These kids today should get off my damn lawn, at least until they learn how to play on it properly. Seriously, I know it’s trite for old fogies like me to bitch about the younger generations, but this, I think, is a real loss, and, professionally speaking, I’m sick of fking dealing with it.
I was raised by old-school drinkers, children of the Greatest Generation. I remember my father telling me on several occasions that the way he was raised, you drank what you drank, but you held yourself together, and didn’t let on how hammered you were, no matter how hammered you got. I remember, growing up, feeling proud of myself when I could tell he’d been drinking (which wasn’t often; he was a responsible parent). It was always the tiniest slip, a moment of clumsiness you could miss if you weren’t paying attention, and it was rewarding to be on-point enough to spot it when it happened (my sister and I have bonded over this). I’m not saying his example was universal, but there was a respectability to it, and it’s something I think has been lost somewhere along the way.
For one thing, I think, parents stopped teaching their kids how to drink sometime not too long after the generation that raised me. Somewhere around my early adolescence there was a sea-change in the way people in this country parent, and as younger and younger kids come of age, I’ve noticed a sea-change in the way they relate to alcohol as a result.
In these United States, drinking alcohol is what we do to relax, let off steam, have a good time, whatever. It’s cool. I’m down with that. Making that easy, pleasant, and fun is what I do for a living, and have done for the bulk of two decades. It serves an important social and psychological function, a relaxation of the codified inhibitions of the many roles we play in this civilized world, a world at odds much of the time with the dictates and instincts of our natural selves. Alcohol and the social space it can open up when consumed in good company can be really useful in managing that tension. It allows you to give yourself permission to transcend, for however brief a time, the strictures under which you live your life and just relax and enjoy yourself.
It also, if consumed in too large a quantity, allows you to give yourself permission to descend into your baser instincts, and do really dumb shit, and sometimes that’s helpful and necessary, too, wisdom coming from experience and all that.
It’s been a long time since that sea-change in parenting, and a lot of the kids who were raised that way are old enough to drink now. And the way they drink, and the permissions they give themselves when they do, are totally different even from my generation, much less my father’s. They do it like they’re getting away with something. They get wild and stupid right away, even before they’ve caught a buzz, and they don’t know or care how to manage it once they get one. Yes, every generation has drunk to excess in its youth and beyond, and every generation has done wild stupid things as a result, but this is different. When I was growing up, by the time you were old enough to drink legally, you could handle it; dealing with these kids is like going to a party in high school.
I mean, I get it. A lot of these kids’ lives were managed and micromanaged by overprotective parents in a way I can’t imagine. The sense of liberation they feel must be enormous. I certainly felt that way at that age, and I was raised by parents who routinely told me to get out of the house and not come back until dinner. Kids in my generation had unstructured time and space to learn our capabilities and limitations in a way this younger generation simply did not. And we were taught to do grownup things, so when the time came to be grownups we were ready. These kids spent their whole childhoods insulated from all that, and their growth into adults has been stunted as a result. It’s not even really their fault, though of course I judge them for it. I can’t help it. They’re a pain in my ass.
And they’ll grow up. Almost everybody does. I just wish they’d stay out of my bar until they do. I am, as the saying goes, getting too old for this shit.