*trigger warning- assault
This blog has been on my mind for a long time, but I just haven’t really known how to write it. It’s about something that is really dear to my heart and very personal. I attended a meeting recently where someone with a very different life to me shared about her years as a party girl and I realised how alike we were. It felt so good to hear someone else talk about it, I decided that now is the time to write this.
I was a ‘party girl’ in fact I was christened ‘party girl’ at university during freshers’ week by older students, due to my obvious love of partying in the first week. I loved being out and about, loved getting dressed up, loved flirting, dancing, and just generally having fun. At least that is how it seemed to everyone watching. The truth was once I started drinking, I could never stop, it wasn’t some act, it was a problem, and it was how I was.
The media loves covering, building up, and then vilifying the party girls. I remember the era of Amanda De Cadenet, where underage girls going to nightclubs were labeled as a ‘wild child’. When really, we should have been worried about their welfare, not promoting their behavior. Then there was the ‘Primrose hill set’ in the nineties. Kate Moss and pals, all partying all drunk. Geordie Shore girls getting ‘mortal drunk’ is still seen as funny and to be celebrated. But the older ladies in these examples are mostly sober now with some in AA. It tells you a lot about what was actually going on doesn’t it?. I wonder what will happen with the younger girls for whom being stupidly drunk is still seen as a good thing?
At meetings, we often talk about not being able to stop drinking, about drinking in the house, hiding bottles, ruining family events. However, for many, these issues start in pubs and clubs. That is where it started for me.
At university, I was always out partying. I don’t actually know how I managed to get my degree, it is telling that the grade I managed to achieve was labeled the ‘drinkers’ degree’ grade. We would start by drinking as we got ready and then drink copious amounts when we were out. Although we all drank loads and we all got very drunk, it seemed to be that no one got into trouble like I did.
I am ashamed to say that I ended up in hospital on numerous occasions, either because I’d had an accident and fell downstairs or I had passed out cold. Blacking out was a definite thing for me and once I went down, it was very hard to wake me. But NO-ONE ever questioned my drinking. I was seen as good fun, but a bit of a pain when I went too far with alcohol. On a good night, I was lively, excitable, and funny when I drank. I have been told by some that they have had their most exciting and fun nights out when they had gone out with me, but those were the good nights, no one would repeat the bad nights and I have no idea which one I will present when I am drinking.
While it all seems such fun to be the wild party girl, there is always someone waiting to take advantage. One of my most horrifying conversations was with a man at my child’s football training, I often sat with him while we waited for our boys. He was talking about going out when he was younger and said, “yeah, we used to wait until the end of the night and if we hadn’t pulled, we would just look around the nightclub and find the drunkest and out of it-girl and take her back”. I was horrified, on one level because of what he had said but on another level that he had thought it was okay to tell me in the first place. And that he actually thought that this behavior was acceptable. I moved away from him and never spoke to him again.
People talk about girls being out of it and going too far. We see pictures in the newspapers of girls being carried out of clubs or pubs, unable to hold their heads up or walk and it is labeled as a good night out. Or the media joke that the girls are ‘tired and emotional’. It isn’t a joke though, is it? I am not saying that all of those girls have issues, not at all, but those girls are vulnerable and the message isn’t getting out there. When you are in that state, anything can happen to you. It’s fine when you are all looking out for each other but what if you get separated?
I remember years ago at a work Christmas party when I was in my early twenties. I drank so much wine that I had passed out before I had even eaten my dinner. Luckily one of the people there had a room as it was at a hotel. He and my friend put me in the hotel room to let me sleep it off. Another male member of our team repeatedly tried to get into that room as he knew I was completely out of it. He went so far as to scream that it wasn’t fair to not let him in. My friend and a colleague had to stand guard over my door until I came around. The man who tried to get in was never reprimanded and I never complained. I was so ashamed of my behaviour and so guilty that I was so drunk that I let him off. Imagine what would have happened if he had got in?
I could tell you many horror stories about being taken advantage of when drunk and not feeling like you can tell anyone. The shame at being so drunk that it happened to you stops you from saying anything. Who would believe you? and actually, you can’t really remember everything, you don’t always know what has happened. I am not alone; I know so many women with stories like this. I am not ready to tell my specific stories yet, I don’t know if I ever will be. But this is why I feel that information about how vulnerable alcohol makes you should be included and highlighted in the literature that we give to teens about alcohol. This should be spoken about as a real threat. The kids right now are worried about drinks being spiked (and rightly so) but believe me, if you have drunk enough you don’t need to be spiked to be completely out of it.
I don’t believe that if someone is getting hammered every time they go out that they are okay. I also think that in all honesty I probably didn’t know at the time that I was in trouble. I had gotten so used to being wasted that I thought it was normal. I know now that if I hear about one of my children’s friends always being drunk or always getting into trouble. I worry for them, I worry about what is going on emotionally with them, what are they running from, why is this happening every time they drink. Of course, nothing may be wrong, they may just have no capacity to know their limit and they may grow out of it. Not everyone has a problem. But the emotional toll, as well as the physical toll of drinking like this, can be huge.
I am not sure if this blog is a little mixed up and doesn’t make sense as I have found it very hard to write. I guess what I am saying is, that as a society we promote alcohol as fun, we promote excess as fun, but we don’t list the downsides enough. I also want to say that the girl who you see out partying and having fun, being the life and soul of the party isn’t always what she appears to be. Often that girl is running from her feelings, from her past, and from her fears and if you see her out, just keep a special eye on her as she might not be okay.
P.S Please don’t for one moment think that I am putting the blame on women for what can happen to them when drunk, that is very much the perpetrator’s fault and they should change their behaviour. I just think we should have a little more empathy for the party girls and also be honest about the risks.