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There are sacred moments in a relationship between a parent and their child: your first steps, your obnoxiously long ceremonial graduation from elementary school, getting dropped off at college, and your first beer with the old man. One milestone that flies under the radar is going to a bar with your dad. I’m not talking about the local bar by your house that you’ve been visiting since you were seven. I’m talking about a filthy, sticky, disgusting, disease-ridden, college bar.
I actually had a moment like this over the weekend. I had traveled up to the small college town of Indiana, PA with a few friends of mine and my father. We were there to go to a football game on Saturday, but Friday night decided to see what the college atmosphere was like. Sure, we had the opportunity to go as just four college guys, interacting with other college-aged strangers, but this was my dad’s territory. It would be wrong to not let the veteran pave the way for the novices.
We showed up to the first bar on the little main drag in downtown. The line wasn’t very long, but inside you could see how crowded it was. Three of us were 21, one of us was 20, and the leader of our group was 53. This wasn’t like 6th Street in Austin where you could hand the bouncer a Holiday Inn room key card and enter with little problem. No, this small town bar had a weapons-grade level security system, complete with digital scanners and computerized identification software. How advanced you ask? Well, considering that my ID was valid enough to get me onto an airplane but not into the bar, I guess you could argue that it was stronger than Homeland Security. No matter for the veteran, who demanded to speak to the owner and would not except no for an answer. We were inside the bar in seconds.
If you were to complete a statistical analysis of the bar on this particular night, I would suspect that the median age would be between 19 and 20. There were a lot of small town Greek-lifers. In fact, they probably made up a majority of the bar. The only outlier was probably the veteran.
He was first approached by a hardass college kid, decked out in Penguins gear and those stupid gauged earrings, about why he was in the bar. The veteran does not deal well with bullshit and promptly pushed through the crowd without explanation. It was a ballsy move, but one that earned the respect of the young patrons. Respect from others is key when a parent is the bar. In fact, it’s the ultimate game changer. The veteran opened up a tab and handed the bartender his credit card. This is a serious advantage to having parents inside of a college bar. Free drinks. It’s like a cheat code.
We sat on barstools next to the dance floor, which was slowly turning into an uncomfortable grindfest. We had considered exploring through the crowd of people, but we were timid because of the presence of the veteran. He was not impressed with our shyness. “You guys are literally going to never see these people again. Who cares? Get out there.” We politely obliged, and did the typical “lap” through the crowd before returning to our seats without having danced. Finally, the veteran had had enough. He dragged us onto the dance floor with him, and before we knew it we had started a small dance group that was gaining the attention of the locals. It wasn’t grinding, it was like stupid old man dancing, with terrible robots, unbelievable “starting the lawnmowers” and even the occasional man twerk. The locals were horrified, but as time passed you could tell we were growing on them. The veteran would point at girls and make them talk to us. It was unbelievable. About 20 minutes after being on the dance floor, we were running the show. The veteran recognized this, and you could tell he was getting tired. He bought us one more round of drinks and we “cheers”-ed to the continued success of the night. Then, the veteran whipped out his wallet, handed us about a hundred dollars in cash, and told us not to bring a cent of it home.
Each little moment is like a notch in the belt of your manhood and brings you both closer together. Eventually, you will be equals. But for now, you’re working towards that goal. However, there are some important milestones that need to be reached before this can happen. For me, it was experiencing my dad at a college bar. Sure, it sounds intimidating and I, of course, would never bring my mother. But, it was an important life experience. Keep in mind, your parents are just an older version of you, so you aren’t actually showing them something they haven’t seen. If anything, bring a notepad. You might learn a thing or two.