Straight-Edge in the 21’st Century

Why I live the life I do.

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I get a lot of weird looks from people when I tell them I live a straight-edge lifestyle. Some confused, others baffled. I’ve been told it comes out as insulting when I tell people I’m straight-edge. Guess there’s a stigma around the term, nowadays, where hearing that a person is “straight-edge” automatically labels them as “boring,” or “pompous.” I don’t believe I’m superior to anyone for my lifestyle. I may not agree with my friends who drink, smoke, or do any kind of drugs, but it’s their choice to make. There’s no point in me trying to convince someone to not engage in those kinds of behaviors, no matter how badly seeing them done hurts me or makes me upset.

In my experience, many of my peers who question why I’m straight-edge link it to family history of alcoholism or drug use. It’s a common reason, sure. And yeah, my dad drinks and smokes a lot; always has, and sadly he probably always will. But even when I was still a young adolescent, I wanted to drink alcohol. I wanted to smoke weed and cigarettes.  Thing was, I wanted to wait until I was of age, and this didn’t sit well with my social circle at the time. When I refused a cigarette from my friends in middle school, I was called a “pussy.” A “baby.” A “loser.” I lost friendships that I enjoyed all because I said no to a cigarette because I wanted to wait until I was 18. Then high school came, and I went to my best friend at the time’s birthday party, was offered a shot of liquor by his cousin, I refused, and he proceeded to call me a “pussy” while everyone there just watched, not saying a word; so I left. I ended up losing this relationship, and more over time, all because I said no to drinking and smoking.

Then I entered my first romantic relationship. I confessed to her about how I felt in regards to smoking and drinking, how I asked her to not engage in those behaviors, and she said she would respect it and not do it. But she lied, and she ended up smoking cigarettes behind my back, constantly, throughout our relationship and refused to tell me because she knew it would hurt me if she did. She knew what she did was unhealthy for our relationship and my expectations of her, but she consciously did it anyway, and it really hurt me. Now, she’s 21, started to drink, and I found myself crying every night just thinking about that the person I loved isn’t the same person anymore (but that’s a topic for another day).

Then I entered a short, three-week relationship with another girl who did the same thing, but this time, she smoked weed and drank behind my back. Her calling me, late in the evening, asking me to walk her home because she was too high to realize where she even was was one of the most hurtful experiences I’ve had to go through. The relationship ended a week later, after she chose to be with someone who would smoke and sleep with her because I wasn’t willing to do that.

This brings me to a side of this lifestyle that normally doesn’t get thought about when the word straight-edge is heard: promiscuity. This idea of casual sex, casual relationships, and the like. I’ve never had a fascination with any of these things. Some of my friends have told me, “You need to learn to live a little. You’re young. Flirt here, flirt there. Don’t go out looking for a ‘one-true love’.” I vehemently disagree with this. Am I judgmental towards those that indulge in this so called, “hook up culture?”  I disagree with their actions, but again, it’s their life to live. As long as it doesn’t affect me in any way, go ahead. But it’s not for me. Seems a bit hypocritical coming from a guy who uses Tinder, but I don’t use it, or any other site, to find someone to hook up with. I don’t present myself as something I’m not, just to meet up with the first girl that show’s interest. I know what I want, and I make it clear of that in my bio. Because I’m so “picky,” I’ve only ever matched with a grand total of eight women in the whole span of time that I had been on the site (around a month, on and off), only talked to half, and only met one in person for a friendly meet up since we go to the same school. I’m a traditionalist romantic. If I like someone, I’m devoted to them until the relationship ends. I place value in flirting, kissing, etc. It’s not something that I would throw around to every person that showed even the slightest interest. I disagree with those who flirt, go on dates with, and kiss multiple people, until they decide who they want to commit to. A common reason for infidelity that I’ve heard from friends (and that I’ve been told from past partners) is that they were “confused” about their feelings. There’s no “confusion” about how you feel about someone; there’s “confusion” about who you want. I know what I want in a partner, and I’d rather wait and be alone until I find this person than go thorough multiple partners that I can’t see being with for a long time (i.e longer than a year).

I understand why people smoke. People find it comforting. I understand why people drink. People find it exciting, fun, and helps them be social. I understand why people engage in short-term relationships or “hook-up culture.”  They want to live their lives to what they see is the fullest and I get that. I don’t like to talk about my viewpoints unless I’m asked about them because it contrasts that of the popular belief among my peers and they get offended easily. Hearing that someone values drinking as “negative” while they view it as “positive” I feel places me in this unwanted social category. It happened with my last social circle. I spoke up when I felt insulted and I got cut like I had been throughout the years. I wasn’t invited to the after-party for my own show because of my lifestyle. And I’ve been told that they do this because they want to respect my lifestyle, but all this does is give me more reasons to continue living the way I am. My father’s drinking had very little affect on my life choice, It was ultimately the way I saw my friends change when they started to drink and smoke, and this displeasure in communicating with someone who chose not to partake in those same behaviors that have led me to continue to be straight-edge. Honestly, it’s probably for the better. If a person chooses drinking and smoking over another human being, in my opinion, that’s unhealthy, and it’s something I would never do. I still don’t judge my peers for their choices; their life, their choice. I just wished they wouldn’t judge mine. I’m grateful for the very few people in my life that are actually understanding about this, despite their lifestyles being the polar opposite of mine. That’s how you respect someone who’s straight-edge. It’s difficult and lonely being a straight-edge millennial but the feeling of loneliness will never make me break the promise I made to myself to indulge in those behaviors.