Teens, parties, booze, and choices

The chaotic gatherings of 13–18-year-olds, so familiar to me in my adolescence as the places I first came face-to-face with beer, pot, and (if everything worked out) someone else’s lips, are now a mystery to me.

When I was a boy, these celebrations followed an age-old pattern: someone’s parents were away, friends gather, mayhem ensues, the police show up, and the crowd disperses.

But the new parties are something totally incomprehensible to the adult male.

Here’s how it works: somehow, a loft or event space is rented somewhere within the five boroughs (Really? Really.), a text goes out minutes before the start with an address, and the hoards begin to gather.

Often there is some form of security and, sometimes, alcohol, so backpacks, are strictly prohibited.

I assume my girls will drink and that any get-together deemed a party will have alcohol (This is the way it has been since the dawn of civilization. I imagine Greek youths, centuries ago, sneaking off with the wine left for Dionysus and partying in the Athenian countryside with their pals).

But these parties, outside the boundaries of known neighborhoods, away from the scrutiny of neighbors, often in places poorly served by public transportation, test my calm, parental reserve.

Clearly others are also concerned. Every meeting with the parent of a ninth grader inspired the question, “Is your child going to the party?” Comparing notes on curfews and transportation, we share strategy and anxiety with each other.

When my new-to-high-school daughter got one of these daunting texts, she first planned on going with one group of friends who ultimately backed out (a commendable choice from my perspective). But she quickly assembled another small collection, and we negotiated the details.

Because it was raining and there was no easy way to get there, I was permitted to drive her and her friends. As we turned the corner onto the street of the party, we saw the flashing lights of a fire truck and ambulance up ahead. Sure enough, they were right outside the place and there was a freeze on new kids entering.

Whether it was the mass of adolescent bodies visible through the windows, the drama of the paramedics pulling items from their duffle bags, the rain, or the promise of a really good episode of “Saturday Night Live” watched in comfy pajamas with popcorn at home, the girls called and asked to be picked up within minutes of being dropped off.

They chose to spend their evening back at the ranch even after they received word the doors were open again.

I like to think it’s a sign of maturity, or self-realization, or just listening to that little voice inside that led my girl to make that choice.

I think it was the right one that night.

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