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It’s Friday night around 10:00 p.m. and I’m just getting off work. Before I lived on my own, 10:00 p.m. was too late to even think of going out. Now I know nothing good ever happens before midnight. I’m 20 years old and 10:00 o’clock leaves only a few options: Kearny Mesa Bowl, a late movie at Fashion Valley, or crossing my fingers and hoping all my friends who are older than me will choose not to go to a bar tonight and feel like hanging out at home. That rarely happens.

Rewind to earlier in the day. The week is gone and Friday afternoon comes quick. No one has to be up for class in the morning. I’m scrambling to make plans so I won’t have to spend another night with my DVR, at home, the scene of so many weekends, where I drink from the tap and enjoy premade meals from Trader Joe’s.

You’d think I was a 90-year-old woman.

This is not a pity party. But as much as I love hanging out with Carrie Bradshaw and reruns of Sex and the City, it would be nice to get all dressed up and have somewhere to go.

The struggle to figure out how to spice up my social life goes back to high school, when countless nights were spent alone in my room with nothing to do because most of my friends were over 18. They went to clubs and hookah bars, where the bouncers and the servers most definitely did check your ID. Every time.

My alternative was tagging along to some stupid house party. I never understood the idea of house parties in high school. Someone always knew someone else who could score a couple of cases of Smirnoff Ice, and that constituted a good Friday night. You weren’t anybody if you weren’t at Jake’s house getting crunk off white cloudy liquid with five percent alcohol.

For a while, I lusted after those nights. I’d look at pictures on Myspace and see girls with drunk eyes and big smiles hanging all over cute college boys and wish I could do it, too. Looking back, I laugh at myself. I’m doing my best to not remember a lot of that time, when I was stupid and naive, a silly high-school girl. Underage drinking was not something that really appealed to me, but, boy, did those girls make it look glamorous.

∗ ∗ ∗

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, last year. I’m at my friend Arty’s apartment in Hillcrest, hanging out with my closest friends, eating delicious finger food and laughing hysterically at bad jokes and other silliness. I take in my surroundings and, of course, I’m the youngest one here by at least three years. I’m 19, but because we’re at Arty’s apartment, there is no real concern.

Until Chuck pipes up, “Let’s go to a bar! This game is boring and the commercials suck.”

Everyone agrees, murmurs. They start tossing ideas back and forth.

“Let’s just go to Pecs. It’s right here. We can walk.”

I quietly sit, reclined in my chair, hoping everyone will let the idea fizzle away, because it’s only 5:00 o’clock and if they’re bar-hopping, I’m homebound.

I’ve never wanted a fake ID to go out and get drunk. The only time I wished for one was to get into 21+ music venues. My favorite San Diego band, Dynamite Walls, plays so many 21+ venues — like the Belly Up in Solana Beach and the Ruby Room in Hillcrest — that I have to miss, just because I’m underage. I’ve never understood why some music venues are 21+. If it’s about money in drink revenue, I will buy 46 Diet Cokes if it means I can come to the show. I will help increase your profit margin; just let me enjoy my music.

Back at Arty’s apartment, most of the group is gearing up to walk to the bar. And then my favorite thing ever happens.

“Oh, wait…” Arty says, in a completely forlorn tone of voice. “Hayley’s under 21…”

A collective aww fills the room, and I want to sink into my hoodie and die. I hate the constant reminder, like I don’t know I’m underage and can’t join the fun. Like I don’t think of it every single time I hear about anything fun happening in the greater San Diego area, and I have to go online and make sure the venue will accept my underageness.

I feel bad. I can’t do anything to change how old I am, but I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s fun or bring them down, so, like I’ve said approximately one million times before, I tell them, “Oh, guys! Go ahead. I don’t have to come. You’ll have fun without me!”

I am a renowned Shakespearean actor: I have recited these lines so often, there’s no way anyone in that room would know that, secretly, I will go home and slip into a mild and very temporary bout of depression, because, once again, my social life is dwindling away.

Just as I’m about to gather my belongings and exit stage left, my friend Aliah (not her real name) jumps up. “Wait! Here. You can use my old ID!”

I laugh. I’ve seen this too many times. Back in high school, there were always those “you can totally pass for that girl that looks nothing like you” situations with using old IDs. People would run up, all excited, claiming they could totally get alcohol over the weekend with an old ID. I would just laugh. Unless liquor store owners are really drunk while they’re checking that ID, there’s no way your 15-year-old face can pass for your 34-year-old-cousin from Michigan. No. Way.

But when Aliah shows me her ID, my whole life turns upside down. There are a few absolutely ridiculous things going on with that 4 x 2 1/2-inch piece of plastic. First off, Aliah and I don’t look anything alike. She’s half-Mexican and eight years older than me. I think it’s ridiculous that she’s even proposing this. But Aliah is an Arizona native, and the great thing about an Arizona license isn’t the beautiful desert scene surrounding the all-capital-letters ARIZONA at the top left corner, it’s not the Helvetica font, and it’s not the size of the picture at the bottom left corner, which is pretty generous; it’s also not that Arizona licenses don’t expire until you’re 60 years old.

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Comments

Evelyn June 22, 2011 @ 3:57 p.m.

take a hike (literally). or go to belo. or deco's or satin lounge (which was kind of lame the one time i went).

or rent a car now (and pay crazy extra fees) and take a road trip and realize that the journey getting there is also part of the trip and sometimes better than the destination. (seriously--last yr my friend and i drove 5 hrs from the bay area to eureka to take pictures of a house and buy beer--crazy times man) and even though it sounds horribly cliche (because it is), it's also very true.

there are plenty of things to do in san diego, regardless of age or money or transportation issues.

also, freshman yr in school (and really, for any freshman in school-at loma) going to target was the highlight of many a friday night, and that was with taking a shuttle.

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Evelyn June 22, 2011 @ 4:17 p.m.

oh also, i'd say don't go online to look for dates. in my experience, there's a reason guys your age are online trolling and not outside seeking dates, as exemplified by mr. personality in your article.

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JG June 24, 2011 @ 4:47 p.m.

Growing up in San Diego I can't ever recall being at a loss for something to do. 18-20 was all about coffee shops and all age venues, which gratefully San Diego has in abundance. I saw Radiohead, Oasis and Smashing Pumpkins amongst other shows at all age venues. I fondly recall cafes and coffee shops being my introduction into our local music scene. Yes I also remember nights of frustration when missing bands that would play The Casbah, but it's not as if there wasn't always alternatives for live music I could get out to. I even found myself on occasion hanging out with teenagers at The Epicenter well into my late 20s because they had some good bands come through there.

Is TNT still happening? I don't get out much anymore, but that was the official weekend kick start back when. San Diego has an abundance of art, theater and music and there's always an opening or special event happening somewhere, most with no ID and cheap if not free booze.

Don't dismiss our neighbors south of the border either. It's not all about Avenida Revolución, the T.J. kids like to dance and get down too and they don't go to those gringo clubs. Get over your irrational fear, grab someone who knows the area and find the spots the locals hit up, which are by far the best.

But if you're really itching to get out and about and paint the town red, but still shy of 21, then start dating an older guy who frequents these places. I know, sounds creepy and sketchy, but I used to get my 20 year girlfriend into just about every venue, bar, club in town no questions asked. "oh, she's with you, ok".

Mostly though, just like children to teenagers to adults, don't be in too much of a rush to 'get somewhere'. The journey is the reward and one day you will be nostalgic for those Classy Thursdays.

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Rayrandall11 June 24, 2011 @ 7:44 p.m.

Dear Hayley Rafner, My name is Ray Randall I am from a part of a bad part of Southern California. I'm 19 years of age and i don't drink. You guys have more shows with open age events in that part of Cali than over here. I catch the Metro link every summer to go see shows and to visit with my aunt and uncle and help them around the house. My family has a problem with alcohol so my lifestyle had to change so I could be more responsible for my actions. I've been living on my own now for 5 months and paying bills at 16 is not a uncommon thing in my house hold. What im trying to say is enjoy being this young. Hollywood actors and musicians wish they could look as young as we are, and all of the businesses in our country are marketing to our age group 18-20. I dont have to get laid or wasted or high to have a good time out by the coast or in general. 18-20 may be awkward but the media, people of old age, and of younger ages worship us. We are the "Innovators of Society" we just have to make that first step to change the game and enjoy the simple pleasures of a young life. Sincerely Ray Randall

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Missionaccomplished June 24, 2011 @ 9:54 p.m.

Oooops! When I first saw it, I thought the cover story was about the "Slut Walk" protest coming to San Diego!

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Missionaccomplished June 24, 2011 @ 9:55 p.m.

I'll take that one, and that one and . . . that one there . . .

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natej June 26, 2011 @ 5:24 p.m.

This story was a testament to the horrible effects of pop culture on our youth, and the vapid aspirations it inspires. Our youth long to be stuffed into a tiny dresses and uncomfortable shoes, to spend hard earned money getting into snooty bars to be "seen" and hit on by people about as deep as the content of this article.

There are a plethora of things to do in San Diego for people of all ages. We live in one of the most all-age venue rich cities in America, not to mention the innumerable natural wonders within 2 hours by car(beaches, deserts, mountains, lakes), and weather that allows people to do anything they wish year round.

I fear this generation is going to spend the majority of their lives first longing for adulthood (21), then trying to remain that age forever. If your goal in life is to get into a club legally, you may want to reevaluate your life and set the bar (no pun intended) a little higher.

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Robert Johnston June 28, 2011 @ 4:54 p.m.

Enjoy life while you can, mija! Take it from me--hitting 21 isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Nor is getting into a bar "legit" for the first time.

Trying to grow up before your time? You will--but it's never that pleasant! --LPR

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Twister June 28, 2011 @ 6:57 p.m.

I well-remember what it was like being treated like a second-class citizen; getting booted out by my stepfather at age 18 and having to work, pay rent, work, go to college, work, and pay rent. Most of the bad stuff that has happened to me has been good for me, but I sure didn't think so at the time!

You're getting a good start with writing, but the club scene is a fraud, a way for the leeches of this world to pick your pocket. You're finding your way--your own way. You don't need to conform--least of all to your "peer" group.

Hang out with some older people, people you really would like to be with. Believe me, they will welcome you and accept you (but if they don't, just keep moving, because there are good-fits and bad fits in this world, like the shoes). When it comes to boys and men, don't let cool fool. Ask older women. (They're not all right about their advice, but their experiences, their stories, can inform, translated by you, for you.

And yes, take that hike. Push yourself right in there, and be in charge--in charge of YOURSELF. Don't try to be anybody else--that's being nothing. Don't manipulate and don't be manipulated.

To be (you), or not to be, that is still the question.

And don't take up arms against a sea of troubles, evade them, avoid them, and get past them as fast as you can. Yes, this life sometimes seems to be a vale of tears--but OH! when it hits those highs, particularly those Rocky Mountain kind of highs, it's WORTH all the tears.

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Visduh June 29, 2011 @ 7:46 p.m.

Hayley, you may wish you were older, but soon--very soon--you will wish that you were young(er) again, and there's no turning back the clock. Actually it sounds as if you have a fairly decent social life, especially for a young woman who gets off work at the obscene hour of 10 pm. Those bars you really, really want to enjoy should be a disappointment to you. Good things seldom come your way in a bar; plenty of bad things can happen in them, and even worse things start in them. You spend too much hard-earned money on overpriced drinks, you get hit on by obnoxious drunks, and if you do hook up with some guy, will likely wish you hadn't ever seen him.

BTW, I'm old enough to be your grandfather, and I do understand what you're feeling. Just don't think that some bar and a bunch of "friends" are the best you can hope for in life. There's more out there and you can find it.

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sublimeade July 14, 2011 @ 5:32 a.m.

Funny that she laughs at her teenage self for wanting to be one of the older girls, yet she's doing the same thing now .. pining for the day when she'll get into bars. She'll be laughing at her 20 year old self someday. Take the advice of the older gents and ladies, live in the moment.

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