It took 20 years, but, I told you so!

March 3, 2008

When I was in college a million years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), I wrote for the college paper.  As an editor, I wrote a weekly editorial.  As I was 18 at the time, the law raising the drinking age to 21 was a topic near to my heart.  At the time, I thought my writing was brilliant.  (A recent attic clean-out brought me face to face with these old articles and the painful realization that I was not nearly as brilliant as I thought I was at the time. This realization is giving me some perspective and assistance with my parenting since these teenagers of mine are convinced they are brilliant and I am convinced they are idiots.)

But more to the point:

When the drinking age was raised to 21, my most poignant comment was “Raising the drinking age will not stop teens from drinking, it just makes criminals of those who do.”

So now, twenty years down the road, some states are re-thinking the legal age. They have various reasons; from wanting to allow soldiers who risk their lives for us to lift a beer afterward to wanting to stop “underground” drinking.

Underground drinking is what they call it when kids drink outside bars and clubs (where when they become intoxicated, they are no longer served alcohol).  Some people believe that because it is unmonitored, kids drink more in private than they would if they were in public.

There are some challenges I have with the age issue. If we are doing it because of brain development, then the drinking age should be 25 (the age at which the frontal lobe is most developed.) If we are doing it to save lives from drunk driving, I am really confused as is already illegal to drive drunk at any age.

Here in the US, we seem to favor a staggered tier system of allowable behaviors. The thought behind that being that as one matures, one can handle more responsibility.

You can drive at 16, you can vote at 18, you can drink at 21.

It is a fine theory. However, knowing teenagers as I do, I know that they will find access to alcohol no matter the age the state says you must be to buy it.  In fact, I know lots of people who never after 21 did they drink as much as they did when they were under-age.

I had a strange conversation with my 18 year old (collect, from prison…) wherein he told me he would usually buy bottom-shelf liquor.  I asked why he would do that since it tasted like crap.  He said he wasn’t drinking it because it tasted good, he was drinking to get drunk.  I asked him how that had worked out for him, seeing as he is in prison and I am not.  He didn’t think that was funny.

For the record, I have strongly encouraged my children NOT to drink (or experiment with drugs for that matter) because of their birth family’s addiction issues.  But, as we all know by now, I am an idiot who should be ignored.

Any thoughts?


2 Responses to “It took 20 years, but, I told you so!”

  1. Well, I was a really responsible kid – but I did drink for the first time when I was 19. (It was my friend’s 21st birthday party.) It was an amazing experience. I had hunch punch until I almost fell over and we had a helluva lot of fun.

    However, I didn’t drink again until I was 21.

    Since my friends and I always had fun, we didn’t ‘need’ alcohol to have a good time or to enjoy each other. It was more like, “hey, that’s a really cool feeling – ok, now on to the next kickass thing”.

  2. Aura Mae Says:

    I know that kids engage in varying degrees of foolishness and I have heard that there are some kids who always follow the rules. (I was quite the rule follower, myself, except for the fact that I drove like a maniac!) It seems that for most people, the decisions to avoid dangerous behavior is based more on internal than external influences.

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