American children receive almost zero education in the finer points of drinking, and of tavern etiquette, cocktail savvy, personal tolerance, etc., they rarely of ever hear so much as a word before finding themselves at large and forced to fend for themselves in an unpredictable world of booze and boozeheads. Their lack of knowledge causes them to make stupid decisions which can lead to tragedy, such as dying from alcohol poisoning after knocking back two dozen shots of Svedka Clementine at some douchebag frat party. It isn’t the alcohol’s fault. Such calamities are born first of ignorance.
As professional drinkers we are, of necessity, the arbiters, the village elders even, of intoxicated culture, and as such it is beholden upon us to provide guidance to such potentially lost souls, so send them into the world armed not with myths and superstitions (D.A.R.E. to Keep Your Bullshit to Yourself!), but with facts.
We might approach the problem from any number of directions, but I wish to focus upon the most unaware members of young society—kids. Pre-teens. Young-uns. The ones that ain’t got tits and whose balls haven’t dropped.
Taken them to the bar. Stand firm against the deluge of moral outrage that could come your way, and do it. Do it a bunch of times, in fact. We’ll get to some specific “whys” in a sec, right after a few short, common-sensical caveats.
Caveat One: Barring circumstances which might suggest otherwise, make sure you take your kids to the bar. Dragging random tykes in off the street is a Pandora’s Box waiting to spill its fetid contents all over your life. That, and it’s a little creepy, too.
Caveat Two: Don’t haul the little monsters along on specialty nights. “Implants Drink Free” night, and “Get a Lap-Dance from a Meth-Head” are really not the direction you want to head. Same with “Transsexual Sunday Brunch” and the ever-popular “50% Off to Whoever Can Puke the Most Colors.” Use a little sense. It rarely hurts.
Caveat Three: Other suspect activities include: Strip Beer-Pong, Keg Stands, Beer Bongs (unless the child is over 16), Mosh Pits, Shot Wheels, and any room where Silicone and Bo-Tox are more popular than un-doctored flesh and laugh lines. Avoid bars where the smell of dirty mop water is tolerable only because it masks odors of a far more horrifying sort, as well as those special dives where, when you touch the bar, your hands come back black. I mean really…
And those are my caveats. The MADD Mothers could probably rack up a bunch more, but I really don’t give a crap. I want the opinion of a Mad Mother, I’ll talk to my own, thank-you very much.
So, if you’re ready to schlep your offspring along to your local, here are a few humble suggestions as to how you can go about it.
Pop by your usual watering hole in the early afternoon. The sun is out, the place isn’t too packed with customers; altogether a more mellow atmosphere. Take a seat at the bar. Get your kid one beside you. Order your standard libation and whatever is appropriate for the child (which largely depends upon your and the bartender’s flexibility). Introduce your little one to the barkeep and to any of the regulars who might be on hand. Give em some quarters for the juke, or to play pinball or Golden Tee. Explain to them what the taps are and how they work, and about the position of the bottles behind the bar—top-shelf, bottom-shelf, etc. Offer a primer on shakers, strainers, garnish, bar mats and the other tools of the drinks trade they are likely to be unfamiliar with. Give em a sip of your beer.
Kids will learn that bars aren’t weird, scary places that adults disappear inside of to engage in mysterious acts. They will come to see that bars are companionable centers of community good cheer; places to have fun, goof around, shoot the shit with friends, and otherwise happily indulge oneself. Taverns have fulfilled this function for centuries, all over the globe.
We need to educate our children instead of shielding them. Prolonging adulthood for 18-21 years as we do in this country doesn’t keep kids from making dumb decisions. It only leaves them unprepared for life’s complexities.
Take your kid to the bar. Call it home-schooling with a real-life bent.