Parties still serve the same purpose that they always did — you meet people, you drink, you maybe end up with a one night fling — but the rules have changed. Kids today order fake IDs from China. They think e-cigarettes are cool. They live with the threat that everything they do will end up on Facebook.
The Wire spoke with three college students and one high schooler about how to party and what's cool on the drugs scene. (Spoiler: nicotine.)
Every party and event, day and night, begins with a preliminary get-together beforehand, referred to as "pre-game." The pre-game is generally a close group of friends hanging out, listening to music, and, of course, drinking. For Brenna, a senior at Michigan, pre-game is simple: "pound a few drinks" with friends before heading out. Kara*, a Columbia University junior, describes the point of a typical pre-game as "drinking with some purpose."
The purpose of that drinking is partly to get a preliminary buzz, and partly economic. "You want to get drunk enough so that you don’t have to spend too much when you’re out," says Chris, a Princeton junior who belongs to a fraternity. For him, getting drunk "enough" is about 6-7 drinks, in the form of both shots and mixed drinks. "You’re getting into your comfort zone a bit more," he adds.
Drinking games are a mainstay of the pre-game, led by beer pong, also known as "Beirut." The game — for those of you over the age of 40 who may never have played it — consists of two teams of two people each who stand at opposite sides of a table. On each end of the table sits a base-three or base-four pyramid of plastic cups — often red Solo brand — filled with cheap light beer. Each team takes turns attempting to throw a ping pong ball into one of the other teams cups. If one team's throw lands in the cup, the other team has to drink that beer and remove the cup from the pyramid. The popularity of beer pong lies in its simplicity. "It's the easiest to set up and do," Chris says.
Card games have always been a staple of college parties. A popular recent game is Kings. Kings begins the cards spread out on a table in a circle, each card face down. Players, with their own drink in hand, sit around the table and take turns picking up a card. Each card means a different thing for people to do, often in some sort of rhyme to help remember. If someone picks up a six, all "chicks" (i.e. women) drink. Picking up an eight is "date," and the player chooses another person at the table to drink with them.
As we were writing this story, we discovered something interesting: the dividing line between those for whom beer pong and "pre-gaming" are novelties lies at about the 36-year-old mark. Think they're old news? You'll be happy to know that this puts you in the younger group of people.
Acquiring fake IDs, as always, is a must for those under 21. “I remember the person said to me, ‘If you go to Columbia and you live in New York, you can’t have a social life if you don’t have a fake.’ And honestly that’s completely true,” Kara says. To go to any bars at Michigan, too, requires a decent ID card.
It used to be that fake IDs came from sketchy shopping centers or hand-me-downs from siblings. Now, people order online. Kara purchased her fake online from the now-shuttered site "ID Chief" early in her freshman year. Along with a group of friends, she emailed her name and a photo of herself to the company, and then sent a money order of about $100 per person over to an address in China. A few weeks later, a package of Pennsylvania IDs with each students' name, face, and an over-21 age on them arrived. The Wire's Allie Jones did the same, thanks to her sorority's foresight. The group "made a bulk order for fake IDs that supposedly were being manufactured in China," she says. "We all got the same Florida IDs that did not look like Florida IDs. They worked about 60 percent of the time."
As the pre-game winds down, partiers move to their desired main party: a house party, frat party, bar, or club. (Parents don't need to worry too much. Cabs remain the primary mode of transportation. Uber hasn't yet caught on, at least among those surveyed.)
Frat or house parties still focus their nights around a theme for people to dress up for. Toga Night has been popular since the days of Animal House, but the focus has turned more toward getting people in skimpier clothing. "The whole idea of most themes is they’re trying to get people to dress as slutty as possible," Chris says. There's "Two Articles Night," which consists of people wearing just two articles of clothing — say, a leotard and heels. There's also ABC Night, which stands for Anything But Clothes, and revolves around duck-taped dresses or strategically-placed traffic cones, for example.
As ever, a primary goal of partying is sex. The term “hooking up” remains the catch-all for romantic interactions, referring to anything from a single sloppy kiss to a night of sex. That sloppy kiss has a specific name, the DFMO (pronounced: dee-eff-moe), which stands for "dance floor make-out." DFMO can function as a noun or a verb (i.e. we DFMO’d for a little). “You’re on the dance floor, trying to either find someone to dance with or find someone to hook up with,” Chris says. “I still do think a predominant form [of hooking up] is people are dancing and they bump into each other and then they start dancing together. And the night goes from there.”
Photos on Social Media
The introduction of social media made partying trickier. Most people observe basic rules on what to post on Instagram, Facebook, and the like. For Greek organizations, those rules are explicit: no Greek letters in photographs. "You can’t post pictures of you being belligerent if you’re wearing the sorority’s letters on it, which is a really big problem for football Saturdays," Brenna says. Friends and leaders in the Greek groups will often ask people to take down specific unbecoming photos. For Kara, who is under 21 and not in a sorority, the social media policy is more informal. "You follow the basic rules of trying not to Instagram a picture of yourself holding a beer bottle with the label facing the camera," she says, but notes that nobody is too protective. "I don’t think anybody thinks about it."
In high school, the social media stakes are even higher. Michael, an 18-year-old California high school senior, explained that teachers often check social media to make sure kids are behaving after hours. "He stalks people's Instagrams and Twitters and sees if they have any red cups and like alcohol bottles and stuff," he said. Kids get suspended, expelled and/or ratted out to their parents. And, according to Michael and another student who attended the same school, Instagram party pictures can be used as blackmail. "He might say 'rat people out or you're going to get in trouble,'" or, "'[Are] there more people? Tell me or you're going to get expelled.'" Not surprisingly, that works.
Kids still drink at parties — they get older siblings to buy alcohol for them or steal from their parents — and do drugs, but electronic cigarettes are the new regular cigarettes. Like cigarettes, a lot of cities have banned selling e-cigs to minors or smoking in public. And like cigarettes, kids think they're cooler than they actually are. "It doesn't seem like they're cool or anything," Michael said. "Personally I don't like it, and I feel like kids do it to seem like they're cool."
#VapeLife is an active Twitter hashtag, and the vape selfie is a thing. Vine is also full of people doing smoke tricks, like the one below. "It's like, whatever," Michael said. "I guess to some people it's cool." It's not a big deal if you can't do it.
Vaping without nicotine is "technically" considered straight edge, meaning it fits into a sober lifestyle. "It's just flavored smoke. It's not anything crazy or out there. It doesn't give you a head change or anything." (Head change: when you feel the physical effects of a drug.) If you're trying to quit something that's addicting or stay sober in general, vaping is a good way to go. Someone would vape on the way to a party "instead of doing other stuff." Michael said he drinks, but has never done hard drugs.
We'd like to say that the rise vape culture — especially nicotine-free smoking — is a reason to be hopeful about the life choices of today's kids, but most vape-lifers will probably go on to join a frat. We'll be monitoring their Instagrams to find out.
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of underaged drinkers.