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I’ll Take the Towels

better wet towel

A high school classmate posted this Washington Post essay on Facebook with a comment about how true it is.  My first reaction was jealousy — who gets to natter on about wet towels for pay? Somehow I missed out on a gig like that.

But then I experienced another layer of envy.  I, too, have a college student home for the summer. It’s not the towels that bother me, it’s the beer.

Let me explain.

Our son will not reach legal drinking age until November 2017—precisely 17 months from today, as a matter of fact. Nonetheless, a few days after he arrived home for the summer, three cans of Coors Light mysteriously appeared in the refrigerator.  He had been at a friend’s house the night before, so I remarked that it was very nice of them to send those beers home for David and me, and he laughed.

Then David discovered the cardboard cover from a 30-can “suitcase” of beer in the recycling bin.  We mildly inquired how it had gotten there.

Christopher promptly explained that he brought the offending cardboard and three leftover beers home from the friend’s house, because leaving them there “wouldn’t have been cool.” We gathered from this reasoning that other under-age drinkers had been at the gathering as well.

Who bought the beer? Curious parents want to know.

Christopher went on to inform us that Rose Liquor, which is in a dodgy part of Long Beach, does not card its customers.  He claimed that he, personally, didn’t buy the beer, but chipped in like a good sport of course.

I know college students drink.  Some of them, a lot.  I also recognize that I have a highly developed and oversensitive radar about this issue, coming from a long line of intractable alcoholics who trashed their entire lives and the lives of their families. We’ve talked about genetic risk with Christopher since he was in grade school.

But now I confined the conversation to more direct, less abstract topics.  Not smart to be in dodgy neighborhoods at night. Risky to drink at 19, when brain cells are still developing. Understand that if anyone overdoes it and ends up in the ER or crashes the car after drinking Rose Liquor libations you’ve brought to a party, you’re going down.

When kids are away at college, you know they’re doing this stuff there, too, but in a way you don’t have to know. Having the evidence in my face, my refrig, and my recycling bin makes me wish that all I needed to worry about were wet towels strewn on the floor.

About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

2 responses »

  1. My parents told me that when I was in college they told themselves that I was in my dorm room or my apartment studying every night. I had to do the same with my kids. Otherwise, my imagination would have run amuck. Drinking at home was not allowed except for the rare occasion when we offered them “a” beer in our presence after helping with yard work or such. Still, it didn’t stop them (particularly our boy) from getting beer from other sources and drinking at parties. We stressed the no drinking and driving thing and always told him we would pick him up no questions asked.

  2. Yes it makes parenting difficult. I always felt an internal conflict too knowing that our drinking age was 18 in NJ and then when my children are growing up, it’s 21. I was lucky because our children somehow knew that they couldn’t have it in our house. We knew they might be drinking elsewhere but they didn’t push the issue with us. The “not under my roof” idea seemed to be implicitly understood. I’m glad they are older now and made it through.


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