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March 29, 2019
Friday night. Bright lights, excitement shining on faces, worry-free dancing of teenagers with nothing more incriminating than a bottle in one hand. A group of teenagers crowds around bottles of alcohol in a designated corner of the kitchen, some circle around a table of red Solo cups for a game of beer pong and a few bored attendees sit on a couch. Some spend the night taking drugs outside and throwing up in the host’s treasured vase. Others spend the night listening to the music playing in the background and catching up with friends, never touching drugs or alcohol.
Monday morning. A boy high-fives his classmate as they chat during a passing period, girls share notes on the last chapter of the history textbook they just read and a student looks over answers to a math test before turning it in at the front of the classroom. An outsider looking in would never be able to tell what any of them were doing on Friday night.
Party culture may be hidden, but it is still prevalent. Though 60.5 percent of 415 Lynbrook students surveyed by the Epic rated the prevalence of Lynbrook party culture from one through four on a scale from one to ten, with one being nonexistent, 19.3 percent of the students surveyed had attended a high school party where there was underage use of substances like alcohol and drugs. In a study conducted by Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Principal Investigator and Researcher Bettina Friese; the University of California, Berkeley, adjunct professor Joel Grube; and other researchers, about 25 percent of respondents in a 2011-2012 survey of 1,121 teens from 50 mid-sized California cities had had a party at their house within the last 12 months. Thirty-nine percent of that quarter of respondents stated that there was alcohol at their last party.
To many, partying in high school may seem like a staple of teenage life — even a rite of passage. An invite means that one is part of the “in-crowd,” and students often find pleasure in rebelling against parental and societal rules on staying out, drinking and using drugs or just in satisfying their curiosity about parties.
Among Lynbrook students, parties often take place in unassuming homes on otherwise quiet streets, and sometimes even beaches. Alcohol may be purchased by older siblings, parents or even teenagers with fake IDs. Invites come through text messages, Facebook events or quick exchanges between classes. Attendees are well-aware of the risks involved: on the smaller scale, those unaccustomed to drinking may experience vomiting and temporary clouding of the mind, and on the larger scale, drug use may lead to accidental overdoses, while over-the-top alcohol consumption can spur drunk driving. However, not everyone attends parties for the sake of drinking or doing drugs; some attendees who only attend a party once in a while may be simply curious about the party scene, while others may attend with the sole purpose of socializing with friends.
Behind every stereotype lies reality. That is no less true for party culture. In this issue, the Epic presents a centerspread on party culture in an attempt to shed light on the realities of those who attend parties, as well as their experiences and perspectives. In what forms does party culture manifest itself in the Lynbrook community? Why do students party? Who should take responsibility, and how? What is the significance of the drinking age? We welcome you to flip through our pages and take a deeper look at the Lynbrook party culture and its implications.
The pervasive scent of alcohol, the acrid burning of cigarette smoke and the din of vocals swirl in the back of a freshman’s mind as he struggles to remember how he got here — ding! Again he pictures the message, an invite to a party. He struggles to calm the butterflies in his stomach that come from recalling the question hanging in the electric air — should he go? The anxiety builds, with it the image of a scene filled with a variety of upperclassmen bound together by a motivation to be a part of party culture.
When innocent beginnings may lead to unexpected outcomes, why are teenagers continuously motivated to go to these parties? Of the total 415 students surveyed by the Epic, 80 Lynbrook students had attended a party with illegal or underage substance use. The most common reason given for attending parties was the social aspect. Often, party settings allow people to be more genuine with others than they usually would.
“When we first started drinking, my friends and I agreed that the main reason why we like partying is because every
one is so much more open — no one has a filter or barrier,” said senior Nancy Kumar*. “We always joke that drunk words are your sober thoughts that you don’t say. When you talk to someone, if they’re not sober, it’s like you get to skip the small talk and get to know people right away and have fun without worrying about being polite or worrying about what they think about you.”
Since many students normally socialize with the same group of friends at school, they may turn to parties as a place for meeting new people outside their friend groups. Because party-goers often look out for one another, they may feel a sense of connection despite never having spoken to each other. Not everyone parties for the same reasons, however, and differences in motivations for partying may cause some connections to stay alive only within the confines of party walls.
“There are subsets of people that usually don’t get along outside of party culture,” said senior Corinne Willis*. “I noticed that in our grade, we all get along at a party, and we’re all friends. But once you leave that environment, no one talks outside of their friend groups.”
Lynbrook’s largely academic culture has also led to attending parties as a form of stress relief. Partying allows students to step away from their homework into an environment where they can put their workloads behind them and let loose. For some, parties are the only feasible escape from an otherwise high-pressure academic mentality.
“Going to parties showed me both sides of Lynbrook party culture,” said senior Jennifer Smith*. “There are people who want to socialize, but at the same time, people are relieving stress because students here are under a lot of pressure. I think going to party settings and feeling more liberated is another way of escaping the pressure Lynbrook is known for.”
Similarly, while relieving stress, some students enjoy the recklessness that accompanies party activities. High school students are still in adolescence, a stage in life in which they learn their limits, and mature self-regulation capabilities develop gradually throughout adolescence in the brain’s lateral prefrontal cortex, according to a 2014 study by Duke University Professor Dustin Albert. Early adolescents are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior such as dangerous driving, drug use, binge drinking and risky sexual behavior — but at times, it is the thrill of partaking in such activities that motivates teens to party.
“Sometimes, people don’t want to party responsibly,” Smith said. “People think that substance abuse is the only way to escape academic stress, and I think in those situations, people want to be a little more reckless, and they don’t have limits.”
Some Lynbrook students are secretive about partying because they are wary of being associated with the negative connotations of partying. In a school where the party scene is mostly under wraps, the fear of judgement plagues many students’ minds.
The desire to fit in and feel like a part of a group is normal, and most people feel this way at times, especially in the adolescent and young adult years. Peer pressure prevention programs often educate students at a young age about overt peer pressure. Nonetheless, a subtle form of peer pressure persists, in the form of “lighthearted” pressure on others to experiment with substances such as alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.
“I felt a bit of peer pressure when I first started [partying],” said senior Ali Sanders*. “I’m not sure if it was intentional, but [others] kept asking me questions and telling me to smoke. I tried it, and I regretted it. I feel like [peer pressure is] easier to overcome if you’re confident, because now that I know my limits, I know when to say no. If you say you’re just scared, people will call you chicken, but if you say, ‘No, I’ve had this experience; I know I can’t take that,’ they’ll back off. “
The effects of peer pressure can be detrimental to those who fall under its temptations. Sometimes, its effects can change someone’s lifestyle entirely.
“Peer pressure is huge, especially at Lynbrook,” said senior Aditya Park*. “The more experienced people tend to pressure underclassmen and first-timers a lot. It’s scary what peer pressure can do to people — I know people who have been peer pressured to use nicotine devices, and now they´re addicted. I think the person that is pressuring someone should know that what they’re doing is going to affect a person’s life.”
The presence of peer pressure varies among parties.
“Of course people drink and do drugs, but not everybody does, and no one pressures others to,” Willis said. “I’ve never seen peer pressure happen. No one forces others to do anything, and it’s really someone’s own choice to do whatever they want to do. If someone doesn’t drink, we’re like, ‘more for everybody else!’ That’s the attitude around here.”
Inevitably, teenagers will have to make their own choices as they grow up. Horror stories about partying should keep people wary, but some teens think that they are responsible enough to experiment and set their own limits. Partying can bring out people’s inner personalities, revealing opportunities to meet new people. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual student to decide how he or she celebrates and relieves stress, whether that be becoming involved in party culture, or simply having a sleepover with friends.
The national drinking age debate
When I turned 18 a few months ago, I felt that I was finally entering the real world — one of autonomy and responsibility. I would no longer be able to blame my naivety for my slip ups, but this problem was overshadowed by the newfound freedom and privileges I would revel in: having the right to vote, getting my hands on a personal credit card and signing my own forms and paperwork. Clearly in the eyes of the law, I was now of a mature and responsible age. Or was I?
One would think that the U.S. government would be trusting of 18-year-olds, given the many privileges that come with being 18, which even include joining the military. But the government is rather leery of 18 year-olds or too stubborn to change pre-existing laws because purchasing and consuming alcoholic beverages is not among the list of privileges granted to an 18 year-old. Philosophically, it is absurd to think that I can enlist in the military and go to war to serve my country but not be able to enter a local bar for a small glass of beer.
The drinking age was raised to 21 in the 1980s when President Reagan issued a blanket requirement for all states in an effort to curb highway-related accidents and deaths. It’s no surprise that states quickly fell into line with this act since refusal to do so would have resulted in losing 10 percent of their federal highway funding. After the law was passed, there indeed was a significant decrease in road drinking deaths, yet what many fail to take into account are the other factors that could have largely contributed to the decrease, such as tougher seatbelt and driving under the influence (DUI) laws that have been passed since that time.
Even if the 1984 law was solely responsible for reducing the number of alcohol-impaired driving crashes and deaths, the act transformed the American drinking culture for the worse. Raising the drinking age has driven the practice of drinking underground, encouraging consumption of alcohol in risky, unsupervised settings such as high school parties and fraternity houses. The lack of supervision allows underage people to get away with binge drinking, and those who get hurt from excessive consumption or other alcohol-related accidents often refuse to seek medical attention for fear of legal consequences.
Keeping the drinking age at 21 also promotes a culture of defiance among teenagers and young adults. The prohibition of alcohol for adults between the ages of 18 and 20 has glamorized drinking as a form of rebellion rather than a natural transition into adulthood, thus encouraging harmful habits fueled by curiosity. In a desperate attempt to purchase or gain access to alcohol, many have resorted to fake IDs, which not only serve as threats to national security, but also put youths on the line, exposing them to the risk of incurring serious fines or serving jail time. If the drinking age were lowered, alcohol consumption would be less taboo for adults between 18 and 20 years of age, and as a result, young adults would be less likely to drink excessively in defiance of the law. Disrespect for authority is more prevalent now than ever in the U.S., especially with all the police brutality and opposition against our president, but changing the current legal drinking age can be the first step in turning the tides.
To think that 29 percent of U.S. road traffic deaths today involve alcohol is unsettling news,
but more frustrating is the fact that countries with a drinking age lower than 21, such as the U.K. and China, have lower proportions of traffic fatalities involving alcohol: 13 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Naysayers will be quick to point out that the 29 percent figure is lower than the percentage in previous years, such as the 31 percent in 2015. Nevertheless, lowering the drinking age will further prevent drinking-related fatalities, as underage drinkers will be more inclined to seek medical attention when intoxicated. The current drinking age of 21 is a relic from the 1980s that promotes dangerous alcohol abuse. It’s about time the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 be overturned once and for all.
Screeching brakes cut through the quiet of the night. The ambulance, flashing red and blue with blaring sirens heard from blocks away, tears through the neighborhood. The street is otherwise dark and empty except
for one house, pulsing with lights, noise and commotion, and in the dark, figures of frantic teenagers try to flee the scene. The possible repercussions? Arrests for underage drinking, overdoses from illegal substances, driving under the influence citations (DUIs) and much more.
Welcome to the darker side of high school parties.
In a setting where drinking, using drugs and other illegal substances can be common practice, the potential consequences can be fatal — from drinking-related car accidents to overdoses, a simple mistake can be devastating. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about a quarter of car crashes with teenagers involve an underage drunk driver, and teenage alcohol use kills approximately 4,300 people a year. Car crashes related to drugs account for about 18 percent of all motor vehicle deaths.
“Definitely know your limits. Get a designated driver — an Uber or your friend — so you’re not driving,” said senior Aditya Park*. “I tried driving drunk, and [my parents found out]. I felt bad because I had betrayed the wisdom that my parents taught me, to be responsible, and I was really disappointed in myself for making such a stupid mistake. My mom fell on her knees and started crying, and my dad just went silent and went to his room. So I really want to spread awareness about driving home safely because I was careless and irresponsible.”
Such incidents are preventable. Students and parents alike can use safety measures such as confiscating an individual’s car keys to prevent drunk driving, assigning designated drivers who will not drink and drive and limiting the amount of drugs and alcohol an individual intakes. According to a poll conducted by the Epic of 415 Lynbrook students, 61.3 percent of the 80 who have attended a party have had designated drivers for parties, while 48.8 percent of attendees have limited the number of drinks one intakes. Nevertheless, 30 percent have not put any safety measures in place while partying.
“It’s really scary to see some people who are just like, ‘oh, I’m used to it, I can drive high or I can drive drunk.’ Sometimes, a few of my friends and I get really frustrated because it sucks when some of your close friends fall into drug abuse or alcohol addiction and you don’t know how to help them,” said senior Nancy Kumar*. “It’s really frustrating because whatever we say to them just aggravates them, and it’s this fine line between not wanting to just control their lives, but also wanting them to stay healthy.”
Though accounting for safety is more effort on party-goers, it is necessary and pays off in the end, as incidences of hospital visits and DUIs can be avoided. Those who do not drink or use illegal substances may feel left out of the party experience, but they are the ones who ensure their friends are safe.
“It’s kind of like you’re missing out on an inside joke, where they’re all laughing and sharing the same physical feelings, and you know what it feels like, but you’re just not there,” Kumar said. “But afterward, I feel like it’s pretty nice. There have been so many times when I’ve helped people and people have helped me, and I’ve always remembered the people who have helped me and I’m always super grateful for them.”
In a party environment, friends can play both helpful and harmful roles in the safety of their peers. For instance, a teen may experience a moral dilemma when someone experiences a medical emergency at a party where illegal substances are present. If intoxicated teenagers call 911, they will get in trouble for the possession of those substances, but if they do not call emergency services, a person’s life will be put in danger. Though 73 percent of Lynbrook students polled said they would choose to call 911, decisions become often more complex when one is placed in a real-world situation, where judgement may be heavily impaired by alcohol.
“[At one party I was at], two girls in my class got alcohol poisoning, and the ambulances came, but I just ran away,” Park said. “That’s what most people do at parties — everyone just runs away. In this case, the person who rented out the Airbnb [for the party] got into trouble, and the people who got alcohol poisoning because they went to the hospital for underage drinking.”
While many parents play minimal roles in their children’s partying, their opinions can both directly and indirectly influence their viewpoints and behavior. Even though some parents are against their child partying, it may be difficult to prevent them from doing so anyway, and they may be even more inclined to party. Some parents may choose to host parties and supply alcohol for teens, while some readily allow them to go out, albeit with certain restrictions. Others may choose to ignore teenagers’ behavior because they want to avoid confrontation, or they do not want to harm their child’s social status.
“I trust my children, and most of the time, I know their friends, so if they let me know in advance where they’re going, who will be there and what kinds of activities they will have, I’m pretty much okay [with their partying],” said Lynbrook parent Kate Lin. “Teenagers don’t need your opinions. They don’t want you to educate them. They just want you to listen. So, I will remind myself to just not talk too much and just show my support and listen with my heart.”
Even though parents may support their children’s partying, laws known as social host ordinances hold adults accountable if they provide alcohol to minors on their property. The law deems it to be the responsibility of adults to ensure that teenagers cannot access alcohol. Therefore, if teenagers are caught drinking underage, property owners — who are oftentimes parents — can be subject to fines up to the thousands, even if they may be unaware of the situation.
Without parental supervision, partying in college can be drastically different from partying in high school. Parties become both more accessible and prevalent, and college students have more liberty to do what they want, but they also hold more responsibility to watch out for their own and each other’s safety.
“In college, most people have a new identity,” said Jessica Peng, Lynbrook Class of 2018 alumnus and current Columbia University freshman. “In high school, I feel like sometimes you fall into the mold that people think you are. In college, people don’t have any identity to follow, so when they are exposed to substances for the first time, they don’t feel a need to act a certain way or hold back, and it becomes easier to abuse them. It’s surprising — you’ll see some of the most innocent, studious kids in high school become completely different in college. Sometimes this is more dangerous because they haven’t had experience with it in the past so they can’t control themselves and end up falling apart. Surround yourself with the right people, because there’s a saying that you become a combination of the six closest people to you.”
Partying can have negative consequences on teenagers’ health and wellbeing, particularly if it involves alcohol and other illegal substances. Ultimately, tragic consequences result from not only one person’s actions, but also a complicated web of influences. Responsibility cannot be responsibly pinned down to one source in any given situation; it is still necessary to consider the necessity for responsibility itself.