July 29th, 2008
Like you, turning 21 was a big deal for me. It was big because I was finally an adult, and, as such, I could enjoy the most awesome right, privilege and responsibility available to an adult: I could walk into a proper bar and order a proper drink.
This is not to say that there was anything especially Â“adultÂ” about me at age 21. Nor is it to say that the places I frequented were in any way proper, or that I was ordering proper drinks. Still, I had officially passed from the world of drinking warm cans of whatever in the woods to a wider world, a world where I could walk into the neighborhood watering hole with my head held high, grab a stool next to a 50-something plumber, and down a cold Busch while watching a ball game. Or, I could plop down in a shiny fern bar and sling back frozen mudslides with secretaries and salesmen (Note: I turned 21 in the 1980s. Substitute your own silly drinks.)
Did I always drink like an adult when I turned 21? Of course not. But I could, and that felt good.
And what felt most good was the “adultness” of it all. Drinking legally meant that I could go to bars and socialize with people my own age or older — not teenagers, not children. Drinking legally meant adult conversation on adult topics, accompanied by adult music. It also meant adult dating (with, one hoped, adult results). Drinking legally meant dropping into a bar after work, or in the middle of the day, or after a movie, or … well, whenever I felt like it and for whatever reason or no reason at all. Because I was an adult.
Which brings me to a major problem in the adult drinking world: children in bars. Argue all you want about the hypocrisy of the drinking age or our Puritanical mindset. Hit me, if you’d like, with your fond memories of pubs in the British Isles where generations upon generations gather ’round to sing the songs of olde. I’m not interested. What interests me is preserving our bars, lounges and cocktail conclaves for the people they were built for — the adult drinking public.
Mom and dad, if you want to go out and down a few, please hire a sitter. Don’t slam your stroller into my stool, elaborately set up a mini-day care center in a nearby booth, and then spend the rest of the evening pestering the barkeep for apple juice. And you, alterna-couple, if you’re going to bring little Jake or Lola into my local, show a little courtesy. Propping your spiky-haired, ironic-T-shirt clad offspring on the bar and plying him/her with Shirley Temples is fun for a while. But it gets old. Fast.
Look, like most of you, I love the pat-pat-pat of little feet and the cute cooing of the cunning and the cuddly. Kids are OK by me. In fact, I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Just keep them out of my bar.
Unless they’ve got a valid ID.