Hey, I’ve never been 21 before.

Not so long ago, I turned 21. And I’ve been “using my power,” as I call it, almost every chance I get, even if it’s just to browse the liquor store and not buy anything (which, I’m sure, looks kinda sketchy) or to go into a 21+ bar and grill with no intention of getting drunk. But I still have yet to get the hang of the whole bar thing. Or the inherent … comfortableness everyone has with one another at bars. I make plenty of noob mistakes.

Little turtle = Kaitlin. Big turtle = Everyone else at the bar

First of all, in general, I have no idea what to order. I’m not going to pretend I was some pristine being and never touched a drop of alcohol until I was 21, but really, dorm drinking (and sometimes even house party drinking) is very different than drinking socially for pleasure. Dorm drinking usually consisted of the cheapest crap someone could smuggle into the dorms mixed with whatever soda was still left in the vending machine in the hallway. Sometimes ice, if you were classy. It usually tasted roughly like rubbing alcohol and Sprite/Coke/Mountain Dew. Badass.

A.K.A. Rubbing alcohol.

I couldn’t wait to step up to the bar, lean against it all smooth-like, and order a drink. On my birthday, most people ordered drinks for me and funneled them down my throat. So when I stepped up to the bar later in the evening for my suave moment, free birthday drink voucher in hand,  I  had a mini panic attack when I realized I had no idea what to order. It was the time of night when I was getting sleepy … “Can I get a vodka Red Bull, please?”

Something like that ... In my dreams. I'm never that smooth.

Fail. I now realize that if I had a free drink, I should have gotten something expensive and delicious that I’m too cheap to buy myself. But I had no idea what that would be at the time.

"Bring me two pina coladas. One for each hand ..."

So, I’m cheap. I go where the specials are. Except how the heck am I supposed to know what the “wells” or “rails” that are on special are? I don’t want to look like the noob that just turned 21 and ask. (Even though they can see my birthday on my ID, I guess. I still have my pride!) So, of course, I Google it and find out the terms are interchangeable, and they basically just mean a simple drink made with cheap alcohol. Back to the dorms it is!

I’ve also come to realize that normal social boundaries are all demolished when it gets to be about 11:30 p.m. at a bar. That personal space bubble that usually floats around everyone? Gone.  Popped. It usually makes me uncomfortable when people I just meet hug me or hold my hand or tell me they love me and we’re going to be best friends forever or demand to get a picture with me as I come out of a bathroom stall because I’m a blonde. Not at a bar. At a bar, that’s perfectly acceptable. (Although, I would be really interested to see that picture I took with the girl in the bathroom. Maybe someday.)

Speaking of bathrooms, not too long ago, a girl sat next to me at a bar that smelled like that nauseating smell when someone leaves a nasty surprise in the bathroom and tries to cover it up with sickeningly sweet vanilla air freshener. Normally, I would have had to get up and leave, but eventually I became immune to the smell because we started talking and decided we would make pretty good friends. I would have probably passed out from the gaggish scent of girl that smelled like bathroom poo cover-up in real life, but in bar life, I not only remained conscious, but discovered that she was quite a nice person. Aw, yay for learning life lessons in a bar.

But all sentimentality aside, I can now see how people end up going home with companions they would never normally end up with after a night out.

"Explainthisimage.com" is right. I don't even know how they got this picture.

I still have a ton to learn about being 21. A ton. Like how to deal with creeps that won’t stop pestering you to play beer pong just so you can be “arm candy” for other creeps. And what to order — I’m definitely in a rut with my drinks of choice so far: Long Islands, Jeremiah Weed and lemonades (current fave), and vodka cranberries. (Apparently vodka cranberries are old lady drinks? Psh, don’t judge. They’re delicious.)

Any suggestions? Teach me, oh wise ones.


21 thoughts on “Hey, I’ve never been 21 before.

  1. Hey! Just stumbled upon your site…love your writing. Totally agree with the text analysis, teen mom love, dorm drinking (ice cubes were beyond classy), etc. I turned 21 a while back, and had the same problem you’re talking about here, but have found the solution. I wanted to have a go-to drink to order that would sound casually cool, not lame-girly (helloooo,vodka cran), legit enough to be able to order in front of a cool dude, and enjoyable so I wouldn’t have to turn my face away from him while I gagged it down and made inevitably awful faces. The answer: a gimlet. It’s essentially just vodka with sweetened lime juice, but they have it everywhere, it’s inexpensive, and it fits all of my above criteria. Plus, it’s interesting-sounding, more so than jack and coke, etc. and delicious! Gimlets 4ever.

    • Im from and located in Colombia….Yes..Not Columbia, so Colombia South America, specifically : Medellín (not too much work located it by google); I see in this post more than just talk about drinks, liquor or young questions, I see a pretty smart girl Thinking about things that people don´t use to do without alcohol, many persons over 40 never have think about this and never will, its feel so good discover young people really smart and making deep questions about culture and life thats today, could appears “normally”, congratulations and stay on the road, never turn off your question machine.

  2. Like you, I can’t say that I waited until turning 21 to drink, but even so, I was always the “good girl” out of my friends. I rarely drank and never really had a thing for alcohol. I’m 22 now and I still don’t drink more than maybe once a month. I also feel weird ordering drinks, or telling people what I’d like to drink, because I know next to nothing about alcohol. I’m also extremely picky in my tastes, so I have a hard time drinking something if I don’t like it. To illustrate how picky I am: One time a friend was getting alcohol and asked what I would like. I said “I have no idea. Just get something fruity!” He came back with something blue (I don’t remember what it was. Something with coconut, I think), and I said “BLUE?! Why’d you get BLUE?!” The look on his face was priceless, and then I realized how picky I was being. haha.

    I’m not ashamed to ask, though. I usually ask friends and the first time I got alcohol at a restaurant I even asked the waitress what she would recommend. It ended up being delicious!

    • That’s ended up working out pretty well for me so far, too! I definitely trust most bartenders. Can’t wait for the day I can smoothly walk up to a bar and order something, but until then I guess it’s okay to show my ignorance, especially since I’m not the only one who has the problem!

  3. I’m 28 and still don’t really get the bar scene…I usually go with people who know what they’re doing and either order for me cause I “just have to try this drink…” or I stick with Jack and coke or beer (cheaper too!). You should get one of those mixology aps on your phone and play with it until you find a few you think are appealing 🙂

  4. Bearing in mind the age difference, better if I don’t recommend any drink.

    Would not want to unleash a torrent of opprobrium from your contemporaries.

    You will make mistakes, but you will learn from them.

    Enjoy the experience.

    [previously coffeeplus]

    • I was really reluctant to, but had to honor the request of some of my family members. I guess I have to wait for her to die to post it. Personally, I think she should know how I feel. I’m really glad you liked it, though. Thanks for your support.

  5. Depending on whether or not you like the taste of certain alcohols, choose a mixer that’s either weak or strong to go with it.

    I love the taste of vodka, for example, so I mix it with water and two lime wedges. I can’t do spiced rum without some help, so I like it with Sprite (it almost tastes like a creamsicle).

    And when all else fails, try shots that taste like dessert: Key Lime Pie, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Birthday Cake and Blonde-Headed Sluts are all delicious! Cheers:)

      • I saw you on FP recently, and I love your stuff! Your sense of humor is spot-on.

        Check out each bar’s specials too, because half-price drinks taste good no matter what they’re made with!

  6. Pomegranate Martinis are delicious too if made right. Of course – that’s the key to any mixed drink. (in case you are wondering, I stopped by your blog when you were freshly pressed and I enjoy your style.) Happy belated birthday.

  7. I’ve been drinking in bars for 6 years, and I still clam up whenever I have to choose something to drink. I’m hoping some day it’ll appear to me in a dream, my one true drink.. but mostly I just panic and ask for a beer, which I don’t even like that much. Don’t worry about old lady drinks, anything unhip is hip now, dontcha know? As long as you avoid prune juice, I reckon you’re ok…

    • Ahh glad I’m not the only one with this problem! I think you’re on to something with the unhip being hip. And I’m not a fan of prunes, so hopefully I’m still in the clear 🙂 Thanks for your support!

  8. Maybe try moving onto whiskey? A classic Jack n coke or Jameson and ginger ale are classic go-tos. Probably a little more masculine of a choice – but they are timeless and NOT old lady drinks!

    Also, you’re a girl! Score some free drinks while you’re young and still can!

    • Ahh I do enjoy a nice Jack and Coke — I totally forgot about that. Jameson and ginger ale sounds good, too. I’ve never tried it. I’ll have to write these down and, like, stick them in my pocket or something when I’m out. Thanks for your help and for reading! 🙂

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