The Four Loko Principle: Why We Love Hangovers, Indian Food, and Glee


“So I read this really interesting article today…”

That’s how I have started almost every sentence since I started working at AOL.  Sitting at a desk with unrestricted and unsupervised internet access all day long means that I have read almost every interesting article on the web.

The more embarrassing stories we wake up with, or wake up having to be told.. the worse the hangover… the less we remember… the BETTER the night. The black out, the hangover, the puking, the humiliation… these aren’t side effects. This is why we drink. This is how we measure the fun of drinking.

Out of all these fascinating and thought provoking pieces, the best so far was an NY Times piece on chili peppers.  The basic points were that these plants taste like poison, they activate the exact same neuronal pathways that would be activated if we put our tongues on a burning stove top, no creature in the animal kingdom would ever go near one… and yet we humans just can’t get enough “spicy.”

The article went on to offer the hypothesis that there is an inherent thrill in participating in something that feels like it will kill us when we are intelligent enough to understand rationally that it won’t.  This might explain our love of chilies as well as explain S&M as the most popular and well known fetish out there.

When you really think about it, Freud’s pleasure principle (stating that all human action is in pursuit of pleasure and in avoidance of pain) rarely applies.  For example, I just had what I would consider a great weekend.  On Friday night I went to synagogue and on Saturday I did activities that one can do while observing Shabbat, which basically means just walking.  Some friends and I walked the Brooklyn Bridge and then went to the park.  At night I drank 2 Four Lokos (also known as Eight Loko) and woke up the next morning with no memories, a healthy dose of shame, as well as a missing phone, water bottle, and metro card.  Sunday I stayed in, ate spicy indian food, and watched Glee.

These are the things I like to do, but none of them make sense in relation to the pleasure principle.  Synagogue is kind of boring, walking around all day in the hot sun is exhausting, alcohol is poison and feels like it and made me sick all day, Indian food makes my tongue burn and gives me the shits for five hours after I eat it, and I am emotionally incapable of watching a single episode of Glee without crying.