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‘Member that time I turned 21?
Turning 21 is one of the most life-changing moments a young person can remember. It marks the ‘magical’ instant when you are suddenly able to physically (and legally) facilitate your alcohol intake. Growing up in a country in which the drinking age is 18 I never attributed too much attention to the day that I would turn 21; that was until I emigrated to the United States.
My 21st birthday would happen during my junior year of college and unfortunately many of my friends were experiencing their year abroad which left me with far less friends than I imagined I would spend this ‘important’ birthday with. This fact was further exacerbated by my father who (like any supportive parent) wanted me to celebrate this particular birthday in style. He reserved a stretch Lincoln Navigator limousine for me and 11 of my friends to enjoy a night on the town in Boston. Choosing just 11 friends proved to be one of the most difficult processes I’d ever undertaken. If you ever wanted to experience a more political process than passing legislation, try choosing only a portion of your friends celebrate your birthday with you.
I felt like I was in Elementary school all over again.
My 21st birthday also came at a point in my life when going to a nightclub was a production. We could never settle for just any venue, it had to be reputable, it was preferable that we had VIP service, and we had to have some drama. How in the world was I supposed to fill all of these pre-requisites on a college student’s budget? That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try.
I’d previously watched a couple of my girlfriends (Rue & Enna) skillfully navigate the Providence nightlife scene. They always seemed to know the right people, get us in to the nicest places, and provide some of the most memorable experiences any of us would ever encounter. They made it look easy. I did not realize that changing the location from our typical Providence night out to one in Boston would infinitely complicate matters.
I started looking around for the ‘best’ VIP package and after listening to 7 club promoters’ pitches I settled on an expensive new nightclub in downtown Boston. There was a catch; we had to be there before 11pm…but I didn’t care. Of course we’d be there before then. VIP Service in a fancy nightclub: Check. With the location secured I thought that my work was done, people would show up and the rest would be history. That was until the night of my birthday.
My birthday fell on the closing night of our college’s production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and, because all of my friends who were coming to my party were involved in the Theatre Department, this would mean many things. All of them would have to shower (easy), remove stage makeup (a bit harder), find food to eat (even harder), all within a 40 minute window (almost impossible). An hour after the show’s end and 20 minutes into my attempt at stalling an impatient limo driver, we were on our way to Boston…except no one had eaten yet. I asked the limo driver to bring us to a McDonalds drive-thru and ordered 12 McChicken sandwiches. Get everyone fed: Check. As we’re pulling out of the drive-thru someone asks about pre-nightclub libations. Okayyyyy…the driver graciously allowed us to stop at the store to pick some up (too much). Alcohol: Check.
This is where things start getting messy.
The ride to Boston is 50 minutes to 1 hour long. That’s 1 hour of extreme college-aged debauchery in a limo (if you catch my drift) mixing with the questionable sandwiches from McDonalds. (oh boy.) We finally make it to the club with less than 5 minutes to spare and many of us are stumbling in. No big deal. This place was fancy: large dance floor, ample seating, adequate lighting, in a word, nice. As if we hadn’t had enough to drink in the limousine we happily (and quickly) dispatched a 1.75L bottle of even more fun-inducing liquid.
This is as much as I can clearly remember, the rest is hazy.
3 hours later we’re on our way back to campus and it seems as though many of our digestive systems had devilishly synched their operation to culminate in mass nausea. Those who weren’t surrendering to their stomachs were helping others and this situation was quickly getting out of hand. The funniest moment of the entire ride back was when my friend Mia’s then (now ex) boyfriend Rob puked all over her chest after attempting to find some comfort there. Mia being the well prepared woman that she is instantly changed her top. Problem solved…or so she thought. As soon as we got back to campus Rob did it again…Ok this wasn’t funny at the time (especially not to Mia) but I think some laughs can be had now. The night’s over now right? Nope.
Mia graciously starts helping me get to my room and after stumbling and falling multiple times we were finally there…only to realize that my keys weren’t anywhere to be found. Comedy of errors much? Mia calls Campus Police; “An officer will be there shortly.” Shortly wasn’t short enough for me, I wanted to be in bed and it couldn’t happen ‘shortly’ enough. As Mia tells the story, I tried to take of my jeans but was stalled by my heels (and altered state) at which point I whine “Mia! Help me take these off. You’re the only person I trust.” I can only imagine what her face must’ve looked like. 10 minutes later an unsuspecting Campus Officer arrives to me laying on the ground in my underwear, Mia holding my pants and looking confused…how do you explain that?! We didn’t have to. The officer unlocked my door and left without asking any questions.
This was probably the last time I ever went out with this group of people in its entirety, not because there were ill feelings from this night but many of us generally grew apart. I often think about this night and the lessons it taught me and have vowed to never repeat these mistakes again (simultaneously). While many of my choices on this night weren’t wise, I can say this: “You only turn 21 once.” (And any other age for that matter).
Take care of yourselves.