Don't even think about drinking alcohol until you are 21 years old!
Great, but around the age of 16, you feel like an adult, and around the age of 18, you basically are an adult, so let's actually think about drinking before you are 21 years old. If you're considering trying out a drink or two, I first want to point out that drinking can turn you into an idiot. It can make you throw up in front of someone really cute, it can make you get into fights with your friends, and it can get you into serious, life-ruining trouble at any age. That said, the key to doing anything that might get you into trouble is knowing what you're up against. Sometimes, adults want to shelter you from details because they simply don't want you to get into any trouble, period. But withholding important information everyone should have access to (even bratty teenagers) is the worst idea ever and leads to more of the worst ideas ever.
When I was growing up, before the internet was really a thing, drug and alcohol lessons were doled out in two unhelpful ways. The first lesson was NO, similar to the NO in the worst kind of sex education: Nope! Just don't do it until your wedding night with Jesus. Class dismissed! The second lesson was the D.A.R.E.-style insanely detailed yet incorrect "information" about how one beer leads directly to quintuplets and a face tat. We knew the second lesson was bullshit even then, and the NO approach only made the exotic world of begging a hobo to buy you Budweiser that much more tempting.
Of the half-dozen or so times I was arrested as a minor, I'll share the incident that was probably the most serious and definitely the most hilarious.
Me: 16 or 17, bored out of my mind, over-plucked eyebrows. I loved school and people and sometimes even my parents. I got good grades, did extracurricular activities, and tried to be nice. I also wanted to try cigarettes, throw ragers, and figure out what marijuana was like and if it was possible to grow in the abandoned lot near our house (it wasn't). And drinking. I wanted to drink alcohol because, really, what else were you going to do in a depressed ex–mining town that held roughly the same hours as a post office?
So there I was, young and bored and doing the absolute coolest thing you can do in high school: hanging out in a parking lot. There were a few cars and eight or nine kids sharing six warm beers. When half a beer was passed to me, I choked it down super-nonchalantly while someone played Rage Against the Machine. One of my best girlfriends was also there, somehow already wasted beyond belief—she'd driven there sober, apparently with zero forethought. A few really cool hours passed, and I offered to drive her and another friend home in the tiny red sports car her mother had surprised her with when she got her learner's permit (side note to parents: NO).
We hadn't made it very far on the journey home when a cop passed us. At that point in my life, the sight of a cop car triggered sheer horror—the kind of fear that causes your common sense to evaporate into lizard feelings. I racked my brain. What were the rules? What was going to happen? The cop flipped around. OH MY GOD, I was driving under the influence of four ounces of beer two hours ago. Quintuplets and a face tat. I had a wasted, underage friend in a car that was not mine. Prison. I was going to prison. So I decided on what seemed like a good way to get out of the situation: I sped up. The cop lights went on. I just kept going. Everything I'd been taught about trouble flooded to the surface: You are doing a NO and your life is over.
Maybe if I made a quick turn, he would just leave us alone?
I turned into an alley, drove maybe one more block, and gave up. I stopped the car and got out. That's what you do, right? I was panicking. The cop yelled, "FREEZE," so obviously I yelled, "I'M JUST PULLING THE EMERGENCY BRAKE!" In all of 15 seconds, I dipped my head back into the car, looked at my friends, looked back at the flashing cop lights, sized up the middle-aged officer, and said, "I think I'm gonna run." Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, I RAN FROM THE CAR. I bolted into a backyard, through a side yard, and onto the street. I jumped a fence and then another fence. I was so fast! I held the record for the 200-meter dash in sixth grade! I was home free! Blocks flew past, and all I could hear was my heart beating through every pore in my face, and then... the sound of a police radio fuzzing behind me. The next thing I remember was my face hitting the street. I was tackled, handcuffed, and told to remain on my knees with my hands behind my head until a backup car came while the officer barked questions at me. A Breathalyzer was administered, which read 0.00. After writing me various tickets for speeding, evading the police, and obstruction of justice, all they kept saying was "WHY DID YOU RUN?"
Great question. Well, because I had no idea what the actual consequences of my not-that-horrible behavior were. I'll spare you the details of how I convinced the cop to leave me at a friend's house because "my parents were on vacation," and how I pulled the same stunt in court, AND how my parents found out about the whole ordeal IN THE NEWSPAPER after I pled guilty, and leave you with this—if you want to have a beer, have a stupid beer. Do it in your parents' basement and never leave the house. If you're going to a party, figure out the risks of that party getting busted. Know what to do if you get pulled over—being the designated driver is actually a really, really good thing, and taking care of your drunk friends is important. If someone passes out, this means their body has had enough. Never, ever leave a passed-out person asleep on their back—they could vomit and choke to death. Learn everything you can about drinking laws and then make a decision based on that. When you get older, your parents and teachers will have forgiven you for whatever you did, and maybe someone will let you work at a weekly newspaper. Face tats and all.