Mitigating Alcohol-Induced Stupidness
April 16, 2005 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Pretend you got drunk and said/did something stupid & embarrassing involving a friend of friends who you know but not well. When, in the cold light of day, you realize how lame you were, do you (a) apologize or (b) hope they understand you were drunk and just drop it?
posted by dame to Human Relations (33 answers total)
i do stupid things without needing to be drunk. i just apologize. but i think if you were drunk AND they were drunk too, it's normal to just skip it. but if they weren't drunk, well, maybe that needs more juicy detail...
posted by andrew cooke at 8:55 AM on April 16, 2005

posted by Space Coyote at 8:56 AM on April 16, 2005

I think it depends whether you might need to apologize for _them_ or for _you_. If you're worried you might have hurt or offended someone, then you should probably apologize. If you're just worried that you came across as lame, then I wouldn't compound things any more by bringing it up again.

(Does this have anything to do with last night's meetup? Now I'm especially bummed I missed it.)
posted by LairBob at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2005

If it's really weighing on your mind then apologize. You can always keep the apology light, open up with a funny about how plastered you all were then give the "but seriously, I hope you understand it was the drink talking when X happened"
posted by dublinemma at 9:07 AM on April 16, 2005

I think it would be best to just apologize looking at it like this. If they don't remember and you don't apologize, everything is fine. If you don't apologize and they do remember, they may hate you forever. If you do apologize and they don't remember it probably won't hurt anything, but at least you apologized. If you apologize and they remember then they'll probably be glad you apologized. All around, apologizing is probably the best way to handle it.
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2005

I generally apologise, but that burnt me badly once. The apology was taken gracefully, but then a few days later ...

"Hey! You know that [thing you apologised for]? Well, I was cool at the time, I had just written it off as daftness. But then I realised that since you were apologising it was a big deal to you. Man, I just thought you were fucking about. You dick! Don't ever do that again".

"Er. Sorry."
posted by bonaldi at 9:10 AM on April 16, 2005

I don't want to make you feel bad (and I may very well be in a minority here), but people get ZERO points with me when they excuse their misbehavior by claiming intoxication. Drinking is a choice.

So I'd definitely urge you to apologise, but please don't say, "sorry, I was drunk." I hate it when people say that. It sounds like they're trying to blame their behavior on the alcohol. I would much prefer it if they simply said, "Sorry I said all those terrible things last night."

If someone was actually brave enough to say that, I might find it in my heart to say, "that's okay, I know you were drunk."
posted by grumblebee at 9:25 AM on April 16, 2005

I should add that my attitude is "cultural." I don't drink very much and most of my friends are the same. I can understand how, if intoxication is frequent for you and your buddies, it might be somewhat normal for people to say terrible things during binges.
posted by grumblebee at 9:28 AM on April 16, 2005

So the question is: "does alcohol absolve me of my bad behavior?" The answer is: no.

Even apologizing probably won't put things back to 100% the way they were, because what's done is done. The best thing to do is not offend your friends in the first place.
posted by Hildago at 9:40 AM on April 16, 2005

Yeah, I'd agree with grumblebee - if the person in question is a regular drinker, they'll know all too well the social blunders made when drunk and should just write it off as the booze talking. If not and they're unfamiliar with the curious window into someone's mind a few drinks can effect, then I'm afraid you have your work cut out....
posted by forallmankind at 9:46 AM on April 16, 2005

It never hurts to say that one is sorry.

And if the offended party is a male, well, keep it short:
"I'm sorry. I was drunk, and I was being an ass."
posted by Kwantsar at 10:05 AM on April 16, 2005

I think apologizing is just fine, but don't try to weasel it by saying you were drunk. "I'm sorry. I was being an ass." is a helluva lot better an apology than "I'm sorry. I was drunk, and I was being an ass."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 AM on April 16, 2005

One thing I've learned - and if it's not true, *please* don't correct me - is that often you wake up writhing in agony over the stupid things you did and said, but it's some sort of chemical thing and actually you weren't anywhere near as stupid/loud/insensitive/ignorant/embarassing as you think you were.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:46 AM on April 16, 2005

actually you weren't anywhere near as stupid/loud/insensitive/ignorant/embarassing as you think you were.

No, you were really much, much worse.
posted by fixedgear at 10:54 AM on April 16, 2005

I say apologize, but do so when you're pressed for time so that you don't have to linger in an awkward conversation.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:54 AM on April 16, 2005

i'd apologize ... there's no need to tell them you were drunk, they probably already knew that
posted by pyramid termite at 10:55 AM on April 16, 2005

No, you were really much, much worse.

Oh god, were you there last night too?
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2005

dame: That is just the type of situation for which apologies were invented. Would you prefer that your friend thinks you are too stupid to realize you did something stupid?
posted by mischief at 12:51 PM on April 16, 2005

If you're just afraid you've made a fool of yourself, keep your mouth shut. The guy who goes on and on apologizing in that situation — "Oh, jeez, I don't normally get this drunk, I feel like such an idiot, you must think I'm some kind of loser, I'm really sorry..." — is just making a bigger fool of himself. Don't be that guy.

The next time you're all out together, just make a casual joke about what happened. That shows them that you know you looked like an idiot and you're willing to be cool about it.

On the other hand, if you think you offended the friend-of-a-friend, or made them lose respect for your mutual friend, then yes, absolutely, apologize. Apologize once, don't bring in alcohol as an excuse, and then drop it if they don't want to talk more.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2005

Chiming in to agree with a brief "sorry, I behaved badly" is right, while "sorry, I was drunk" is not -- drinking doesn't absolve bad behavior. (It took several of the awful "sorry, I was drunk" morning-after incidents in my 20s to realize that I was responisble for how I behaved, whether I was completely snookered or stone-cold sober.)
posted by scody at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. To be clear, I think that alcohol influenced my stupidity, not that it excuses it. And I don't really know if offense was taken; that's what makes the dilemma.
posted by dame at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2005

Maybe ask your mutual friend? It's probable that the f-of-f mentioned something to your friend if they truly were offended, or just thought you were being a dork. Also, your friend might have a better perspective on how apology-worthy this incident was!
posted by orangskye at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2005

Seriously, there's no need to apologize or worry. Especially when the person you think you might have offended is terribly sorry for somehow managing to exploit the one chink in your psychological armor explicitly and mutually uncovered during a drunken night's conversation. (And especially when that person doesn't think there's anything to be embarrassed about and wouldn't really think to bring it up with mutual friends anyway).
posted by nobody at 3:42 PM on April 16, 2005

Never miss an opportunity to deliver a classy apology, it improves your reputation as nothing else can.
posted by LarryC at 4:15 PM on April 16, 2005

I don't really know if offense was taken; that's what makes the dilemma.

You might consider using an "I don't remember much, just checking" approach, as in -

Jeez, I had way too much to drink [whenever]. I can hardly remember anything - did I say something that was more stupid than normal for when I'm drunk?

Essentially, the goal is to give your friend (or friend of a friend, if you go directly) the opportunity to say "yes, you did this hurtful thing". If they bring something up, then you can apologize for that, specifically.

If they say that they can't remember anything extremely lame (or that bothered them), then consider concluding with something like:

That's good; I really was hoping I didn't get extremely lame or offensive. I has hoping I hadn't hurt anyone's feelings, and I wanted to apologize if I did. (This gives them another chance to bring up the issue, and also is a general apology if you're talking to someone that does remember some insult but doesn't want to raise it.)

If you take this approach, under no circumstances should you rise to the bait if the other person says "I don't think so - was there something in particular that you thought you might have done wrong?" Your gambit, here, is that you just don't remember - and you risk a major disaster if you say "Well, I might have said X" or "Well, I seem to remember something about an insult involving Y". (Because if you do admit to knowing what you might have said, then you can get called out for not beginning the conversation that way.)
posted by WestCoaster at 4:28 PM on April 16, 2005

If your friends endorse your drinking (which we do!) then they should accept its liberating effects on your behavior. So if what you did was something anyone might do with their social constraints relaxed then no apology is necessary, just a chagrin-grin next time you meet them.

On the other hand, if being drunk led you to follow some ugly impulse that you know is a peculiar and unusual part of your worst nature then sincere apologies are appropriate.
posted by nicwolff at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2005

I think WestCoaster's suggestion is good. (And now I'm sorrier than ever that I missed the meetup.)

The best thing to do is not offend your friends in the first place.
What a useless, dickhead response. But we're all glad you're perfect.

posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on April 16, 2005

Westcoaster has the best answer.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:20 PM on April 16, 2005

What cunninglinguist said at the top - you were probably nowhere near as awful as you thought you were. I often wake up feeling like I was a complete and total idiot the night before (sometimes even without drinking!) and usually when I make a tentative inquiry my friends don't even know what I am talking about. So I have become the mistress of the oblique apology, to wit "Oh god I feel like such an idiot, I think I said/did something really obnoxious when your friend was there the other night, please forgive me." And 97% of the time I have found that they will look at me blankly and say, "Oh you were fine, I don't know why you worry about this stuff."

The other 3% of the time I know very well indeed what I said and/or did and oh holy crap, there's no excuse and it will take months to fix.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:49 PM on April 16, 2005

If you're uncomfortable with something you did, there's nothing objectionable about making that known (questions of style aside). The forgiveness bit isn't your worry. Once you've said your peace, that's it. At the very least, you repair your ego and move on. Making an apology conditional upon forgiveness undermines the intention.

And if you don't feel bad, then don't bother. I've known people to do some heinous things half-sober, and the next day say, "Hey, I was drunk. Who cares?" You live with yourself either way.
posted by airguitar at 1:51 AM on April 17, 2005

It's hard to say, since you're not sure if you offended or not. I've trebled damage by apologizing for something that I felt was out of line, only to find out that noone thought twice about it, until I made my apology. Then it had the effect I'd imagined, only it was fresh for the next day in its offensiveness.

I suppose assessing the impact is important. (In your words, figure out how true the 'cold light of day' is representing your actions...)

Maybe I'm unique, but I find booze just erodes (erases, maybe?) inhibitions, but that doesn't mean you didn't have the urge to say/do whatever in the first place. You just didn't censor yourself. I agree you should leave it out of any remarks on your behavior.
posted by Busithoth at 6:36 AM on April 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Uusually, in this type of situation, the apology is pretty much irrelevant. You did what you did, you said what you said. Aknowledging to yourself that you would act differently if you had it to do over again (if, in fact, that's the case) is the most (and probably, only) productive way to deal with your regret.
posted by bingo at 8:56 PM on April 17, 2005

Alcohol is irrelevant here and shouldn't be a factor in your decision. It definitely shouldn't be mentioned or used as an excuse.

You did something that you wish you hadn't, and that something probably caused another person to feel awkward or bad. An apology is in order - it's just plain good manners. Whether it's accepted, and how graciously, is out of your hands.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:14 AM on April 18, 2005

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