It’s senior night at the University of Maryland, and for 22-year-old Adam and his friends, that means they don’t have to pay a $3 cover charge at popular College Park bars.
Even a small savings is appreciated, because the guys go to bars four or five nights a week. Another way they save: “pregaming,” or warming up with drinks at home.
“We’ve developed a great method, which is to drink yourself retarded before you go out,” Adam says. He uses a beer bong for pregaming; the funnel attached to a tube is great for drinking fast.
At a sports bar just off campus, Adam’s friend Amir buys a round of kamikaze shots. The boys cheer and throw them back. They know that their beer-guzzling, shot-pounding, big-man-on-campus days are numbered, and they intend to make the most of them.
The guys feel they have a pretty good idea of what the “real world” will be like. Sitting in an office all day, if they’re lucky enough to get a job. Paying rent or moving back in with Mom and Dad. Dry cleaning. Taxes. 401(k)s.
One thing seems clear. It won’t be as good a time as college, where they have all the freedom of adulthood and almost none of the responsibility.
The Perfect College Day
Adam and his friends settle in for a game of quarters—bouncing quarters off the table and into a cup—and become so focused that no one notices when Adam slips away. A thin guy with light brown hair, Adam is boy-band cute. Today, he says, was the perfect college day: He went to two hours of class, watched an afternoon movie, had a study session, and worked out at the gym. Then it was time to start drinking.
When Adam returns, he’s grinning. “I’m going to hook up with my neighbor!” he says. He spotted Kelly, a brunette in a black dress, when he went to the bar for a drink. “We’ve had chemistry for a while,” he says. “I went over and did a little freak dancing just so she knows I’m interested.”
Fifteen minutes later, she’s sitting on his lap. With long, dark hair, Kelly is very pretty. She’s also very drunk, a fact that becomes obvious when she gives Adam a lap dance in front of his friends.
“He’s been crushing on this girl forever,” says Amir, leaning away so they can’t hear. “But he can do better.”
The most drunk Adam’s ever gotten was at a party where there was wine. Not used to drinking it, Adam didn’t know his limits: “I blacked out a little bit, but I remember playing around with a fire extinguisher in the hallway.”
Adam and Amir—friends since they were 11—both have internships at a marketing firm and are hoping to work there after graduation. Another friend, Mike, doesn’t have any job prospects. He figures he’ll join the Army or the National Guard. “I’m not good at anything,” he says. “I’m a pothead.”
Aside from marijuana, Adderall is the only drug Adam’s friends use. An amphetamine prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it sells on campus for $5 a pill to kids who use it as a study aid. Once when Amir took it, he read an entire textbook in one night. “It boosts your confidence,” he says. “Like, ‘Wow, I’m actually learning!’ ”
The guys usually smoke pot in private so they won’t have to share it with too many people. They almost never encounter harder drugs.
“I went to one party,” Adam says, “and I walked into the bathroom. This kid’s nose was bleeding because he’d tried to snort. I wanted to leave after that.”
As the friends continue their game of quarters, Adam leads Kelly onto the dance floor for some grinding.
Big Plans and No Time to Waste
At Jin Lounge in DC’s U Street neighborhood, 21-year-old Tiffany and ten of her friends are enjoying a night out. It’s happy hour, and the girls are sipping peach martinis and mojitos and snacking on Asian-fusion appetizers.
“Black people don’t mess with kegs!” says Tiffany, a fifth-year senior at Howard University.
A full-figured girl who talks and laughs loud, Tiffany has big plans and no time to waste. She’s already writing grant proposals to fund her first business: a cemetery. “People die every day,” she says. “I’m making logical business decisions that will never go out of style.”
Tiffany grew up in south Phoenix—“ghettohood,” she says—and started buying tequila lollipops from the ice-cream man in fourth grade. She got her first fake ID at age 12.
As a freshman at Howard, she went to house parties but found them juvenile. Odessa—cheap vodka—was the drink of choice, which meant hangovers were guaranteed. “You wear jeans and flip-flops versus dresses and heels,” she says.
Junior year, she started going to clubs like Platinum in DC’s Penn Quarter where the crowd is older and guys can afford to buy girls drinks. She still likes going to clubs and dancing all night—Love off New York Avenue, Northeast, and the Park at Fourteenth in downtown DC are favorites—but she considers happy hours more sophisticated.