Last May more than 130 people turned up at St. Paul’s School on a Wednesday night to hear 10 students talk candidly about how they spent their weekends.

The event was moderated by Lucy Martin Gianino, a board member of Parents in Action, a New-York-based nonprofit founded on the idea that effective parenting is a primary form of substance abuse prevention in children. Martin Gianino, a bespectacled middle-aged woman with a tough-love demeanor, had moderated such panels in New York City venues before. The first was held in 1986, after a popular high school senior from a well-to-do family was killed in a hit-and-run accident while coming out of a Manhattan bar late one night. The tragedy helped wake people up, says Martin Gianino. “The myth is that these things don’t happen to nice families or to kids in nice schools. The purpose of the panel discussions is to educate parents that yes, their children are at risk, and yes, these things are going on.”

On that May night, the three-hour discussion at St. Paul’s touched on issues of underage drinking, drugs and sex. “I think some of the parents went away quite stunned,” says Martin Gianino. The St. Paul’s event was sponsored by the Parents Council of Greater Baltimore, an organization that promotes parental leadership in area independent schools. It was so successful that another one is planned for March 10 at a site yet to be determined.

Last summer we organized our own roundtable discussion in the Style magazine suites. We tapped students from private, public and parochial schools. Some were athletes, some were musicians; most were active in school organizations and extracurricular activities. All were smart, ambitious kids from loving families. Through the discussion, we learned that drinking, drugs and sex are part of a normal weekend for many Baltimore-area teens; that cell phones have helped increase the size of parties exponentially; and that many parents have no idea what’s going on.

The Panel

The names of our panelists have been changed in the interest of allowing them to speak freely and honestly. Their school and class year are accurate as of summer 2002.

Allison, public school senior; Jack, private school junior; Carlos, public school junior; Walker, private school junior; Zoe, private school junior; Susan, parochial school junior; Jennifer, parochial school junior; Wendy, private school junior; Brandon, private school junior

STYLE: Let’s start off by talking about a typical weekend in Baltimore. Is there something happening every night? Is this a big party town?

JACK: I think that, ideally, everyone wants there to be a party. It’s pretty rare that a huge one happens— like a hundred people or more than that— but there’s always something to do, somewhere to go.

WALKER: I think that one of the things about Baltimore that’s different than a lot of cities is that on weekends the only thing teenagers do is go to parties or go to people’s houses and try to get drunk, and in other towns people do stuff. They go bowling or to the movies. They do stuff that’s just different from here. And I don’t know what causes that. It might be the city, it might be the fact that there’s only two movie theaters downtown. People don’t really utilize downtown Baltimore as much as they should here. They just hang out in suburbia and go to parties.

STYLE:  So is there just not enough stuff to do in the suburbs?

ZOE:  There’s a lot to do, but we just don’t utilize it, and we claim that there’s nothing going on. No one tries to reach out and think of things. … I like to find opportunities to go do stuff other than going to parties, but I can never think of something that other people would want to go do. During the winter I was like, “Let’s go downtown ice skating.” And my friends were like, “No!”

STYLE: Why is that? Is it just easier to go to someone’s house?

ZOE:  Yeah, and it’s just more of a comfort zone, and you feel that going downtown to go ice skating is somewhat juvenile. You feel like you’re not cool enough.

STYLE: Same with bowling, or going to a movie?

WENDY: You feel like you’re in sixth, seventh grade, when your parents had to drive you.

JACK:  If there’s nothing else going on, like, if it’s been determined that no parties are going to happen, then sometimes a group of people will go downtown, to a club or something— if they can get in.

The Cell Phone Network

STYLE: So how do people find out about parties?

EVERYONE: Cell phones! (laughter)

WENDY: Word spreads pretty fast. They’ll call someone, and then they’ll call someone, and all of Baltimore will be there in half an hour.

JACK: It’s exponential. It’s impossible to have 20 or 30 people over because you tell your five friends, and each of those people call five friends on their cell phones, and each of those people call five cell phones. Suddenly, all these people you don’t know are at your house.

STYLE: So how do you prevent that?

ZOE: You don’t tell anyone. You invite people there, and you say, “All right, this is it.” You have to trust your friends, that they won’t call people. Sometimes people are assholes, and do it anyway. A lot of parties have lists of people at the door.

STYLE: Like at a club?

WALKER: Yeah. It never used to be like this. I know older people who have graduated and they can’t believe it. When they hear that there’s lists at parties of people that can get in, they’re like, “What is that?” It’s something that people don’t like to do, but a lot of times, people have to have a list at their party so that it doesn’t get too big.

STYLE: Who’s got the list at the door? Do you have a bouncer or something?

JACK: The big kid.

STYLE: Like, a linebacker, or something?

JACK: Yeah, pretty much.

BRANDON: I once had to stand at a door, and I made people promise they wouldn’t puke, they wouldn’t sit on anything, they wouldn’t break anything. As long as they promised, I let them in. Then so many people broke their promise. It looked pretty bad the next day.

ZOE: You think these people are your friends, and, two hours later, things are missing from your house.

WENDY: I have friends who live in a gated neighborhood, and sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t because people know the codes. The list thing only works sometimes. People can just follow you in.

BRANDON: There was a classic one when I was a freshman. There was a kid in my class— not to be mean, but he was an unpopular kid. He didn’t hang out with the popular crowd. But he told his best friend that his parents were gonna be out of town and so we just made this big joke: “Party at this kid’s house.” We wrote it on chalkboards and everything. And the kid got all scared. And everyone shows up at his house and he’s not there. You know, he called the cops on his own house. But that happens a lot. When somebody’s out, and they know that their parents are out, then other people will just throw a party at their house in the driveway.

Party Principles

STYLE: Let me ask a couple of basic questions: Why are these parties so important? What are you going to the parties for?

WALKER: There’s a whole spectrum of reasons. I mean some people go to get drunk, some people go to hook up with someone, some people go just to see people they haven’t seen in a while. Some people go to do drugs, some just because there’s nothing to do. Some people go even if they don’t want to go because their friends are there.

ZOE: I’m not sure about public schools, but in the private school scene, we might feel that we’ve had a stressful week, so we want to go out and hang out with friends and try to go to a party, if possible.

STYLE: So it’s looked at as an opportunity to blow off steam?

ZOE: Definitely.

CARLOS: Yeah, I think it’s pretty much the same in both public and private schools.

STYLE: Is there any shame on Monday if you didn’t go to any parties and everybody else did?

MULTIPLE PEOPLE: You feel left out.

WENDY: Monday’s the recap. You want to be part of something.

ZOE: Monday at lunchtime, you just talk to your friends about what happened and laugh at them, especially me, cause I’ll be like, “You don’t remember what you did, do you?” And they’re like, “No.” But I remember!

STYLE: Are parents ever at these parties?


CARLOS: Sometimes… but some parents don’t care; they’re cool about it.

WALKER: If parents are there, they usually just hide in their room.

SUSAN: It’s a “If I don’t see it, it didn’t happen” type of thing.

JACK: They’ll say, “Stay in the basement and give me your keys,” or something like that.

CARLOS: There’s those parents and then there’s the parents who would care if they were there, but they’re nowhere to be found. They’re out of town or something.

JACK: There are even some parents who party with kids. It freaks me out. Like they’ll play drinking games with us.

STYLE: Do they buy the beer for you?

ZOE: Sometimes.

BRANDON: They do at big parties, or special parties like graduation.

STYLE: Is there ever a case where the parents are there and there’s not drinking? Or if there’s no drinking, is there not a party?

JENNIFER: There are parents who do say that there’s no drinking and they stick to that, but the people end up leaving.

ALLISON: Or they sneak it somewhere and then they go off [to their cars]. They like pre-game the party in their car.

ZOE: I remember I had people over one time and we had been driving around and there was nothing to do and so I was like, “Oh, you guys can come back to my house,” and people started carrying in beer, and I was like, “My parents are right upstairs!” And they said, “All right, then we’re leaving.” People have a hard time being somewhere without alcohol.

JENNIFER: You can’t just sit around, watch TV, or something like that.

WENDY: Whenever I have people over that’s the first question asked: “Can we drink here?”  There are people who are dependent on drinking in order to go out, which is kind of ridiculous that you can’t really socialize without being intoxicated.

The Ideal Parent

STYLE: So what’s the ideal parent in a situation like this? I’m sure you all won’t have the same answer.

JACK: Wait, our ideal parent or the ideal parent of the person’s house we’re going to? (laughter)

STYLE: I want to know what your ideal parent is.

WALKER: Probably, the parents I have now. They’re really, really relaxed about what I do. I can call them and say, “I’m going to a party, it’s at this person’s house and there are no parents home.” And they trust me to make my own decisions. When I come home we joke around about the night. I once called my dad from a party and he said, “Let me talk to somebody.” And I said, “You want to talk to somebody you know, or somebody you don’t know?” And he said, “Somebody I know.”  And I asked him if he wanted to talk to somebody who was drunk or sober, and he said drunk, and so I handed a friend the phone.

JACK: I think that my ideal parent would be one who accepts that we drink. Kids are always going to find a way to buy beer and get drunk if they want to do that, and if they just like accepted that, everything would probably be a lot safer and everything would work out a lot better than it sometimes does.

STYLE: Any other opinions about that?

WENDY: I personally disagree with parents being there for parties because I think they are setting a horrendous example. First of all they’re putting themselves in a seriously liable situation. … I think they should accept [that we drink] but not promote it, and I think by allowing parties while you’re there is promoting it.

STYLE: So parents are in a weird spot…

ZOE: Yeah, it’s a difficult spot. And a lot of them are thinking their children are alcoholics right now. They’re suggesting their children go to AA and their kids are like, “What are you talking about? I don’t have a problem.” I think the parents aren’t understanding that this is what’s going on. They’re scared. They’re seeing their child stumble home weekend after weekend, and they’re like, “Why are you doing this?” and then they don’t understand that this is the only way we act and there’s no choice. You know, it’s hard to make the choice not to drink because it takes a lot of willpower and you feel like, if I’m going to go out, then why watch other people drink? And when you have to be the designated driver you’re in a bad mood that night and you’re like the party pooper.

CARLOS: Yeah, if you have to drive one night, it’s just like, everybody else had fun. On Monday, everybody’s talking about how much fun the party was, and you just don’t find that it was that much fun, because you weren’t drinking.

Drinking and Driving

STYLE: Is there always a designated driver?

CARLOS: You always make an attempt to find a designated driver.

ALLISON: You just have to make sure the designated driver isn’t the kind of person that’s like, “All right, I’ll have two beers. That doesn’t screw me up, and I can drive you.”

BRANDON: And there are a lot of kids who we no longer designate as driver for the night because we know they’ll screw up. So we’re like, “Forget it. We’re just going to pick you up because it’s not worth it.”

ZOE: I personally experienced two of my friends dying from a drunk driving accident, and I am active in the community, telling people not to drink and drive.

CARLOS: A lot of people don’t realize it until something like that happens, and then they’re a little more aware of it.

SUSAN: Yeah, three of our friends got in drunk driving accidents in like a month.

BRANDON: A girl I know was drunk and she trusted her best friend, who had been drinking, to drive her home in her car. She drove her home, and then the drunk best friend drove herself home. She smashed a mailbox, one of those brick mailboxes that are cemented into the ground. The mailbox went 20 feet in the air, landed in the middle of that person’s yard, and the girl woke up the next morning, saw her car, flipped out, didn’t remember what happened.

CARLOS: Yeah, I’ve heard some stories like that, people crashing into the guard-rail on Falls Road and keep going. And then they come home the next morning and they wake up… like, “Oh, what happened?” and just freak out. They’ll call their friends to see what happened. “Were you in my car last night?”

STYLE: How hard is it not to drink at these parties?

WENDY: I know a lot of people who choose not to and they’re so much fun to hang out with. Everyone loves to be around them because they just have that personality. I don’t think it has anything to do with drinking.

WALKER: It’s not that drinking or drugs can make you cool, it’s the fact that you can have a good time with people that makes you cool. And unfortunately, if somebody really can’t have a good time without doing that, sometimes you’d rather be with them if they are a little bit buzzed or tipsy because they’re in a better mood.

CARLOS: It’s not only people who drink that go to parties. Like you said, you only go to parties if you want to have a good time. Some people need alcohol to have that good time. There are a lot of people who drink that can’t socialize. So they don’t go to parties. They just sit at home and drink a bottle of vodka and listen to techno music.

STYLE: So how easy is it to get alcohol these days?

ZOE: I actually scared my mom once. She asked me, “How do you guys get it?”  And I was like, “Let’s go. Right now, let’s go get some… Do you want some beer?”  And she said, “Sure.” And I whipped out my ID and I went into a store, and I bought it.

STYLE: Fake ID, or…?

ZOE: My sister’s, yeah. I seriously scared my mom. She’s like, “It’s that easy?” And I was like, “Mmm-hmm.”

JACK: It’s too easy.

ALLISON: You don’t even need an ID sometimes.

WALKER: Anything you’re not supposed to get, you can get. I haven’t shaved in a month and I haven’t been carded for anything in a month.

STYLE: Are there certain stores you go to? Or are you saying you can get it at any store?

ALLISON: Well, there are some stores that are easier.

JACK: You can’t get it at Well’s or Eddie’s….

WENDY: You know where you can’t get it….  And you know if you’re desperate to get it, you know you can get it without having to worry about ID.

STYLE: Are we talking beer, vodka?

BRANDON: I think more people drink beer. It’s cheaper, it’s not looked at as badly, and you can’t get alcohol poisoning the same way. With beer you get full and you get kind of sick of drinking. But with hard alcohol you can just keep drinking, keep drinking… till you pass out.

CARLOS: Beer is easier to buy. One of my friend’s parents has a bar in her basement and there’s so much extra stuff there that they can’t possibly keep tabs on. That’s a way to do it. A lot of times parents think they’re hiding it really well from their kids and their kids know exactly where everything is. And if they mark the bottles or something then they’ll pour something similar back in.

BRANDON: I did that once. I had people over, and my dad has a lot of vodka bottles in the freezer. We thought we were being clever because when we would drink the vodka, we’d put water in it and then put it back in the freezer. But vodka doesn’t freeze and water does. So one night my dad went to have a screwdriver with dinner, but the vodka wasn’t coming out. He couldn’t understand why.

Drinking to Get Drunk

STYLE: Do you have different stages when it comes to drinking? Sometimes do you say, “I’m just going to drink a little bit tonight”? Or, “I’m going to drink to get drunk”?

JENNIFER: Yeah, I mean drinking games are fun, but the real point is to get drunk.

BRANDON: It’s kind of considered a waste of alcohol if you’re drinking, and you’re just drinking a few, and you don’t want to get drunk.

WENDY: I don’t think anyone ever thinks, “I want to be flat on the floor passed out so people can like throw things at me.”

JENNIFER: They’re just like, “I want to let loose,” but people don’t know their limits.

STYLE: Are there a lot of people throwing up at these parties?

CARLOS: Yes, but it’s different between guys and girls.

WENDY: Guys can just go throw up and come back.

JENNIFER: Yeah, girls are dramatic. It’s a whole show.

BRANDON: Yeah, once the girl throws up, you know she’s done for the night. You hold her hair back while she’s throwing up, and you put her on the couch in some room and let her go to sleep. Guys throw up and they come back out and start drinking again.

STYLE: Do houses tend to get pretty trashed?

CARLOS: Yeah, it happens. But it’s not like there’s a lamp broken and then five seconds later somebody breaks a mirror and things go flying everywhere. A lot of people know how to party. I have a friend who has parties pretty often. He usually takes the pictures off the wall and puts them in the closet before he has people over.

WALKER: I’ve noticed that the people who have parties tend to have more than one party.  When you realize that somebody’s going to have more than just one party, there’s kind of the idea like, “Let’s not mess up this guy’s house, because if you mess it up, he’s not going to have any more parties.” You want a place to go, so you just kind of savor it.

STYLE: How often do the police come?

CARLOS: Some people want the cops to come so that they can run from them. They think it’s fun.

BRANDON: That’s another thing to talk about on Monday: “We were running, and then we fell over this bush. We almost got caught.”

JACK: Or, “I’ve never run so fast in my life.”

BRANDON: Usually when the cops come, they just say, “Break it up, you’re disturbing the peace.” They don’t bust you for underage drinking. They just say, “Everybody leave.” Everybody leaves and then a few people come back, so it’s quieter.

CARLOS: At a lot of our parties, it’s just a lot of intimidation. We have helicopters come and they shine the spotlight on the people.

JACK: If there’s a party that warrants cops, that’s at least 60 to 70 people making a lot of noise. So that means you gotta write up X amount of kids. They don’t want to take the time to do all that. That’s a lot of time.

CARLOS: They know everyone’s just going to run away anyway. So they just show up, and everyone leaves and they figure their job is done.

STYLE: Are you going to stop drinking to get drunk at some point in your lives? Do you see this as a stage?

JACK: I’ll set a time when I’m gonna stop partying. Probably like, late college. It’s kinda like once you turn 21, it’s not as fun to drink.

CARLOS: It kind of takes the thrill out of it, if the cops can’t come to your party.

WALKER: And also, you just don’t do that as much— just go to somebody’s house to get slammed.

STYLE: Zoe, you mentioned that parents are worried about alcoholism. Do you see your friends becoming alcoholics?

ZOE: Totally.

WENDY: You can pick out two or three, that seriously, you have to pull them aside and say, “You’ve got problems.” I think there are some parents who see it and ignore it, and I think that some acknowledge it but say that my straight-A student who goes to so-and-so school, she has no problem. It’s just what they do. So, partying can be a lot of fun, but it also puts a lot of pressure on friends in the parenting sense, taking care of each other.

Party Drugs

STYLE: So, is drug use as popular as alcohol use?

JACK: I think it is. When you’re at a party and you’re drinking, you’re drinking with other people, you know? When you’re smoking pot, you’re out back. A lot of kids smoke. But you just don’t see it because they do it away from everyone else.

WALKER: There are those kids, no matter how cold it is outside, there’s always like four or five guys. They’ll smoke real quick and come back.

STYLE: You smell it, don’t you?

WALKER: Yeah, you smell it. But it’s outside. But also, some kids are starting to do cocaine. And it’s scary. It scares me a lot cause my friend’s doing it. I think those are the two drugs. Nobody’s doing acid, nobody’s doing ecstasy and stuff.

CARLOS: At my school, people do ecstasy. They steal Adderall (a drug used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder in children).

JACK: I know a lot of girls who are a year or two younger than me, and one of their dads is a doctor and she takes advantage of that. She does prescription drugs— Adderall and everything. She’ll grind it up and snort it. I was talking to my friend about it. He smokes pot pretty regularly and he drinks and parties really hard. But he doesn’t do anything else other than those two things and he was like, “What happened to good old-fashioned marijuana smoking cause they’re doing pills, cocaine now?”

WALKER: A lot of kids take Adderall and study for a test.

JACK: Yeah that’s true. They don’t even use it to get wasted.

STYLE: Why would you take it during a party?

JACK: It’s like drinking. It’s just another effect. It’s an altered state.

STYLE: So how easy is it to get drugs?

WALKER: I once thought it was easier than buying alcohol because you can’t get an ID to say you’re 21 when you’re really 15. But there’s no age minimum on pot.

JACK: It’s easy to get if you know people. But fights break out over drug money more than anything else. These parties are pretty peaceful, but when people start showing up because they have a delivery to make or something, then you have a whole mess in the front yard and the cops show up.

CARLOS: We have a lot of young teachers at my school and they all joke about 4/20.

STYLE: As in Earth Day?

EVERYONE: It’s National Smoke Marijuana Day. April 20th.

STYLE: Oh, there’s a National Marijuana Day?

CARLOS: It’s not an official holiday.

JENNIFER: Our prom was on 4/20. We had this speech before. The head of the schools was like, “You guys, I know today is affiliated with some unnatural habits. Can you not do that tonight?  Just appreciate the night and enjoy it.”

CARLOS: I’m on [student council] at school and our adviser is a pothead— he kind of flaunts it. He made our prom on 4/20 on purpose so he had an excuse to come. It’s funny, it’s just funny.

STYLE: Any other stories about your teachers?

BRANDON: At my after-prom party, my teacher came and started drinking with us.

STYLE: And what did people think about that?

BRANDON: It was the funniest thing we’ve ever seen. [Everyone laughs] I mean, picture a teacher holding alcohol. It was hilarious.

STYLE: Do you have classes on drug and alcohol abuse in school?

CARLOS: They have a course built into our curriculum, but I don’t see it as very effective. … I took it in summer school, and I learned more from the kids in my class than I did from my teacher because they can’t really connect with the students because they don’t know. They can speak from the ’60s and ’70s, but they can’t really speak from what’s going on now.

BRANDON: It gets old. People just don’t like to be told what to do. You don’t like it when somebody who doesn’t really know what they’re talking about gets up there and starts preaching.

JACK: And I don’t think they really know. … I’ve always thought it would be kind of funny if your parents followed you around one night and they couldn’t really do anything— they were kind of just a shadow, and they just witnessed everything. I think they would be just horrified.

Alcohol, Drugs and Athletics

STYLE: Let’s talk about athletics. Are student athletes drinking and doing drugs at parties?

JACK: Well, at my school, you have to sign training rules. And for the most part, only one sport follows training rules.

STYLE: Which sport is that?

JACK: That would be football. It’s obvious. These guys are heavy drinkers and they don’t drink during the football season. It’s kinda cool to see. But for most sports, it’s like, don’t ask, don’t tell.

STYLE: So does this coach say, “If I catch you drinking, you’re off the team?”

JACK: Yeah, you get suspended for a couple of games.

CARLOS: One of our school coaches holds practices early on Saturday. So if you’re drinking the night before, then you’re going to be retarded the next day. But on the other hand, we’re in the state semifinals this year and everyone went to Preakness that day. The game was at 3 o’clock and we lost because half the team was drunk.

WENDY: Our school right now is very high on training rules. One of our teams this year got caught. There was this whole situation with a private party where it was predominantly most of the players, a varsity-level team, breaking training rules. There was a huge ordeal and they all got suspended. So, we’re very strict on training rules from now on.

CARLOS: Some kids think that if they’re made to sign training rules, they’d go out just to spite them. You know what I mean?

JACK: You hear a lot of dedications [as people are drinking], you know? Like, “This one’s for Coach!”

WALKER: I know that the whole varsity lacrosse team last year smoked pot at least once a week. And their coach found out. He had this talk with them, like, “It’s come to my attention that some of you have been using drugs on the weekends, and we won’t tolerate that. If I find out about names, you’re gonna sit the next game.” But, that’s where it stopped. He wouldn’t kick them off the team. I hate to say it but some of them were really good. And he wasn’t about to do that. He’s actually a pretty strict guy, but it’s not like you’d get kicked off the team.

Party Sex

STYLE: What about sex at these parties? How prevalent is it?

WENDY: Usually, if people are going to have sex, it’s not there.

JACK: The only thing that’s really prevalent is kissing. That’s the only thing that you really see. Then the rest you just hear about.

CARLOS: People don’t appreciate it very much if two people are just hooking up right there. It’s frowned upon.

STYLE: These aren’t pick-up parties?

GIRLS: No. No.

JACK: Actually, your goal is to meet someone and get drunk. Basically.

STYLE: So you might get drunk with somebody and call her later?

JACK: Right, you definitely get phone numbers all over the place.

CARLOS: Cell phone numbers.

STYLE: There are some parents who fear that when these parties are happening the kids are having intercourse and oral sex. Do you think that’s an exaggerated perception?

ALLISON: I think they get that from movies and media.

BRANDON: I would say intercourse is an exaggeration but oral sex does happen.

CARLOS: Honestly, I don’t want to be graphic, but it’s more of a convenient thing to do.  You can run upstairs and do it if you want. It’s not a whole love-making session. You don’t burn the incense and all. With oral sex it’s more like you go into a car or off to the bathroom. That’s where you hear the weird stories. If somebody’s actually going to have intercourse, they usually leave and come back.

STYLE: People looking for real romance, right?

CARLOS: Right. Casanova doesn’t do it with broken bottles all around.

STYLE: And is this the kind of thing where you wouldn’t have intercourse with a stranger, but you would have oral sex with a stranger?

WALKER: It depends, but it’s more likely. Even though you can contract certain STDs through oral sex, but you’re not going to get pregnant, at least. That’s what a lot of people think. They can treat STDs or whatever, but at least they don’t have to get an abortion. [Oral sex] happens more frequently, but it’s not like all over the place, all of the time. I know that years and years ago— I’ve had talks like this with adults — and they were saying they were surprised that oral sex was happening so much cause back when they were in high school, oral sex was more intimate than intercourse. You were more likely to have random intercourse with somebody— with or without a condom— than to have oral sex. Now, it’s pretty much the opposite.

STYLE: How afraid are you guys of catching an STD or HIV?

BRANDON: I don’t know anyone my age who has HIV. Or an STD.

WALKER: High school kids and college kids are pretty safe— safer than a lot of people give us credit for. I know a lot of parents think it’s just random unprotected sex with all these people. But even if you know the person, you would still probably think to use protection before having intercourse with them.

JENNIFER: The girls do not want to have babies.

Communicating with Parents

STYLE: So, do you tell your parents where you’re going at night?

BRANDON: I have to. Or I’m not allowed to go.

STYLE: Is there any way for them to check up on you and make sure you’re where you say you are? Cell phones?

CARLOS: My parents usually don’t call me. I’ll say, “I’m going to so-and-so’s house.” That could be the truth or not, and they usually don’t check up on me.

STYLE: Do you think they should?

CARLOS: If they did, they might be kind of surprised. You never know exactly where you’re gonna go. You can’t always be sure.

WENDY: It’s better when they trust you. It means you’re less likely to do something that they wouldn’t know about. My parents trust me so I’m comfortable telling them anything.

BRANDON: Yeah, my parents trust me. I came home hammered one night, because I mixed my alcohol and you just can’t do that. And my mom made me sit with it for about seven hours. And then, she gave me medicine. I felt better. She just wanted me to learn my lesson.

JACK: My parents would nail me if they found out if I came home like that.

BRANDON: My parents and I have a very open relationship where they tell me stories from high school and, in return, I might not tell them stories specifically of my friends because they know my friends, but I would be more general in telling them what was happening, maybe. In the case when I came home hammered, they were very open with me. They came to my room and asked what I had drank and I told them. Personally, I think that’s an ideal parent. The one who is willing to help you if you’re hammered. But they don’t accept it and they don’t say that it’s cool.

STYLE: How many of you have had your parents see you drunk?

BRANDON: And know it? (Everyone laughs.) Because sometimes you come in the house and you hide it really well.

JACK: Other times they ask you if you’re drunk and you say no, other times they ask, you say yes. There are a lot of degrees of seeing you drunk.

CARLOS: I almost got caught once. I wasn’t so much messed up, but my mom came downstairs… She didn’t suspect anything, but she knows what she did in high school and everything. So she says, what did you do tonight? I told her, I went to this kid’s house and he had some people over. That’s as far as I get because that’s all she wants to know. Then she goes, “Your eyes are red.” I was like, “He had a cat. My stomach doesn’t feel good. I have a headache.”  It all just came out like that. She was like, “You seem really anxious.” Actually, my sarcasm helped me because I just said, “Cause I was drinking and doing drugs.” She pats me on the shoulder, rolls her eyes and goes upstairs.

STYLE: Do you think she thought you were drunk or not?

CARLOS: I don’t know if she knew, but the thing with my parents though, is that they know I’ve tried it once after junior prom cause I was completely honest with them.  And after my dad’s reaction, I found out that as much as I can have an open relationship with my mom, I really can’t with my dad. It feels really bad because I would really feel more comfortable if I could tell them everything.

STYLE: The two young women over here, Jennifer and Susan, you said your parents have seen you drunk. Do you want to talk about what that was like? How many times has that happened and what were the consequences?

JENNIFER: I had gotten really sick one night and I asked my friends to take me home. I walked in and I just walked up to my bed. My parents knew cause I was stumbling up the steps. They were like, “What’s wrong with you?” I was like, “I’m really not feeling good.”  My parents came to me with water and they were like, “I’m glad that you asked to come home, rather than to try to hide it.” They just were glad that I came to them.

STYLE: You said they trust you, yet they know you get drunk. So, do they trust you to get home if you get drunk? Do they trust you to drink responsibly?

SUSAN: Each night, they’ll be like, “Are you drinking tonight?”  I’ll be like, “I may be drinking, but I’m gonna take care of myself.” I’ve known the consequences of being sick. I don’t want that to happen anymore.

JENNIFER: Well, my parents and I don’t have a great relationship. So, when I’m drinking, for the most part, I’ll sneak out. A couple of times I’ve come home and my mom’s seen me drunk. I’ve gotten in trouble because she doesn’t want to see it. Sort of like an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

STYLE: What advice would you have for parents who are trying to talk to their kids?

JACK: Keep an open mind.

ALLISON: Trust them.

ZOE: The people who have to lie to their parents the most get drunk the most, and get caught the most. Those are the parents who act so overprotective yet, when their kids get caught, they’re just kinda like, “Oh, OK.” It’s like, if you’re laid back and you can acknowledge the fact that it goes on and you trust your child enough to be like, “Be smart. If you’re going to do it, do it. But don’t be stupid. If you get caught, it’s your fault. I told you not to.”

WENDY: I agree with that. I’ve had to lie about stuff and that’s when you get caught. That’s when you get in trouble. If parents are open-minded, and they acknowledge the fact it’s happening and it’s going to happen, you get away from that. It’ll be a lot easier on the kids. They won’t have to lie, they can be open with their parents.

STYLE: So you really want your parents to give you permission to drink?


STYLE: What do you want your parents to do?

ZOE: If I had parents like some of my friends who are like, “Where are you going tonight?” Then five minutes later, they call you on your cell phone and they’re like, “Are you there yet?” I’d kill myself. I’m not 5 years old. But my parents aren’t like that. My mom will ask, “Where are you going?” And I’ll tell her. My mom will be like, “Call me when you get there.” That’s just from a driving aspect, just to make sure that you get there. But I don’t have to call her while I’m at a party, I don’t have to call her when I’m coming home. She’s more like, “If you’re supposed to sleep here and your plans change, just let me know. Because God forbid something should happen to me and I need to get a hold of you. I just want to know where to reach you. It’s not so I can be checking up on you.”

STYLE: So it’s not good for your parents to say, “You have my permission to drink. I know you’re gonna drink, so go ahead and drink.” But you don’t want them to check up on you?

JACK: If they accept that you drink, maintain an open mind, and they help you when you’re drunk. But you want them to trust that you’ve learned your lesson.

WENDY: You want your parents to give you space. But if you know you’ve got a problem, you can comfortably go to them and ask for help. I’m like that with my parents. If I ever did have a problem, I could totally tell them. They might be disappointed but they would never shut me out.

CARLOS: It’s really weird. I have like seven different parents in two. I get such mixed messages. They’ve always said to me since I was probably 12, “If you are ever at a party and you need to get picked up whether under the influence or not, come to us because we really feel better knowing that you’re safe.” Meanwhile, if I came home sick my mom would probably help me out, help me get into bed and everything, but my dad would probably stand outside the room, contemplating a way to lecture me about it.  But he’s the one who always says, “I want you to come back and I want you to be safe. I want you to feel like you can talk to us and everything.” But I know I would never see the light of day again. It’s really mixed messages.

WALKER: It’s pretty important to have an open relationship where your parents know that you go to parties. You’re in high school. If you say every night that you’re going to the movies, they know you’re not going to the movies. I’ve never gone home with a ticket stub in my pocket. But also, if I’m at a party and I think of something I need to talk to my parents about, just a general question, I’ll call and ask them. Because when you’re out of the house, it’s not like you’re not their kid anymore.  You’re still their kid and you still need them for help.

WENDY: You keep asking, “Do you think it’s acceptable for your parents to know you drink?” I don’t think we’re saying that it’s acceptable. I would never want my parents to be like, “Go out and drink.” I think that’s a really bad thing and they shouldn’t tell me that. But I think they have a right to be disappointed in me if they found out. But I think we’re saying that no matter what, they’d help us.

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