In eighth grade I was so excited for high school, being older and more sophisticated, and the thought of being invited to hipper parties was excruciatingly cool. Well, now I am older, and one thing I have discovered about the partying and the way high school parties are different from middle school parties is the consumption of alcohol.

This shouldn’t be a shocker to most people. I’ve only been in high school for five months, and been to a handful of parties, but even at some of those, there has been alcohol and kids that I know have been drinking. Personally, I don’t think there needs to be alcohol in order to have some fun. However, some of the people at parties I’ve been to this year apparently don’t agree.

I know that some of my friends drink, which I am okay with, even though I know their parents would not be. Believe it or not, even freshman year, drinking is common enough that it’s generally not considered a big deal. It’s mostly beer and lighter stuff like coolers.

Even though the legal drinking age is 21, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says that almost 80 percent of all high school students have tried alcohol. That doesn’t surprise me. What can be frightening is the amount someone drinks, if it is enough for the drinker to lose control, or how often someone underage drinks, just because it seems like fun, or the cool thing to do with friends. But parents can have a huge positive influence on the way a teenager thinks about alcohol.

Two summers ago, I traveled with my family to Europe. It was such a magical trip. My favorite stop was Paris. I love the city, I love the language, and at the time, I loved the fact that my parents let me have champagne at the Moulin Rouge dinner show.

I was very excited, but the novelty of drinking alcohol for the first time wore off very quickly. I discovered I actually hated the taste: disgusting, bitter. I also discovered that my body didn’t react well to it. After just a couple of sips of champagne, my face flushed beet red, I felt my heart beating faster, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. All my life I’ve heard my mom explain that she’s allergic to alcohol when people ask her why she doesn’t drink and apparently I have the same thing. I found out it isn’t so much an allergy but a deficiency of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase that helps the body absorb alcohol. I understand it’s a fairly common condition among Asians, so with my background I had a 50 percent chance of getting it genetically.

Feeling sick on champagne was not exactly the greatest of my memories of Paris, so why would I want to drink? When I ask some of my friends this same question — and of course I know that they don’t react the same unpleasant way I do — they say well, everyone else is doing it, or it just makes everything seem more fun. Maybe, but is that worth potentially risking your life or the lives of your friends some day?

My sister just started driving this year, which is scary enough as it is, without the idea of her being out on the road with drivers who might be under the influence. Also scary is the idea that teenagers do drink and drive. Research shows that car accidents are the leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 20. Throw alcohol into the mix and the rate of fatal crashes among drivers under age 21 who are under the influence is more than twice the rate for drivers 21 and older who drive drunk.

While I haven’t personally lost anyone to a drunk driver and hope I never will, I can imagine how devastating it would be to lose someone to something as stupid as alcohol. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have had great influence on getting people to think about the dangers of drinking and driving, but maybe the reason some of my friends seem so cavalier about the issue is because they think we are too young to be concerned about it. But I believe it’s never too early to start thinking about the future, especially when it comes to alcohol.

Because of the way I react to alcohol, I figure that when I’m older, I’ll be the designated driver in my group of friends, which makes me feel a little better. But I’m really worried about my friends who drink now because senior year, when we are all going to be driving, is not so far away. I care about my friends and I know how dangerous drinking can really be, and it’s definitely not all fun and games. Teens can get addicted to alcohol easily, and it may only start off as an innocent sip of hard lemonade or spiked iced-tea at a freshman party.

Alcohol-related images and messages on online websites such as Facebook and Myspace are also traps. There are potentially huge repercussions that may result from making the mistake of drinking at a party. Some high school kids think it’s cool to post pictures online of themselves playing beer-pong with their friends. I think that is one of the dumbest things you could do. I’ve heard that college admissions officers and potential employers patrol those websites. Drinking at a party could jeopardize your future. I wouldn’t want to see any of my friends have this happen to them. They also have to remember, they are underage. If they drink, their parents or they could get into serious trouble with the law. Really, is it worth it?

Kids my age are forced to think about alcohol and the way we are going to handle it, simply because it is pretty easy to get. We have to think about how we are going to handle certain situations, whether or not we are going to drink, and even how to warn our friends about the dangers of drinking without seeming like a goody-two-shoes.

Some teenagers are too immature to understand that sometimes it’s cooler not to do what their friends are doing. And don’t be fooled by cliques such as the stoners or the drinkers, because you don’t have to be in those cliques to drink or do drugs.##M:[more]##

Some parents purposely choose not to worry about their kid getting into alcohol — you wouldn’t necessarily expect your straight A kid to be getting drunk on Saturday nights — but maybe those are the parents who need to worry. All you have to do is be at a certain party, influenced by certain people, with alcohol available, and the kid you never expected to do something bad just might. Simple as that.

Editor’s note: Molly Kwon Brossman is the daughter of Euna Kwon Brossman, the contributor of our Suburban Mom column.

Previous articleJanuary 11, 2008
Next articleDishing out sandwiches of rich taste and size
Molly grew up in Plainsboro and attended Wicoff, Dutch Neck, Millstone River, Community Middle, and High School North. A 2015 graduate of Vassar College, she is heading off this fall to the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she will be working on a masters in Comparative Politics. When she’s not writing this column, she loves playing golf and singing at the Thursday night open mic sessions at Grover’s Mill Coffee House in West Windsor.