July 29th, 2008

Of age

A valid ID?By Scott N. Howe

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 “adult” 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.

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9 Responses to “Of age”

  1. k.

    The banning of smoking in bars has had the unfortunate side effect of breeders (ahem, “parents”) thinking that bars are wholesome places to bring their offspring. (It’s had the positive side effect of letting us all go home without reeking of smoke, but was it worth it?) I do not like the pat-pat-pat of little feet nor cooing of any kind, unless it’s coupled with the aforementioned “adult results” and even then it’s marginal. Leave the brats at home and let us get on with our adult conversation, adult language (I’ve been told, non-ironically, “it’s a family bar”), and heavy adult beverage drinking.

    Bars are — well, should be — the last refuge of civilized adults before the kinderarchy takes over. And stay the fuck off my lawn. k.

  2. MC Slim JB

    (Don’t be surprised at a firestorm of controversy on this one; they have permanently banned the topic of “kids in restaurants” on Chowhound because of the vitriolic debate that inevitably erupts.)

    I think there are Irish-American pubs in Boston that seem to welcome families with children. I’m of two minds on the question: I like the idea of an adult refuge, but don’t want to categorically say, “No kids ever, anywhere.” Context seems to be all: I’ve seen well-behaved kids in J.J. Foley’s Cafe and not minded, but would find them weirdly out of place at, say, 28 Degrees.

    Part of the issue, I think, is a greater social one: 21st century parents seem to feel more entitled to bring their kids anywhere, take up more than their share of space with giant buggies and accoutrements, leave huge messes of trampled Cheerios and worse behind, and — most to the point — let their precious little snowflakes scream and run amok.

    The inevitable defense is, “Kids will be kids”, but I don’t buy this. If the children I see out in bars and restaurants and their parents were better behaved in public — the way they were back in my youth, in the Dark Ages before PlayStation II — this question would be a lot less incendiary.

  3. Scortch

    I was a child who was partially raised by my dad in bars. And not stylish, well-made-cocktail-serving ones either, but ones named “Carney’s” with fat sweaty bartenders in tee shirts and fat sweaty patrons in 60’s double knit and waitresses who called you “sweetie” and who I just KNEW knew my father better than they should have… -okay, enough self therapy…

    Anyway, my point is this, restaurants and the dining areas of restaurants with a free-standing bar are one thing and certainly any decently behaved child should be allowed in (and asked, once unduly disturbing, to leave much in the manner of any patron). But the bar is most definitely an adult arena. It is specifically set aside as such. I especially think that if the primary function of the establishment is to serve booze (i.e. could we see them carding at the door without a significant decrease in capacity) then children should be verboten. I think that restaurants with a bar should discourage the seating of children at their bar (although those waiting for a table are perhaps, a necessary exception).

    Besides hampering, either directly or indirectly, the ability of many bar patrons to enjoy their evening (or morning, as was sometimes the case when I found myself at Carney’s). I can’t see any benefit for the kid. I learned to resent being tagged along and I certainly hated seeing those people drunk and wanting to crack wise with the kid. I’m not scarred by it, but I do remember not really caring for it. And even the classiest of joints are still aimed at “adult” behavior and interaction. Kids don’t need to be around this stuff even at its least harmful.

    So, I say this: Parents, if you respect your fellow patrons, leave your kids at home. If you don’t at least respect us, then dammit, at least respect your kids and leave ’em home still!

  4. ljclark

    Excellent points, MC and Scortch. And as for controversy, drinkboston is ready and willing to take the heat.

  5. Arnold

    And here I was hoping that this post was going to discuss the reasoning behind 21 being “of age” for drinking while 18 year olds are adult enough to vote for our leaders and go to war…

    I go out to bars of all types on a regular basis. Kids seem to appear primarily at Irish-style pubs and tend to disappear as the night goes on. Honestly, I’m more annoyed with the SUV-size strollers taking up space on the T.

  6. Taryn & Addy

    The “mommy and me” field trip to The Cantab Lounge on 8/15 has been canceled you grumpy old man!

  7. ljclark

    Oh dear, Scott. You’ve gone and pissed off my little nieces.

  8. Daddy Dearest

    This strikes me as akin to castigating all cell phone users for the boorish behavior of a relative few. The point isn’t the phone, or the kids, it’s the behavior. Noon on Sunday, come on in. 10 p.m. Friday, get lost. Focus on the behavior, not the demographics.

  9. Scott N. Howe

    Sorry, but the point IS the kids. For lots of good reasons, bars are for people who are over 21. Even the most well-behaved child should not be in a bar.

    As for cell phones … don’t get me started.


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