The Deplorable Rise of the Under-21 Club

America’s alcohol education infrastructure is crumbling.

The American education system is crumbling. For decades, this nation’s pre-teens and 20-year-olds have learned how to party like grown-ass people through a rigorous process consisting of stolen sips, fake IDs, hidden flasks, and general subterfuge. Now that whole program is under fire. In cities from Miami to New York and…back to Miami (it’s mostly Miami), clubs are offering more and more 18-plus nights, with some going whole hog and clearing their shelves of booze to make way for sodas, spritzers, and juices. Very real places like Grand Central, Pacha, and Mekka Miami are offering kiddie nights notable for high cover charges (drink revenue is out the window) and uncomfortable doormen.

Here’s our take on this alarming trend: If you must alternate between grinding in a musky throng of Nordstrom-dressed teenagers and ravaging a candy buffet, RSVP to your cousin’s goddamned bar mitzvah. The whole point of attending a club before one’s 21st birthday is sneaking in, or floating in unobstructed on a cloud of pot smoke and young fame (see: Biebs, Miley).

Consider this a plea to our nation’s young people: Sneak in like a normal person. Or stay home and play Boggle with your mom. Just, please, do not attend an under-21 club, for your sake, and ours, and everyone’s. Though this advice comes in wording not strictly adherent to that of our founding fathers (Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond, Adam Yauch), you have to fight for your right to go to a club like an adult. Here’s how to do it. 

Learning to Party in Five Easy Steps:

1.The Hand-Me Down Buzz

At 14, your mom hands you a ceremonial glass of Champagne at your aunt’s second wedding. You enjoy it and then you and your cousin, who has since gone to rehab, each steal two more flutes, drink them, and fall asleep.

2. The Secret Populist Uprising

A rich and lonely classmate’s parents are out of town, and you’re invited over for a pool party that quickly devolves into a full-fledged bar raid. You will never look at Tanqueray No. 10 the same way again. The pool cleaner will work a double.

3. Self Identification

You send $100 to China. China sends you back either a high-quality, scanable fake ID or something seemingly pulled from a discarded ’70s DMV printer. Whatever you end up with, you shove at bouncers quickly, hoping they’ll mistake your aggressive nervousness for confidence.

4. Degree-Granting Program

Kegs, cheap regional vodka in a plastic handle, jugs of wine, boxes of wine, boxes of wine consumed during a campus-wide scavenger hunt, actual bottles of wine—albeit from the bargain bin—beer in glass bottles, whiskey that even adults might drink…

5. Acceptance

You’ve been through high school and college. You’ve had glorious nights and miserable ones. You’re an adult, however young, and you can watch pornography without lying to the Internet. Go forth, hand over that little plastic card like the party ticket it is, and dance under an oversize martini glass hung from the ceiling. You’ve earned it.

Photos by Simon Tonge / Getty Images