“To the nights you’ll never remember with the friends you’ll never forget.”

“So what we go out? That’s how it’s supposed to be, livin’ young and wild and free.”

“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, FLOOR.”

Any self-respecting party girl has most likely typed at least one of these quotes beneath her latest Instagram update with a few martini glass emojis to go. Up until I turned 21, getting drunk every weekend had a sort of magical appeal to it; one that required photo documentation long before Instagram took off. Drinking was a forbidden necessity, one of the rule-twisting norms of university life. After I celebrate my 21st, of course alcohol still had that fantastic ability to relax me, help me let my guard down, and provide me with some awesome dance moves. But as much as I thought I knew about drinking in my late teens and early legal years, it wasn’t until I reached full maturity that I discovered the real truths about drinking.

While clearly not everyone gratuitously drinks underage like I did – and I by no means encourage such unlawful behavior – those first few years of alcohol consumption are a haze for most people. We enjoy the buzzed moments, love the wasted ones, and generally regret the blackouts. These formative years teach us our limits as well as some other valuable lessons: Maybe tequila makes your clothes fall off or pink wine makes you slutty. But it wasn’t until I had quite a few years under my belt and the double-edged sword of legality hanging over me that I really understood the ups, downs, and in betweens of alcohol. Here’s what I now know about drinking from lessons in my 20’s.

1. No matter what I think, I can’t drink like I used to.

Sure, I can down a bottle of wine on a Thursday night while I watch Reign with my mom no problem, but break out the tequila and I’m wobbly. I might not understand how just a few years or even months make a difference, but I’m getting older. I have two – count them, two – wrinkles now. I can look at aging one of two ways: 1) I can’t take shots of watermelon vodka all night anymore unless I want to throw up the entire next day. Or 2) I’m growing up and maybe I don’t want to take shots of watermelon vodka all night anyway. And maybe that’s a good thing.

2. I can’t keep up with the boys.

“The boys” does not necessarily mean, well, boys. Boys, men, girlfriends who have a higher tolerance than me – you name it. I might want to go drink for drink with everyone in my crew, but I can’t. I have a limit, and I should respect that if I want to stay happy and healthy.

3. College teaches you how to drink.

I’m not saying that people who didn’t attend college don’t know how to knock ’em back. However, in my postgrad experience, I’ve been to quite a few parties with my friends from home, and when the end of the night (or sometimes just the beginning of the night) rolls around, I’m not holding back the hair of my friends who went to college.

I could make up some BS about how our higher education taught us to watch our drinking. My university, at least, would certainly love to hear that the online alcohol education course I had to take as a freshman paid off. But it’s not that. To be honest, partying at college is what taught me how to drink, and I’m at a definite advantage when it comes to pacing myself, knowing how strong to make a drink, and my ability to win drinking games compared to my friends who didn’t go to college.

So this one’s for you, college. Thanks for teaching me how to drink.

4. Always have a plan before you head out.

Life isn’t college anymore. You cannot rely on calling a friend who was up all night writing a paper to drive you home from a party or bar. If you don’t know how you’re getting home before you go out, don’t go out. You don’t want to be left crying outside of a bar at two thirty in the morning, fighting with your friend who was supposed to stay sober outside of a pizza place at three, or sobbing because you had to call your fifty-year-old parents from a pay phone at four because some guy stole your phone. Yes, I have done all of these things while drinking in my twenties. Thankfully, I suppose, I did all three in the same night.

5. The boys you meet at bars are not the same boys you meet at parties.

Yes, I have met a few nice boys while at the bar. But if you’re trying to meet someone to take home to smooch – or even take home to Mom and Dad – keep one thing in mind. The men you meet at bars don’t know your friends. Unless you’re in college, there is no chance that they’re going to run into you on your way to class. (Alright, maybe you’ll run into them at work and they’ll be your McDreamy, but the chances of that happening are the same as the chances of you being Meredith Grey. Which, let’s face it, you’re not.) And since these boys don’t know you, well, they have nothing to lose by conveniently losing your number or worse: passing on an STD. So be careful with the men you meet at bars. Guard your heart and better yet, always use protection.

6. Dancing with strangers is completely awful…

Actual one-sided conversation you will have with your friend at a club, during which the guy who randomly started grinding on you will drunkenly assume the two of you are making out: “OMG. Who is this guy? Did he really just dip it low? I can’t get that low! Is he cute? Did he just kiss my neck? I think he has a boner!”

7. …Unless you’re in the mood for it.

Actual one-sided conversation you will have with your friend on the way to a club after a really stressful week at work, break up with your boyfriend of two months, etc: “OMG. I just feel like dancing tonight! I just want to grind on some random men! And maybe make out with someone. No, with two guys. Being single is great!”

8. Staying sober isn’t that bad.

You can people watch with a much clearer mind AND when you want to subtly check out a guy, you’re actually, you know, subtle. At 21, being the DD seemed like a nightmare, but now… well, it’s rewarding to know you were the reason all your friends got home safely.

9. Do everything you can to stop yourself from drunk dialing your ex.

In my senior year of college, I went through a pretty nasty break up. For the next year and a half, I drunk dialed my ex. Like, all the time.

Sure, sometimes drunk dials do work out in your favor, if only for a little while. But nine times out of ten, they just lead to humiliation the next day. So don’t let yourself be miserable. Go out and have fun, and if you don’t think you’re going to be able to keep a smile on your face the entire night, make sure your friends know that you absolutely must keep your phone in your purse, or just decide to sip wine – or even water – instead of chugging vodka.

10. If you’re trying to hook up, don’t try.

Ladies, if you go out in your nicest dress, legs and lady parts freshly shaven, your crush absolutely will not attend the party or show up at the bar. Opt for leggings and a somewhat chic sweater and forget to shave your legs for a few days and he’ll be there. Guaranteed. It’s the Murphy’s Law of hookups.

11. When your friends’ college-aged siblings roll into your parties, you’ll feel really old.

Remember that time you babysat Joey with your best friend? Yeah, well now Joey’s about to graduate college. And he just bought you a Jäger bomb.


12. They are also really funny/smart/sexy.

I love hanging around 21-year-olds. They make me feel like the goddess I am. Roll into a party hosted by a slightly younger crowd and your jokes will be new to them. You’ll have them laughing all night at how clever you are and eating your box-made cupcakes as if you are a Food Network star. While drinking with younger people sometimes makes you feel ancient, a lot of times it’s also an ego boost.

13. You don’t have to like what everyone else says is good.

Beer makes me nauseous and while I love wine, I’m definitely no wine connoisseur. I’d rather drink something cheap that tastes the same to me as the expensive stuff (alright, at least after a glass or two) and keep a few dollars in my pocket. This is more of something I’ve learned about all things in during my twenties: Do and drink whatever makes you happy.

14. The nights you’ll never remember with the friends you’ll never forget are amazing.

As long as you’re with a crew who has your back and will make sure everyone gets home safely, flipping through your camera roll the next morning in a state of total confusion with your girlfriends never loses its charm.

15. The nights you do remember can be even better!

If you’re with good friends, it doesn’t matter whether you drink or not. Hang out with the people who make you happiest and remember to have fun and be safe no matter what!