By Sabrina Bodon, Point Park News Service
Whenever I mention that I’m turning 21 on St. Patrick’s Day, the faces of my fellow students light up, obviously envious that I reach the legal age on a holiday synonymous with drinking.
But for me, having a birthday on this day always has been tiring. By mid-adolescence, mapping out locations of bars (and restaurants with bars) to avoid herds of drunkards has become second nature when planning my birthday festivities.
When I first moved to Pittsburgh, locals said a Pittsburgh St. Patty’s Day falls second only to New York City’s. Some brazenly proclaimed it stands as the largest in the country. A recent ranking from WalletHub placed Pittsburgh as the 10th best place to celebrate, behind 5th place New York City. But Niche, a Pittsburgh-based company, ranked the city first for its “A+” bar access rating, high Irish population and “staggering amount of St. Patrick’s Day hype on Facebook.”
So, enamored by the vastness of the city, my 18-year-old self put on some Point Park green and headed out. That year the parade and holiday shenanigans were held five days before St. Patrick’s Day, but I gave in anyway. Standing on my toes five rows deep by the Convention Center, I watched a group of shelter dogs trot down the street with the parade before getting bored. A little after 11 a.m., the encompassing stench of alcohol began to stick to my body and clothes.
By noon, I found myself hiding under the covers of my dorm room bed, cursing the thousands outside as my fourth-floor windows failed to keep the hollering outside out. The next year, I skipped the Downtown flood of green, opting for Oakland instead where a weekend of drunken revelry is status quo.
As a college student, I find myself a bystander to friends casually mentioning, “Since I turned 21, I’ve become an alcoholic,” and “I can only get myself to write a paper if I reward myself with a shot after each paragraph.” Data from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 2015 says nearly 60 percent of full-time college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and about 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder.
Binge drinking on my birthday lacks appeals, and the expectation to binge drink on a specific day, especially on a day that has consistently ruined my birthday for two decades, makes matters worse.
While everyone I know celebrates the Irish by stumbling from bar to bar, I’ll be spending my 21st at home, most likely cursing the college students hollering outside my window.
So, in lieu of shots, you can donate to my noise canceling headphone campaign on venmo. It is my birthday after all.