I am officially a twenty-something. While most people have their first alcoholic beverage in their teens, I didn’t have one until just three weeks ago at the stroke of midnight on my 21st birthday, and even then I weaned into it with a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. When you tell people that you don’t drink, they often go through a series of reactions that I like to parallel with the 5 stages of grieving.
Shock: If you have friends other than the librarian and the TA and have a semblance of a social life, you will be expected to do as normal people do. And normal people like to get white girl wasted on Thirsty Thursdays. So don’t be too shocked when they are shocked to hear that you can tolerate being in a room full of people you hate while sober.
Demanding Answers: Unless you can give them an acceptable reason that they can wrap their minds around —religion, familial alcoholism, pre-disposed liver failure, a traumatizing drunk driving incident in your childhood that killed someone— they will be completely bewildered as to why you are not indulging in God’s gift to mankind.
Counseling: Expect to receive a lot of advice. They may look deeply into your eyes in search of some repressed pain and advise, “You know, sometimes it’s good to let loose with a drink. It would be good for you.” They may place their hand on your arm and worry that you’re “missing out on the real college experience.” With their compassion and conviction, you will wonder why they are not pursuing their true calling as life coaches.
Brute Force: In case the gentler counseling approach did not work, they may proceed to peer pressure and even force their drink upon your lips. Perhaps threaten to make you find your own way home if you don’t take a shot shotshotshotshotshot. I especially love when this happens because I can finally live out my dream as the weird girl being peer pressured by the cool kids in the D.A.R.E. videos.
Ostracism: Birds of a feather drink together so if you want to continue being friends with your friends, just give in or they will label you as a social outcast and only invite you to parties so they can throw blood all over you. Then you will use your telekinetic powers to kill everyone so who’s the weirdo in the D.A.R.E. videos now? Still you. Okay, okay. Stage 5 is this: Nobody really cares. After all those attempts in trying to get you to drink, they eventually give up, especially when they realize that the less you drink, the more they can. You know all that corny stuff about true friends actually liking you for you, and not for the amount of shots you can take? Actually true. And all that stuff about how drinking doesn’t make you cool? Yeah, if people don’t like you when you’re sober, chances are people will hate you when you’re drunk.
Now as I mentioned, I did have my first drink. And to answer your question to why I waited until then to drink, there’s really isn’t a single answer. Partly because a lot of alcohol smells like pee or bleach and I do not wish to drink either. Partly because it’s unhealthy and I already have a couple health conditions against me so why add another factor to the list. Partly because I feel like I should set a good example, if not about underage drinking then about self-control and class. Sometimes I feel like I’m a Disney Channel star who needs to be perfect until I realize the only person watching me is my younger sister, but even that is enough of a reason to try.
As for my birthday week festivities, I had a lot of fun without doing anything reckless. There wasn’t any nausea, vomiting, hookups, Asian glow, crying, drunk sexts and hangovers which is probably a feat on its own as far as 21st birthdays go.