Drinking Tips for Teens ’84

Another excursion into my teen journals. I was 18 when I wrote this, in the spring of 1984, and I think now that, at that age, I should have had it more together. But it was still high school, my final year, and I had spent much of the fall pining for a girl who I call Shelly in this piece. We dated for a few weeks, if by “dated” you mean “phone calls, chaste evenings and painfully being strung along.” I was in miserable love. This night, though, months later, is one of my less sad. Though some details were forgotten until I reread them, I remember the feeling of that night, driving around with a girl close beside me. The song at the end makes me think of that time, though in reality it was probably Corey Hart. Again, except for some names, the text is presented as written.

It was an evening that left me intrigued and perplexed, slightly annoyed and understanding a few things.

Debra broke up with Dave officially last night so he was for the first time in a while with the boys and we got drunk in Ricky’s car. We drove around in the pouring rain all night.

Driving by James Street we saw three girls running towards us. It was Shelly, Donna and Jenny Lark. They were soaked and dripped all over Ricky’s car which was already filled with wine and pop splashes. “Take us to the Snow Queen,” they said. They all had to use the washroom. Somehow I went in with them. Jenny came up to me and said, “Can I go in here,” pointing to the men’s room. “Ours is out of order.”

“Yeah okay.”

“Will you guard the door? ‘Cause I think you’re really cute even though I’m ugly and my hair’s wet.”

I told her she wasn’t ugly over and over while she said she was. I was telling the truth. As she slipped into the men’s room she leaned out and said, “First give me a little kiss on the nose.” I did. She disappeared and I sat on the floor in front of the men’s room guarding and thinking “What is going on!”

Last Sunday, Myrna, Denise and I analyzed the people of the school. The grade twelves are manic-depressives, the grade elevens are snobs and jerks, and the grade tens are neurotics. As the three mentioned girls drove around with us, plus Carrie Gillis and Eileen MacDonald, I discovered that this was very true. Jenny sat on my lap talking to me (I don’t know how many times she complained about her hair). She kept putting herself down and I kept saying “You’re wrong” because she was. Finally she said something like: “Everyone thinks me and Eileen are wimps but we’re not.” Eileen took offense. An argument verging on suicide ensued and Jenny told Rick to stop the car. She opened the door and Rick was forced to stop by the railway tracks at the hospital. I tried to hold her back but she got away and ran off.

We tried to find her in the car but we couldn’t. We yelled for her out the window. Shelly cried out, “Caduba!”

“What!” I said.

“Caduba,” Shelly said.

“What the hell’s a caduba!”

“We’re best friends.”

“You people are weird.”

By now I was angry (“Didn’t I tell you there were all neurotics?”). I got out to look for Jenny. I found her in a scene straight from movies. She was walking down the road along the railway tracks, the rain coming down all around, the dim light shimmering as Jenny walked slowly crying. I caught her and stopped her. We talked as I tried to get her back.

“They all hate me,” she said.

“They don’t. They’re all out looking for you.”

“I’m ugly.”

“You are not. You’re cute.” I needed a stronger word for in the washroom she had told me she didn’t like the word “cute” for, like me, it sounded like a bunny rabbit. “You’re quite pretty.” Still not strong enough. “I think you’re beautiful.”

“What’s beautiful about me?”

“Your eyes,” I said for at that moment they shone and sparkled.

“What’s so beautiful about them?”

By now I was getting embarrassed, even in my drunken state. “C’mon,” I said, shuffling my feet. “Don’t make me do this.”

I reassured her that no one hated her, that she was beautiful and that all the guys back in the car thought so. As we walked back to the car she said, “I know in school I always look in total control but I’m really insecure.”

“Aren’t we all.”

Eventually we got all the girls in the car but not before I screamed at them, “Why are you all so fucking neurotic!”

As we drove, Jenny sort of fell asleep against me. She held onto me like a child. I felt no lust; I simply wanted to help.

Shelly was extremely horny in the back seat and in her drunkenness everything became clear.

“I went out with Alex Mahoney for one and a half years and it sucks. Going out with a person sucks and I don’t want to.”

Thanks Shelly, I needed that.

As twelve o’clock came around the girls had to go home. Jenny was still asleep against me who muttered that she didn’t have to be home until twelve-thirty and since she was so drunk we decided to let her be as late as possible. She was staying at her grandmother’s in a trailer so I decided:

“Okay, I’ll walk her around for a while.” Ricky had to be home at 12:30. “If I’m not back by the time you have to leave, then leave.”

I got Jenny walking. We talked. She is a really nice girl even if she is neurotic. I walked in the cold rain wondering what the hell had happened.

“But anyway, that’s okay.”

This last line must be something we said that night or an in joke, now lost to me.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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30 Responses to Drinking Tips for Teens ’84

  1. I absolutely loved this, Ross. Loved it. I almost forgot I was reading a post – it felt like a movie and even more so…it felt like a hazy memory.
    Makes me sad that I burned all of my journals from that era.

  2. pinklightsabre says:

    You sound the same writer then as you do now, more or less — that’s really fascinating, time capsule stuff isn’t it? You depict the scenes in true writer fashion, even then, how vivid and cinematic. Universal, too.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The goal of all these journals at the time was to train myself to be a “real” writer, so I think I took it fairly seriously. The regimen was first thing in the morning and then at night. There were a lot of gaps…

  3. Pingback: Drinking Tips for Teens ’84 — Drinking Tips for Teens – milibro2016blog

  4. HonieBriggs says:

    Angst! Those were the days. When I try to fill in the blanks, it’s all a bit hazy. Enjoyed this time travel.

  5. This really does read like a novel, Ross.

  6. M. Oniker says:

    It is amazing any of us ever got through those existentially confusing, angsty times (regardless of the decade in which they occurred).

  7. byebyebeer says:

    I can’t get over how well you told an interesting story back then…about maudlin, drunk teen girls! You are giving me ideas about how to better construct current journal entries. Not that I ever go back and read, but making a story out of the day feels more satisfying and productive. Thanks for sharing these with us, Ross. It takes guts, but you reveal that you were much more mature and insightful than most of us.

  8. Karen says:

    I’m reading these posts and I’m wondering if I regret never keeping a journal or I’m glad of it.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      They’re good for reviving memories, I’ll give you that. But memories can be too alluring at some point. Still, I wish I had continued after high school. There would be some stories…

  9. Who has it together at 18?! That’s absurd. You were moulding clay to her. I know the feeling. That girl had a black belt in fishing for compliments. I try to be more subtle.

    What’s better than journal entries?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I work in a high school, remember, and the kids all seem so self-assured and clear-visioned. But then, it’s a private school, not real life.
      That whole gang of girls in that year had some kind of aura about them, something knowing and untouchable. We were helpless. I mean, the kiss on the nose? Come on! One of my good friends from high school ended up marrying one of them on his second shot at marriage.
      I have one more entry I’m going to post, then I’ll leave it to the master.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      P.S. Reading Springsteen’s autobiography. What a storyteller!

      • It’s an interesting book. You can tell he wrote it because it’s wildly overwritten in parts and he has a fondness for ALL CAPS. Can you image trying to edit him? Who’s going to tell Bruce Springsteen how to write? It’s like a producer trying to tell Keith Richards what his guitar should sound like.

  10. Yes,”vivid and cinematic”, indeed. In the movie, I think there will be a part where your character yells, “Go, go, go, go, go!” and your friends in the car all start blazing away with automatic rifles. Then Jenny, standing over a smoking corpse, says: “Guess you kissed HIM on the nose!” I look forward to seeing how you will write that in. I think Guy Ritchie would do it best. (Bren guns. Very loud.)

    Seriously – it was a nice light touch for such a young feller.

  11. Gisele says:

    Hi Ross!! I loved this story. You nailed the description of the grade 10s, 11s and 12s. The events could have happened in any small town with a Snow Queen but what made it even more charming for me is that I actually remember Debra breaking up with David!! On another note, I am half way through your novel (a Christmas surprise from mom) and I can’t put it down.

  12. Pingback: Your Beard Will be Thicker; Your Skin Not So Much: A Letter to 17-Year-Old Me | Drinking Tips for Teens

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