Remember all the ways we used to drink as teenagers?
I think I threw up in my coat sleeve
Teen drinking is very bad. No, you didn’t have a fake ID though that barely mattered as you were a resourceful little fucker. Come every Friday, from around the age of 14 – someone had tits by then – you were tottering to the pub in your heels, or standing outside the corner shop asking someone dubious to buy you a bottle of Glen’s, or bribing someone’s elder cousin’s boyfriend to buy you something.
But while you didn’t have much choice about where you got hold of your liquor, or what it was (every Dad used to have a bottle of Drambuie, until you found it), you had a say in where you pitched up to drink up and sick up.
Remember all the places you used to drink as a teenager?
In the playground
Why is it that we were drawn to playgrounds at high school? It didn’t matter if it was December, or snowing, or if the playground was locked with a 5ft fence to scale – this was you on a Friday night, armed with a bottle of Taboo, or a crate of beers, with no idea where you’d be sleeping that night. The boys in the year above would be there, and they were fit purely because they looked old enough to get served. It’s strange to think back to what the atmosphere was like: there was no music (unless someone was playing a bit of tinny polyphonic 50 Cent off their phone), people were aggressively pulling on the swings in front of each other, there was always one lightweight puking in the corner, and girls would piss anywhere they fancied.
The sole aim of the night was to stumble back, where you’d have to lie to your mum about everything. “I’ve been bowling”, I once told mine. When she asked about the sick in my hair I said I’d eaten too many sweets and it gave me a funny tummy. When she asked why there was tar in my hair I said it was just the sick. Little did she know I’d spent the last two hours obliterated, rolling alone in wet tar, because me and my friends were too “hard” to abide by the “keep off, under construction” signs. No regrets.
The same, but the copping off took place in the bushes not the on the swings.
You hit fifteen, and you’d discover there’s a local pub by your school which looks the other way when you all traipse in in school uniform, wielding kit bags and folders. You were drinking alongside the sixth formers, and this was the zenith of your social life. You’d spend a solid half hour finishing every pint; all around you, girls were buying seriously watered-down Sex on the Beach cocktails and the rugby boys were getting in some solid practice ahead of Wednesday nights at university.
The teachers knew not to come to this specific pub on a weeknight, as about half their form would invariably be there. You carved your name under the wooden tables. One day, inevitably, the police found out about this “top” drinking establishment.
At the beach
It’s May half-term and Jess’s family have a beach hut so everyone gets on the train down to the seaside the first day it’s even remotely sunny. You’ve worn a swimming costume under your clothes just in case (you learned last year to never try and get changed at the beach) and you have a really small bottle of vodka you took from your parents, who panic bought it before a dinner party in case someone wasn’t “into” wine.
When you got there you learned Tom had got his older brother to buy a couple of crates of beer so you stick to drinking that and don’t tell anyone about the vodka – hopefully Mum won’t look for it before tonight. Eventually after a bad case of sunburn, a few games of drunken frisbee and splashing the girl you fancy with freezing sea water one too many times, it’s time to head home. At least the sunburn will distract from how much you’re slurring.
At a birthday party
Mum and Dad are fine with you taking a couple of drinks with you because Amy’s parents are going to be there and Mum’s met them and said they seemed nice so she knows they’ll be responsible and not let any of the kids drink too much. What none of the parents know is that Kieran’s turned up with a bottle of some weird spirit called “Sambuca” (?) which he’s keeping on the DL.
He calls you over to his bag and shows you it, hidden under a couple of jumpers. He opens the bottle so you can smell it. He tells you to find a glass from somewhere. He fills the pint glass you’ve found half-full and tells you “mix it with Coke, don’t let anyone know”. Mum hasn’t liked Amy’s parents ever since they carried you, vomit-stained and crying, to her car that evening.
At a friend’s house when their parents were away (“an empty”)
The loosest. There was no concern about sobering up before Mum picked you up, and being in the safety of your friend’s home was thrillingly misleading. You’d clear the drinks cupboard, and people would have brought stuff too. You’d start early, skip dinner, and if you’re weren’t throwing up by midnight you were holding back the hair of someone who was. Someone took their clothes off, someone cried, someone got fingered, and someone broke something.
Underage in a pub
“Hi can I order 12 pints of Carlsberg please?”
Underage in a club
You were using Rebecca from the year above’s ID, and you’d perfected her candid mugshot and memorised her postcode off by heart. In a show of restraint you wish you could mimic now, you don’t get too drunk at first, because you don’t want to give the bouncer any reason to be suspicious. There was the very real possibility that one person wouldn’t make it in (obviously it was Callum) and you’d all have to queue up again and try somewhere else. But if you made it in, you’d celebrate with pitcher after pitcher of vodka Coke.
Underage club nights
You’d make sure your mum dropped you off to “get ready” at the house of whoever had the most laidback parents. You’d have conjured some booze from somewhere – sometimes, someone would bring wine, which was a fucking rogue move – and decant it into a small water bottle for sipping on the bus (“road juice”). You’d take it into the club where everyone else had done exactly the same thing.
At the skatepark
In some suburban town, made up of roundabout after roundabout, and set in a park at the end of the high road by the football club, the local skatepark was the haven for weirdos, greebos, emos and the indie kids to drink cans of K cider (a.k.a Killer K), Frosty Jacks, your Dad’s whisky and any beer your older brother could get his hands on for you. For once, there’d be girls you weren’t intimidated by. Terry and Jess were always there, Terry was the fit one, and Jess had been out with three of you. Some of you tried to skateboard, most failed, apart from Aidan – he was really good – that’s why he went out with Terry. Someone brought vodka, and it all got a bit weird. You probably lost your virginity on a night like this in the other field.
But most nights ended when it got a bit dark, and you were sitting on the flat of the halfpipe playing spin the bottle when the rude boys appeared like a flock of BMX bandits and tried to fight you. One time, they put Simon in hospital. Every time, Liam ran away crying.
By the side of a river
Don’t fall in. Really, though.
At your older siblings’ friend’s party
How did you get invited? You don’t know. Your sister definitely doesn’t know – but it’s OK because she doesn’t know anything, because she’s completely fucked and – wait, is she smoking?
Later you have to support her through the door and sort of carry her upstairs before Mum and Dad say hello and notice that her ra-ra skirt is inside out. In the midst of all this, you’ve only swigged on a single lukewarm beer all evening.
With your parents at dinner
“More wine?”, they ask your 13-year-old self – God, we’re so French, they’re thinking. You on the other hand are drinking it like you would water. You are two glasses into a hefty bottle of Cab Sauv – someone’s calling it that – and you are absolutely smashed. You try to hold it together because Sally, a long-time family friend, is giving you the eye as you pour your third glass. Your rosy cheeks give you away. Someone suggests you should have some water.
At family parties
The thing was, someone was always offering you a drink. Because everyone wanted to be the “cool” relative who was sanguine about you having “a tipple”. Everyone – which was the problem. Even in your mid-twenties, you’d be smashed if every relative at your family party offered you a glass of wine. At 14, you were rolling around on the living room floor by 8pm, and falling down the stairs and landing at the feet of your Dad’s then boss by 10pm.
It was Christmas Eve. Your parents didn’t speak to you until Boxing Day.
Shitty first holiday with mates
Can some explain to me how the fuck we used to drink a litre of vodka-Red Bull every night and chase it down with those shitty little shots of peach Schnapps? Because it seems like a lot now, it seems like a bit much now, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s not even that on these Mediterranean party islands we were trying to live a Pitbull lifestyle on an Aldi budget. It’s not even that we were poster children for pointless excess, dancing badly as some of the worst songs Example ever wrote thumped away in the humid background. It’s not even that we were living as crudely as we will ever live. It’s that, looking back – and whisper this, because it’s a big secret – we didn’t actually drink as much as we think we did on these holidays.
Drinking way, way too much
Look, I’m not saying you were a massive legend when you were a teenager but you did get to a point where the prospect of drinking ten tins of Stella or playing a filthy, no prisoner’s taken game of arrogance didn’t make your body spasm with revulsion the way the idea of doing those things now does. At some point in your teens you cross a line; you go from drinking half a can of Strongbow four times over the course of a house party and furtively leaving it on the side so no one knows you don’t like the taste to crying in the toilet, vomiting in public advert for the dangers of binge drinking. This transition from not liking alcohol to not liking it very much but drinking fucking loads of it is a crucial part of your personal development. Imagine what kind of person you’d be without it?
That’s right: a worse person, maybe a person with a healthier liver but a worse person nevertheless.
By reformed teen boozers Grace Vielma, Phoebe Luckhurst, Will Lloyd, Oli Dugmore, Jack Cummings, Daisy Bernard, Bella Eckert, Cat Reid, Tom Jenkin and Bobby Palmer.