People say that drinking alcohol dehydrates you. We all know the clichés: drink a glass of water between each cocktail, sip water along with your wine, chug Gatorade before you go to bed. Virtually everybody I know has a secret for surviving a long night of drinking, and those secrets always revolve around aggressive hydration. Science agrees, telling us that alcohol serves as a diuretic by inhibiting a hormone that regulates water absorption in the kidney.
I don’t care what science says. I know that my mouth waters in anticipation when I am making a cocktail; how could my mouth make this mistake? Moreover, common sense tells us that the dehydration risk is overstated. Consider the screwdriver, that most basic of cocktails. Two parts vodka to five parts orange juice. Orange juice — so wet, so delicious, so not just for breakfast any more – can’t be dehydrating, not with just two hits of vodka. Or contemplate a single beer, which has the same amount of alcohol as one shot, but diluted down with 11 ounces of sky blue water. That’s 11 times as much hydrating liquid as dehydrating alcohol.
But I don’t even care what common sense says. I reject the myth of the dehydrating cocktail because I know that drinking alcohol is more mental than physical. Drinking is a metaphysical act, transcending any impact on the body. I posit that drinking is an act of self-realization, one that affirms our own humanity. By drinking, we establish that we are more than just physical manifestations; we are controlling our minds, and thus our beings.
How can being drunk affirm the self? Because our minds make us human. Ever since that crisp French morning when Descartes said “cogito, ergo sum,” philosophers have situated the self within the mind. With lesser minds we would be nothing but tall bald monkeys; but with our big brains we achieve self-consciousness, the ontological root of humanity. By drinking, we focus on that human brain, not our bodies. With alcohol we seize control of our mind – its inhibitions and fears, the dark doubts that plague our sober thoughts – and bend it to our will.
Indeed, drinking is an act of free will, of choosing mind over matter. By controlling our mental state we control our very being, rejecting the nausea or dizziness with which our bodies seek to reclaim their concreticity. Just as we choose our minds over our bodies, we can similarly choose to reject dehydration. When drinking I affirm all that is human – and humane – about me; I prioritize my mind, and thus necessarily subjugate my body and its paltry claims of dehydration.