Today marks my girlfriend’s little sister’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday, Emily.
After years (four and counting) of being of-age, I felt compelled to offer advice for this momentous occasion and the many nights out to follow. Six years at the same college and two years behind the same bar in the same college town informed me a-plenty on 21st birthdays and how things can go awry.
However, I don’t want to dull the jubilation and revelry with words of warning. So, I figured I’d let my 20-year-old self do that.
Here’s a commentary I wrote on the eve of my 21st birthday for my college newspaper. Emily, I hope you’re able to extract some lesson from it:
I turn 21 this Saturday and I’m scared as hell because I know what this entails. Beyond that threshold lies years of adulthood and responsibility, including a full-time job, a wife or five and hopefully a kid or two. That realization is the driving force behind anyone’s power hour, I think. They call it power hour because that’s the last time you really have any.
Mass amounts of debauchery abound, though, as I will be spending this landmark transition with my good friend Fat Jake at the University of Minnesota’s homecoming. (I figure it should be a good primer for MSU’s next week.)
I’d be robbing you all if I didn’t describe Jacob. We’ve called him “Fat Jake” for years, even though he’s not. He’s very Kirby Puckett meets Teen Wolf, but in a good way. Jake spent the summer working an internship at SmithBarney in the Cities, which is funny, because that means the same guy whose bound to be a highly successful broker was once known for possessing the power to eat a 16-ounce steak and turn it into a plate full of chislic when given enough Jack Daniels; the same guy whose favorite drinking outfit is naked.
I won’t be experiencing any power hour of my own. I don’t believe turning 21 necessitates the execution of one’s liver via Goldschlager.
Plus, I was already advised by one aunt this past spring that if I didn’t die from my power hour, she’d be the one to kill me for even trying. So condescending.
See, the whole drinking ritual to me is baseless. The point of it becoming legal is now you get to drink, not you have to drink. This isn’t like the day you get your driver’s license or the day you learn how to walk, which most people of legal age probably realize, because on those days you were actually able to drive and walk. This is just a privilege that has been handed over that you can enjoy the rest of your life, not just the rest of the night.
And the bar scene. The bar scene. I grew up in our family-owned bar and saw what winners a tavern can churn out. Life isn’t the show Cheers; you don’t want to become a regular at a bar anymore than you want to become a regular at a tetherball support group.
Many say bars are a great way for people to meet people and hook up. As someone who does neither of those things, I have to say I still oppose. Basically, it’s conceding to the fact that you’re not good-enough-looking or funny-enough until that second Long Island iced tea kicks in. And most of the girls I’d want to take home couldn’t make it through the necessary amount of booze to make that possible, anyway.
But I’m glad to be handed this privilege, to not have to pick out a clever hiding spot when the cops come to break up a party or have to worry about keeping the shades drawn when I wanna booze in my own garsh darn apartment. In Mankato, you’d think underage drinking could land you on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. I respected the law enough – notice, I didn’t say obeyed – to understand the necessity of a legal drinking age.
Gotta say though: I’m pretty damn happy to be past it. The thrill of drinking as a minor is almost as thrilling as waking up with someone else’s underwear on. But now, when I need a drink to calm my stress, I won’t have to stress about drinking.
That’s a good enough birthday present for me.
For the record, I never went out on my 21st birthday. By the time I returned to Mankato from the Minnesota-Purdue homecoming football game, it was raining like the 40-year flood. My college town was adamant about drinking, yet on my 21st birthday — a Saturday night, just three weeks into the school year — no one would go downtown. No one was even willing to hang out. It was simply too rainy. And I was OK with that.
Lastly, my girlfriend and I went to a concert last night in Portland (more on that tomorrow) where Tyler Hilton was an opening act. We thought it would be funny to have a moderately famous celebrity offer Emily some birthday advice:
Check back tomorrow for a write-up on the greatest band to ever emerge from Sioux Falls, SD.