The Drinking Game

The "prize" has been the same for 20 years, so why are the rules so different?

In college, everything was simple. If I was in the mood to see friends and drink alcohol, I did two things:

  • Slipped $10 in my pocket
  • Hopped on a bus that quickly deposited me steps from a bar

I could do this at any time on any day—maybe at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour or at 11 p.m. when the party was in full swing. My friends’ schedules were usually wide open, too, so they’d join me whenever the mood—or thirst—moved them.

What we looked like didn’t matter. No worries if I wasn’t having a good hair day; after an hour everyone would be sporting helmet head because we were packed together like sardines. I also didn’t have to be bothered with a shower. One smell would prevail in that bar—cigarette smoke. Because of that, and the fact that someone would almost definitely spill alcohol on me, I preferred to not wear anything too nice. Jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers were appropriately absorbent.

What beer I’d be drinking—and wearing—was a mystery. I don’t recall ever asking for Budweiser, Miller or Coors or any other brand name. It was just “beer,” which cost either 10 cents for a mini-mouthwash-cup portion (we called them “dimeys”) or $5 for a pitcher, which came with a mini pitcher of Kamikazes.

The night would go something like this: Complain to friends about professors and boyfriends. Drink. Decide to play Quarters. Laugh. Drink. Wait in line to go the bathroom. Go back to playing Quarters. Decide current boyfriend is a jerk and nowhere near as hot as the boy currently next to me. Start talking to said boy. Drink. Drink. Drink. Laugh. Laugh. Laugh. Consider kissing boy currently next to me to teach boyfriend a lesson but instead turn my head to see my friend kissing him. Drink. Drink. Drink. Hear “last call” and rush to the bar. Drink. Drink. Drink. And when the big bouncer points to the door, walk away buzzed—or more likely, seriously drunk.

The next morning, I’d have a headache but feel oddly refreshed. Often, my $10 would still be in my pocket, because bad boys thinking they’d get lucky bought every round of drinks.

Now, in mid-life suburbia, nothing is simple. If I’m in the mood to see friends and drink alcohol, I do a million things:

  • Check with friends via e-mail, Facebook, phone and text to find a date that is open for everyone and their spouses.
  • Select date that is good for the majority.
  • Research a half dozen wines online.
  • Send out written invitations for a blind wine tasting and identification/competition/party.
  • Assign a wine for each couple to bring, keeping in mind individual preferences and budgets.
  • Search online and in stores for wine score cards, explanations of wine types, information on vineyards, wine magazines and wine paraphernalia.
  • Print out wine score cards, explanations of wine types, and information on vineyards; buy wine magazines and wine paraphernalia as party prizes and favors.
  • Search house for a dozen pencils for score cards.
  • Count wine glasses; purchase more wine glasses to replace broken ones.
  • Attach wine charms to glasses to avoid Mistaken Identity of Glasses.
  • Buy wine, beer, bottled water, a variety of sodas, appetizers, desserts, paper plates, napkins and a candle for the bathroom.
  • Buy new outfit.
  • Clean house for eight hours.
  • Make sure white wine is properly chilled and that there is room for other whites that will be brought by guests to be chilled.
  • Find DVD and snacks to keep children entertained upstairs.
  • Color hair to hide roots; shower; blow dry and style hair for first time in six weeks; apply makeup for first time in two weeks; and put on new outfit, although favorite pair of sweatpants are calling your name because I am now exhausted from weeks of planning and two days of shopping and cleaning.
  • Organize wines when guests arrive; place in bags so variety and vineyards are hidden; pass out information on wines; pour samples, allow time to sip and score; diligently discuss flavor, color and aroma of first two wines, scoring each and feeling confident about my guess at its varietal and vineyard; attempt to do so for next two wines, but feel less knowledgeable and confident; abandon all attempts at serious talk about last two wines and instead quickly record highest scores possible and write down the only two varieties not already chosen, so there’s more time to drink.
  • Add score cards and realize solid math skills slip away with every sip of wine.
  • Announce highest-scoring wine and most-knowledgeable taster; present medal and prizes.
  • Grab nearest bottle of whatever is left and pour another round; and repeat, and repeat and repeat. Add in backup bottles and alternate between wine and beer.
  • Hear spouse yawn; rush to remaining bottles. Drink. Drink. Drink.
  • And when spouse’s eyes close because it’s four hours past his bedtime, walk away buzzed—or more likely, seriously drunk.

The next morning, I have a headache but feel oddly refreshed—just like in college. However, hundreds of my dollars and days of my life have disappeared after the effort I put into prepping for the evening of fun. Why would anyone make something so simple so complicated? All I can think of? Drinking has killed my brain cells. 

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