I turned 21 while I was away at college.
The school even sent me a little card beforehand, with a reminder to practice safe drinking. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning were conveniently listed on the back.
A twenty-first birthday is hardly a story that can go unmentioned, although the memory of it is filled with mixed emotions. (Or, rather, it fills me with mixed emotions.) I turned 21 in December of my Junior year at college, right about the time when the bad blood between my ex-dorm-roommate-turned-apartment-roommate and I was reaching its worst.
That year in general I tend to remember darkly, because more often than not it was not a great time for me. I felt like I was constantly on pins and needles around her–like I wasn’t welcome in my own apartment, and there was nothing at all I could do about it except wait until I left for the summer. The tension began pretty quickly in the year, around October or so, which meant that for a good seven months I was living a miserable, silent existence, letting her and her boyfriend essentially rule the roost. The reasoning behind that is complicated, and probably all in my head; either way, I hated it most of the time.
However, a few good things did happen that year. I went to New Orleans with Sigma Tau Delta, for one. I also made some great new friends to replace the ones I seemed to be losing. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. And these friends, whom I would have loved dearly anyway, had a way of rescuing me from my awful situation at home. One of these times was the day after my 21st birthday.
My actual birthday (which always landed straight in the middle of finals week) was nothing to write home about. I had finals, everyone else had finals, and I had no way of going out on my own. Thus, it passed as a quite unremarkable day of class, followed by holing myself up in my room (as I did every night) and hoping to God that my roommate and her boyfriend wouldn’t have sex while I was still awake. (Which they did. All. The. Time.) What had been intended as a well-meaning gesture on my mother’s part, ordering me a birthday cake and enormous batch of brownies to be delivered at school, proved to simply be an enormous reminder of how few friends I suddenly found myself with. (Most of them were, I found out, much better friends with my roommate than with me, and generally sided with her in our dispute.) I ate a huge slice of cake and at least two of the brownies, but, for the most part, both were thrown out largely un-eaten.
Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to sound so maudlin. I haven’t really talked about it before now, I suppose. ANYWAY. The evening after my real birthday I finally got the chance to celebrate. One of my new friends, Katie, and her friend, Cassie, invited me over to play shot-chess and spend the night enjoying drunken reveling and girl talk. Instead of filling everything with the same alcohol, they just used whatever came to hand–and even though I know you’re not supposed to mix drinks, I was happy to play along.
Understandably, my chess game got worse the more I lost.
Luckily I didn’t puke, but instead went to bed a tipsy and pleasant person, waking to find out that apparently I don’t get hangovers. That was the beginning of several days spent at Katie’s apartment over the next few months–when the strain between my roommate and I was at its worst, I actually stayed at Katie’s for seven days in a row.
So while the general atmosphere at the time of my 21st birthday was bad, I try to hold onto that good memory of the night after, which I tend to consider my REAL birthday. They were great, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them.