Once it’s gone, it’s gone

Five Star Friday

The neighbour’s kid had a party last night. I feel I ought to point out that the neighbour’s kid is fourteen. Maybe fifteen. He has a sister the same age as The Captain. I think she had a sleepover last night; she and someone else her size were running around their front yard, teasing the ‘big kids’. Listening to our neighbour’s kid’s party last night, I was struck by how much I don’t miss that time of my life. I don’t miss it and that is one time I would never go back to.

I hated the conflicting emotions. I hated the constant self-doubt and the feeling that I was never, and would never be good enough. I hated wondering what to say, who to talk to, and what people were saying about me. I hated that I wanted the acceptance of certain people. I hated that I had to jump through hoops and perform to get that acceptance. I hated not knowing who I was, and I especially hated not knowing who people expected me to be. I hated being horny all the time, and my hormones being so out of whack I didn’t know which way was up. I hated being tired all the time, or being wired when I should be sleeping. I hated that I was alone, even in a room full of people.

I went to parties, and watched my friends and acquaintances get stupid with drink. The boys all got aggressive and fighty, and the girls turned weepy and morose. People whose social position was elevated much, much higher than mine would end up stumbling through alleys, vomiting in the bushes. But me…I was (in my mind) relegated to a position slightly above *nobody ever sees me, and when they do, they dismiss me*…I was begrudgingly or afterthoughtedly invited to the parties, which, in the high school pecking order, put me above the folks who *were* unseen and below  the people who had names. In adolescent social hierarchy, people of my status were party ‘filler’. After all the popular kids had been invited, and after all the kids who could pull liquor were invited, and after all the kids who could drive were invited, and after all the kids who were considered easy, loose, or otherwise entertaining, I was invited. But, as some have pointed out in the twenty years since I was in that place, at least I was invited.

Was that better? I don’t know that it was.

The biggest, most “fun” parties, those ones were not the ones I’m talking about. To be honest, those parties scared me. Those parties are where kids were raped and beaten and taken to the hospital at two in the morning with alcohol poisoning. Those were the parties where kids died. Fun times. I went to the parties that band or drama nerds held; this was the second-tier of parties, where none (or very few) of the popular kids would appear, for fear of being branded a ‘nerd’, and where the head-bangers, jocks, cheerleaders, and top-tier students wouldn’t make an appearance. I also attended the third-tier of parties, where there was no drinking or drugs, where the open disdain of the top- and second-tier students and their ridiculous antics was the focus of much of the conversation.

Now, I lived in a small city for high school, but I lived in a small town in the summers, and I went to small town parties too. They were definitely different (more tier-crossing), but much the same (weepy girls, punchy boys, and someone passed out with their head in the terlet).

Last night, I heard about the girl who was off puking in the bushes. Some of the drunk kids were concerned that she had alcohol poisoning (which shows that they were listening in health class). They spent about half an hour going from the pile of misery that this girl had become, back to the fire pit, trying to find someone who could Do Something. Another girl was sober enough to figure out that Pukey had to go home. To accomplish this, she needed to be stood up and walked. Finally, two young men stepped forward to help her. She made it half a block before she had to have a rest, and then profusely and slurredly thanked one of them over and over again.

And the boys fought, and the girls wept, and screeched, and the boys shouted, and jocks pulled up on the lawn with the cars their parents bought them, and I thought : “thank God that’s over.”

Granted, it’s not like I was some kind of paragon of good decision-making; there are stories of me stumbling drunk into a wire fence; of projectile vomiting in my friend’s parents’ hallway….of making out in someone’s utility shed…but I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, I pretended to be far more drunk than I was. Just to fit in. I’d pour myself a drink, and then fill the tumbler with cola only for the rest of the night. I’d sit there, sober, judging everyone else. Someone, normally fairly intelligent, would slur, “Alcohol is a truth serum”, and I’d raise my eyebrow and wonder what was so appealing about the numb face, the misplaced feet, the flushed cheeks, the muddy thoughts, and the spinning and vertigo. My best friend disappeared one night…she was notorious for making out with boys when she’d had a few. I was worried. I found her huddled in the bottom of a closet with a towel on her head. “I’m a mushroom,” she said. “Leave me alone.” I left her alone. But an hour later, I was chasing her through the streets (she liked to run away when she was in her cups), finally catching up as she deposited her spaghetti dinner behind a truck stop. I remember thinking: “is this what I’ll look back on in ten years and think was *fun*? Will she?”

So I heard my neighbour’s kid’s party, and I thought as hard as I could: “this is not as good as it gets. It gets better. So much better. Someday, someday soon, if you play your cards right and don’t make stupid decisions, someday soon people will value your opinion. People will listen when you speak. People will be your friend because of who you are, not because of who they are. People will open their hearts to you, and you will find what you’re looking for. But this? This is nothing. This is, I suppose, a rite of passage. But this is not as good as it gets.”

I heard them laughing and crying and I saw them fighting, and I thought, “when my kids are that age, will they be the ones at that party lying in the street in a pool of their own urine, or will they be the ones helping clean up, and stopping the fights, and helping young ladies get home safely?” Will my kids be like the one young man who called his mother to come and pick him up because “everyone here is drunk”? (he called from my front yard) Will I be the sort of mother who lets her kids’ drunk friends sleep it off at my house, making sure they’re okay, and letting their parents know they’re okay? Of course I will. My mum did that for my friends (well, she went a bit too far and lied to my friends’ parents about their state of mind. That, I won’t do.). I just….how do you tell a kid how wonderful they are, when everything in that kid’s soul, mind, and body is telling them they’re not good enough?

I dunno. Maybe I’m reading too much in to party theory. But to be honest, the image of my kids stumbling around in ten years like my neighbours’ kids were stumbling around last night…that images makes me irrevocably sad.

  10 comments for “Once it’s gone, it’s gone

  1. 20 June 2010 at 2:17 pm

    THIS. I wasn’t invited to the parties until much later in high school. But definitely THIS. I can only hope and pray that our children are either the ones who shrug it off while there or choose not to go. Because you are right. There is so much better to come.

  2. 20 June 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Interesting entry; brings back memories and reminds me to be grateful that my kids (17 and 21) never bought into the “drunk is cool” mentality that, you’re right, seems to be only a phase — for most.

    • 21 June 2010 at 5:09 pm

      So how did you do it?

      Raise kids who didn’t buy into the ‘drunk is cool’ mentality, I mean?

  3. Cheruby
    20 June 2010 at 11:20 pm

    I was of the fourth tier, the ones not invited to parties, but did I want to go at that time.

    I regret not having been young, drunk and stupid. Now the days when I can party hard are long gone, because I’m too old. I know you’re going to tell me about how it wasn’t that great. But better to have lost and puked than never puked at all. My teenage years were filled with just as much angst as everybody else’s except I didn’t have alcohol as a healing salve.

    If you’re lucky, your kids will be like you: they’ll have had the experience of lame partying without getting hurt. Then they can decide for themselves that they don’t like it very much. Better to have children who made their decision about pathetic drunkenness in an experienced, mature fashion than to make it because they’re afraid.

    • 21 June 2010 at 5:07 pm

      No, I wasn’t going to say that it wasn’t that great. I mean, it was a great social experiment, right? And for the most part, when I went to those parties, I didn’t drink (with one or two notable exceptions); I just sat and judged everyone who did. Which is probably worse as far as my own humanity is concerned.

      What I learned from those parties is that I Never Wanted To Be Like That. I mean, I tried it, hated it, and learned a valuable lesson – that if all you have to show for the weekend is a collection of “I don’t remember what I did last weekend” stories, you’re living the kind of life I don’t want.

      I also learned – and this is probably the more important of the lessons – that the social order developed in high school is not only a completely false construct, but that in the end, it Did Not Matter. Because we were kids. Just that. Just kids. Even then, I knew we were Just Kids. Sure, I paid lip service, like all the other teenagers, to how unFAIR it was that nobody TREATED us like ADULTS (most of us didn’t deserve to be treated like adults because we acted worse than petulant four-year-olds), but I knew what the truth was – that life didn’t start until after high school. I couldn’t believe there were people who believed, as Stark Raving Dad mentioned over effbook way, that those were “the best years of our lives”.

      I guess if you did believe that, then all the other idiotic decisions made some kind of sense.

      But back to the point. *Is* it better to have puked and lost than to never have puked at all? I don’t know. We both of us have an experience that has made us who we are. I wouldn’t relive it, I wouldn’t go back there, and I hated it. But, as Mike McCall pointed out, I’m glad I *did* do it, because it’s shaped me into who I am now.

  4. Cori May
    21 June 2010 at 4:27 pm

    In high school, I didn’t get invited much to ‘the’ parties (the only wild parties I ever went to were the ones this one ‘arty’ girl would have, where she’d basically invite the entire school, as far as I can tell), but I didn’t care. I had my own friends (several of whom I retain to this day), we had our own gatherings. We didn’t really drink, so they were pretty sedate, but I was happy with that.

    • 21 June 2010 at 5:09 pm

      I went to those parties also, and enjoyed them far more. The ones where we’d watch movies or do improv (I always wanted to game, but was told fairly early in my high school career that “girls don’t play D&D”, and I didn’t know how to find people to play with).

      The best memories I have of that time of my life is from being at the lake, or out “questing” with two or three of my closest friends (with whom I am still friends now as well). Those, I suspect, are the times that mattered.

  5. turk182
    21 June 2010 at 10:52 pm

    To live means to suffer. I dunno what is so hard about this concept.

  6. 23 June 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I can’t take any credit for my 17-year-old’s aversion to alcohol. I offer him some with a meal once in a while because it wouldn’t hurt him to taste the stuff, but he’s having none of it; he doesn’t understand why kids his age think it’s cool to get drunk. He thinks it’s pathetic.

    He doesn’t seem to respond to peer pressure to drink; I’m not sure if this is because he homeschooled for a couple high-school year or if he’s just naturally got a mind of his own.

    Sure as h nothing like I was at his age.

  7. ozma
    25 June 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I agree, it was awful.

    My experience was a bit different. I partied a lot with kids I’d known since kindergarten. There were a lot of dramas but the hierarchy was sort of shifting and not so dramatic.

    But it was pointless and something bad always happened and I could use those brain cells now.

    I suppose I didn’t have that much else to do on the weekends. I wonder why I went. Just: It was happening. Kids have to be there, when things are happening. I don’t know why. But I see that edginess in my 6 year old daughter, that love of drama and excitement and know that I’m in for a time.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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