It happens almost every week. My of-age friends and I head to the bars Thursday night for some drinks, dancing and downtime. The bar offers a different atmosphere than a house party. It’s classier, more mature and there aren’t any red Solo cups. At least, you’d hope.
But lately, the bar scene isn’t classier. And it’s definitely not more mature. Instead, the bar has become the new house party, packed with underagers who own fake IDs or flirt with the bouncer for admittance.
This isn’t about whether I condone or condemn underage drinking. But there’s a problem when an underage drinker brings the house party mentality to the bar. Because in reality, the puking, drunk girl belongs in the bar about as much as Brett Favre belongs on Target Field … or in the Metrodome, for that matter.
Instead, she should party out her immaturity at a house: the place where immaturity appropriately runs rampant. And where the toilet is nearby.
A 2007 study by University of Missouri researchers found that under-21-year-old college students were twice as likely to binge drink than their older peers. And having a fake ID only upped the odds. The study found that students with fakes were five to six times more likely to binge drink at least once a week compared to those underagers who didn’t have an easy way to obtain alcohol or go to the bar. Oh, and binge drinking in this study was considered five drinks or more in a sitting for men and four drinks or more for women … a pretty light night for many college alcohol enthusiasts.
In the past, there’s been a drinking-scene hierarchy in college. Freshmen kick it off by roaming the neighborhood in herds, wearing bottle-shaped backpacks. Sophomores typically have off-campus friends who throw parties complete with beer pong, flippy cup and card games. Juniors trickle to the bars as they celebrate 21st birthdays throughout the year. And seniors enjoy the bar scene with friends as a chance to embrace their last year at college.
Instead of following this hierarchy, freshmen are finding fake IDs and paying a pretty penny in many cases. The University of Missouri study found that when entering college, 12.5 percent of freshmen have fakes. But by the end of sophomore year, nearly one-third of students are boozing it up with fake IDs. The price varies, but some IDs cost more than $100.
And by using a fake, those students are leap-frogging right over the growing-up process. With two years of house parties under their belts, guys and gals can work past the habit of drinking to the point of embarrassment. They can figure out their limits and learn how to keep it classy. Then, when they make it to the bar as a junior, it’s a place of fun, responsible drinking with other adults. It’s not a place of stumbling and blacking out. It’s a place for drinking socially with friends, busting a move and having a grand ole, grown-up time to wind down.
After all, that’s why we of-age people go out on the weekends: to avoid the house-party atmosphere. So let’s keep the beer pong, vomit and stumbling at the house party and away from the bar.
Mary Kenkel can be reached at email@example.com.