Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Confessions of an (ex) Underage Drinker

Talking to one of my fellow boarders a few weeks ago, we talked about burnout. We were one of the youngest entrants into the boarding house at 14, sharing a dorm with 5 other girls.

People have this idea that boarding is a really strict place, full of matronly cane-wielding mistresses and regulated by bells.

The bells part is true, and we did have a lesbian matron but no canes. I guess laws are far to tight for that to happen, as are the fact that 96 rich brats crammed into a square area smaller than most of their houses would mean a much lighter hand.

There are schools where as I read somewhere

“the girls are all too rich to bother passing their finals, but come out knowing how to braid a pony’s tail and make a mean salmon confit”

My school was nothing like that. The girls were rich enough not to bother passing, but we did. My school was consistently one of the top finals scorers. Out of say, 16 of the top Australian students for the cohort, at least 3 or 4 would come from my school.

It was a proud history that about 80% of our school consistently scored within the top 10% of Australia, while inculcating proper ladies’ values into us. (equestrian was never an option at our school, but Elizabethan dancing for the Year 7s was compulsory, as was ballroom dancing in Year 9)

No matter what the school culture however, when highly coddled girls suddenly get set free into the wilderness, despite incompetent neo-Christian boarding house wardens or perhaps because of it, we didn’t just go wild, we went feral.

Don’t get me wrong. It was just as dramatic as stories tell you. A girl tried to commit suicide every year. One a semester was the usual number. We’ve had a coke addict openly shooting up in a bathtub, and lesbianism is indeed a feature. Especially since many of the girls were sent into boarding because they were lesbian. (don’t ask. I don’t understand the logic either) Nearly all of us were depressed and borderline. Most of us came from broken homes. There were 3 bulimics in my year alone. It wasn’t particularly healthy. Perhaps it was combined with the freedom and the need to numb the pain that made us turn out the way we did.

We started partying way younger than everyone else. Public school kids may start young, but they still had to go home to parents. Us? We got kicked out for 2 weeks every term, where we would have to find our own lodgings. HA.

And partying so hard so young, when everyone gets into the crazy drinking phase at 18 when they 1st hit uni, we’d join in the fun, just because this would be the first time we were legal.

After that, it was burnout. While 18 was the beginning for everyone else, it was the beginning of the end for us. Not only had we done the same thing for years that everyone else was seeing as novel, now it was LEGAL. Where was the kick now?

And slowly, our tastes in alcohol changed too. All of us started on the usual Vodka Cruisers and Bicardi Breezers, and we all moved on rather quickly to JDs and 80% Vodkas (I did say we were party hard people) and now, as I talk to my friend, I realise it seems most of us have hit the merry middle.

We’ve developed “our drink” a lot younger. I drink Whiskey/Bourbon and Cokes. I make the exception for Chivas. She drinks fine vintage reds. Others I’ve talked to have all developed their own preferences.

Some have gone all natural and started taking Liver Cleansing Pills.

3 girls have gotten married. 2 engaged. We’re 23.

Our days of rebelling against the tyranny of not being able to watch X-Files, Buffy or Charmed and even Dawson’s Creek are now over and it’s time to settle into those men’s club leather chairs and drink port in bunny slippers.

Someone pass me the Johnny. And say hi to Jack and Jim for me.