AWKWARD NEW YORK is a weekly column about the uncomfortable experiences of Chris Vespoli in and around NYC. Every Tuesday is another cringe-worthy account, from being fat shamed by a Dunkin’ Donuts employee to crashing Fashion Week.
I’ll soon be turning 31 years old, marking 10 years that I’ve been drinking…legally. I make that distinction because I was imbibing well before I was allowed to do so under the law — 14 years old to be exact. Why? Well, if you were picked on in school for being short and were a child of divorce, you would have drank heavily in your teens, too.
Because people love nostalgia, and love it even more when it’s presented in the form of a list, here are nine things I’ve learned after drinking for a decade. I promise I won’t use any GIFs or image macros because I respect your intelligence as a reader.
1. Celebrating your 21st birthday with your dad at Hooters really sets the tone for the rest of your 20s.
Though I’d gotten together with friends the weekend before my 21st birthday, I spent the actual day — a Wednesday — with my dad, who took me to the Hempstead Turnpike Hooters on Long Island. Its proximity to Hofstra University (where I’d just finished my junior year) ensured a sad mix of broke, scantily-clad college girls among the wait staff. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time with my dad, but the experience was a microcosm of what would be my 20s: me getting drunk, with boobs and butts I didn’t have permission to touch bouncing in front of my face.
2. Standing shoulder to shoulder in crowded frat boy bars quickly loses its appeal.
I moved into my first apartment in Manhattan the year after I graduated college, and like most clueless 20-somethings in the City, spent many a night at douchey, date rape-y dives like Joshua Tree, Tonic, and The Gin Mill. When you’re young, it’s great. The very idea of being in a bar without having to fool the bouncer with a less-than-believable fake ID you bought on St. Marks is amazing. You think: “Who cares if it’s crowded and noisy? I’m out!” But put me in one of those places as a 31-year-old and the only thing I can think about is getting out.
3. Drinking alone at home stops being rebellious and becomes just plain old sad.
When I began underage drinking, I kept a stash of vodka in a Poland Spring bottle in the bottom drawer of my dresser, in my room. My mom apparently found it, because one day it was just gone. She never confronted me about it, and she still has never brought it up to this day (thanks, mom). Keeping a bottle of vodka in your drawer when you’re a teenager? You’re “fighting the system, man.” Keeping one in your drawer when you’re past 30? You’re probably unemployed.
4. No able-minded adult drinks Southern Comfort.
Seriously, nobody drinks that shit past, like, age 23.
5. Don’t throw away all those wristbands.
Bars, concert venues, sports arenas, and other places that sell booze love to give you a wristband to make sure the staff knows you’re of age. Don’t rip it off the next morning after you awake from your drunken slumber — leave it on. From afar, it looks like one of those do-gooder charity rubber wristbands. So, instead of walking around all day looking like a hungover piece of shit, people will think that you’re an upstanding member of society.
6. There is no such thing as an “open bar” in NYC.
I’ve been invited to a lot of open bar situations in these 10 years, and I can tell you, it’s a goddamn scam. You pay something like $35 with the promise of all the drinks you can put down in a two- or three-hour window, depending on the deal. But therein lies the rub: Places that run these promotions are so overcrowded that you can only make it up to the bar about twice, which means the two pints of Stella you drank cost you about 18 bucks each.
7. The name “happy hour” is grossly misleading.
While we’re dispelling myths, happy hours aren’t happy; they’re cathartic at their best and downright awkward at their worst. The most dreaded among them is the forced “work happy hour” designed to foster bonding between underlings and management. Don’t drink enough, and you come across as anti-social. Drink too much, and you’re unwittingly badmouthing the CEO to his own face. Pro tip: Memorize all of the photos in the “Executive Bios” section of your company’s website. Trust me.
8. A bottle of booze is the perfect thoughtless gift.
I can’t tell you how much liquor I’ve bought and received as gifts in the past decade — and you really can’t go wrong. If the person doesn’t drink the particular libation you got them, chances are their significant other might. And if that’s not the case either, they’ll just regift it to another friend. I’m willing to bet there are some bottles of cheap white wine out there in circulation that have been regifted over and over since 2007, and continue to be passed around, like dollar bills.
9. You don’t have to be drunk to make really bad decisions.
When you first start drinking, parents, PSAs, and members of law enforcement love to scare you into thinking that alcohol leads to poor life choices. Bullshit. I bought a leather couch at IKEA the day after I found out I was losing my job and I was stone sober.
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