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.