Saturday night was Child One’s 18th birthday party. She wanted something smallish – she and her best friend celebrating together – about twenty people for a nice dinner. She picked a theme – Indian – and she and her friends bought glamorous outfits. I did their makeup and filled the house with incense and geraniums and richly colored Indian linens. The henna tattoo artist arrived, the kids all put on their bindis and milled about to Sig Other’s rather raucous Bollywood soundtrack mix. Sig Other and the other parents and I hovered as long as we could – soaking up as much gorgeous, hilarious, hormonally charged teenage time as possible before making what we had promised would be a brief exit. Child One had never really invited us, you see. “You can stay” is what she said when asked if were to be part of the festivities. Not exactly a cozy invitation. And we were never included on the Facebook Event Page, which apparently has replaced paper or even email as the Emily Post of social event planning. So we made our own dinner plans – adult dinner plans – and knew that we’d be nearby and gone very briefly.
Child One and company were having a perfectly lovely time when we left. The table was piled with food and Diet Pepsi and laughter. An hour and a half later we returned to empty bottles of rock-gut vodka and beer strewn around the house. An anonymous Italian girl showed up in a cab with three leggy friends and proceeded to vomit in our bathroom while an eager teen boy waited nearby desperate to take advantage of her and another boy took her pulse, spinning his own fantasy of an emergency room drop-off. Couples made out in dark corners, others just sat around talking about their future – one was leaving the next day for Europe and then college, they’d said goodbye already to another the day before. The night was warm and smelled of spilled beer and cigarettes, smoke from a hookah (which had magically appeared in our absence) hung heavy over conversation about anticipation, fear and excitement of change. Some were drinking. Some were not. And as I walked the party with my basket they were brutally honest about who had done what and how much. It’s a pretty mild crew (notwithstanding the anonymous Italian girl) and I was impressed by how forthcoming and easy they were about handing over their keys.
And yes, I took their keys. I am the evil shrew collecting keys of potentially drunk teenagers and hiding them in a basket underneath my bathroom sink. I told them I would breathalyze them on their way out. I lied, of course. I don’t have a Breathalyzer. But fear still drives the teenage brain and so keys were collected and slowly doled out (or not) as the night went on. Most slept on couches or blow up mattresses or corners of the floor strewn with blankets. One was up before us, waiting at the counter when we rose for a cup of coffee and to share his particular account of the events of the evening. The rest made do with juice and toast and whatever was in the house as Sig Other and I fled quickly to avoid the flutter of inevitably hung over and sleep deprived teens. By the time we returned most were gone and Child One had the good sense to clean up empty bottles and whatever detritus remained from the night before.
But I was left wondering about how Sig Other and I deal with the issue of underage drinking vs. the way other parents do or vs. my own childhood. In my teenage years, we would never have partied in a house with adults present. We’d wait for any parent to leave town and invade like marauding booze bandits. We thought nothing of raiding the liquor cabinet once we’d run out of whatever screw top wine or malt liquor we could buy with fake IDs flimsy as tissue paper. And then we’d get in our cars – drunk as skunks and risk the drive rather than risk the wrath of a parent who knew the truth. This was in the early 80s. Meatballs was one of my favorite movies. There was one song – the theme song of the movie – that went like this: “We are the CITs so pity us, the kids are brats the food is hideous. We’re gonna smoke and drink and fool around (we’re nookie bound), we’re Northstar CITs!.” For some reason this song popped into my head as I thought about Child One’s 18th Bollywood Birthday Blowout. There we were, at home with Child One and friends – and there they were smoking and drinking and fooling around. And if they weren’t’ smoking and drinking and fooling around at our house, they’d be smoking and drinking and fooling around elsewhere. So better here, in the relative safety of our home, I suppose, than out in the world and on the streets.