1. You were a proud Guinness drinker at the tender age of 7!
It’s 1997, in the Midlands of Ireland. Your mother tucks her brand-new Dunnes Stores Value Club Card into her purse while your father loads the trolley with the week’s shopping. After the shopping you always go to Spollen’s pub — Mam wants a coffee and a chat, Dad wants a Guinness, and you and the rest of the boys want to watch the football because you don’t have the channel at home. It’s your Saturday ritual and to you, you are the typical Irish family. Inhaling the smoke-filled air, you anticipate your Dad’s pint more than he does. When it’s laid out in front of him, your eyes transfix on the glass and like pigs at a trough you go straight for the “cream.” You’re allowed that, and that’s how you started drinking in Ireland.
2. You signed up to be a “pioneer.”
“So who wants to be a pioneer?” Sister Oliver asks the class.
“But we just took The Pledge last year for our Confirmation, what’s the difference?!” Dan scoffs.
It sounded like it would get you extra points for the reward of eternal life, and a girl you liked signed up so you said you’d give up alcohol and drugs forever too. Remember when decisions were easy?
3. You first drinking venue was a rugby field.
Five years later in a pitch-black rugby field stand five skinny 17-year olds and two shoulders of Smirnoff vodka. You’ve seen the ads on tele but the only brands of alcohol you know are the ones on football jerseys. Nine words stood between you and eternal life: “Would ya come on and not be a pussy?!” so you pick up the bottle which seems a lot heavier than it looked, and your heart begins to race.
Your first real drink of alcohol is a lot different to the “cream” off your Dad’s pint! Back when you were 17 these drinks never looked like they had a taste different to any fizzy drink or cordial, so you assured your taste buds not to expect any different.
It was a cold night in the heart of the countryside, but it immediately warms. One shot and you didn’t need anymore. For the next two hours your brain told you that you were drunk and you believed it.
4. You knew drinking would get you some shifts.
“Can I borrow your ID?” you ask your 19-year-old brother. It’s New Year’s Eve and the number one on your top 10 has been texting you, you’re guaranteed a shift at midnight.
At that age you’d risk life and limb for anything more than a glance from a number one! Although you looked absolutely nothing like the person whose ID you borrowed, you still had confidence that the bouncers would empathize with your effort and let you in.
Thankfully your brother agreed to give you his student card, so you’re guaranteed a sloppy shift at 12! You walk up to the door rattling with nerves and struggle to pull out the card behind its plastic protection in your wallet. “Don’t take student cards…next,” came the reply. You’re shocked, but you beg! We’ve all rehearsed exactly what to say to a bouncer at that age and you ream it off word for word! You tell him who your parents are and your exact address, you even remember to say your brother’s name instead of yours. He concedes and lets you in. It’s your first time in a club and you’re the only one there. It’s free before 11 and you get a free glass of champagne on arrival, why isn’t anyone else here? Is 10 o’clock too early?!
5. Your 18th birthday was celebrated with a pint of “the black stuff.”
“Happy Birthday!” the gathered crowd of friends roar. It’s your 18th and now no person will stand in the way of you and your poison of choice.
Up until now, your decision to drink vodka was based on the fact that you could down it before anyone saw you with it, you progressed to cider because it was the closest thing to Cidona! The second you turn 18, you walk with a swagger that would make Mick Jagger blush — you’ve earned the right to be at the pub.
“Pint of Guinness please” you ask the barman with a renewed sense of confidence. The bar stool heads turn with dismay towards you while you keep your eyes towards the Late Show playing on the pub’s only television. “250 years old it’ll be next year” one of them says. You’ll remember that, could be useful information at some point. As you proudly show off the first drink of your adult life, your brother is quick to make fun “Jaysus, I said to start drinking like a man, not like an auld lad”. The taste of that pint wouldn’t be topped until you discovered the splendours of visiting Supermac’s after a night out.
6. College was the climax of your drinking days.
College is where Irish people really learn how to drink and party. Up until this point you’ve been limited to your own town’s parties and perhaps a Leaving Cert holiday to an island that has appeared on Boozed up Abroad. The party world is now your oyster as you mingle with people from all over the world! Galahad, Karpakie, Dutch Gold or Bavaria were household college beers. Purchasing name-brand beer such as Miller or Budweiser was a treat, most likely consumed at a €3 drinks night at your student bar.
Eventually, drinking became competitive, and you can guarantee your liver will eventually hate you for it someday. The idea of doing the Irish drink and chat was gone to you the second you met American exchange students. Your lives were then enriched with games like Beer Pong and Flip Cup. You may suck at regular sports, but on the drinking game stage you can be a God among men, and display more confidence than the cocky lad on the GAA team.
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