Let’s Talk About…Going Out in Your 20s

Naomi: This was my weekend:

  • Friday Night: Football game at 7:00pm – tailgating and drinking were on the agenda for the entire day in the hot sun. We’re talking Bud Light, moonshine, jello shots, cookies, cupcakes, burgers, fried chicken.
  • Saturday Morning: Woke up, got breakfast, and not just some oatmeal (although I could have made that choice), but bagels, lox, cream cheese, eggs, rugalla.
  • Saturday Afternoon: People watching at Dragoncon, then more football watching at a bar and more food.
  • Monday: Oh, and it was Labor Day.

As a 20-something I feel like my entire social life revolves around food and drinks. It never ends, and for those of us struggling with their weight, how do we decide? How do we balance? I know I’ve done it in the past, but I find lately that I struggle. I struggle with being the girl that doesn’t want to drink or doesn’t want to go out. I am pressured to go out because this is what I am supposed to be doing in my 20s, right? After all, it’s what the characters do on nearly every show with a group of friends: Sex in the City – they met for brunch,lunch drinks; Friends – Central Perk coffee shop; Seinfeld – The diner; Cheers – the bar; I could go on.

Elle: Hollywood – both on the big and small screens – does seem to portray the 20s (and 30s, in some of your examples) as a time of frivolity, sleeping around, boozing, and eating out.  While my life is not a cliche or a Hollywood fairytale, I do have a fairly active social life, and the portrayal of bar/restaurant social life is not too far off the mark. When you say “let’s hang out” to a group of 20-somethings, especially in a big city like New York, that tends to imply an activity either revolving around or including alcohol.  Evening get-togethers are dominated by food, either eating out or making dinner.  Going to concerts usually involves a bar or even a drink minimum – you have to drink.  Getting to know people at work – especially when those people are also fellow lowly-paid entry-level colleagues – involves a good many happy hours. Creative events include “sample my home brew” or “let’s go to the donut festival” or “let’s be out all day so the only thing we have to eat is crappy streetcar food” or “let’s do brunch with bottomless mimosas and limited options that all include syrup, powdered sugar, and carbs!”


Naomi: It’s unbelievable how often my social life revolves around food and drinking. Maybe we should try to come up with activities just for shits and giggles that somehow doesn’t involve getting food. I swear if someone suggests exercise…

Elle:  Yes, it would be nice, but it’s not realistic.  I suggest those kinds of things and people shoot me down.  I have a friend who’s pretty and thin and adorable…and never works out.  She says she wants to start running, and I have offered several times to go with her because A) I would get to hang out with her, and B) I could use it, too.  But she won’t ever take me up on it. I’ve suggested games like Ultimate Frisbee or even throwbacks like Capture the Flag.  No one goes for it.  The reality is that if I want to hang out with people, it’s going to be in a bar or restaurant or at a cookout, all full of temptation.

Naomi: So realistically we have to accept  this to be a non-negotiable circumstance. So then how do we move forward? I mean I could eat before I go, drink water, and just say I don’t want to spend money…But who wants to do that??

Elle: Exactly.  I know how to cope with the situation.  That is, I know to eat a little bit before, I know to just be strong and confident and I won’t need alcohol, I know not to order a pina colada. I know the tricks of drinking a water in between every drink and avoiding drinking too much, which will lead to snacking.  I even had a friend who would bring her own low-cal powdered drink mix to use with the liquor from the bar, even asking the bartenders if they wouldn’t mind.  But at least in the world of bars and drinking and the general social frivolity of the nightlife, let’s be honest:  when you’re the only one who’s not drinking, you’re usually the only one who’s not having that much fun.  Sometimes it’s just fun to let loose.  And if you’re constantly thinking not only about maintaining your diet but also about sticking out as the only one not joining in, you’re thinking that you stick out even more as the person who’s overweight and needs limits.  All this impedes the fun.

Dinner with Friends by Carmen Tyrell

Naomi: I definitely don’t feel bad during the socializing; it’s mostly just the next day, especially if I have gone out and done a lot of drinking. Is there a solution to this problem or will we always have to feel guilty after having fun with our friends? This is definitely not the way to live.

Elle: Well, I don’t think we have to be so defeatist about the situation.  Part of it is just psychological: getting to that point where we’re OK with ourselves to say “no” or to think about the benefits of the long-term goal, not how good that beer is going to taste.  The problem, too, is simply social norms and accepted etiquette. If you’re not drinking or eating much (and you have in the past), then everybody hounds you: “Are you ok?  Is anything wrong?  Can I buy you something else?  Here, try this.”  Sometimes in a meal setting, a friend will just order appetizers or desserts for the table without any consultation, as a gesture of fraternity.  Can you really refuse a gift?! At both bars and restaurants, I know that I have tried the “I’m trying to save money” card, and it’s worked from time to time.  But I have plenty of friends who then say, “It’s on me.”
This past weekend I went to a favorite bar with a dear, old friend – a good Southern boy with manners to share.  When I asked him if he was going to get another drink, he did.  I asked because I was curious how long we were going to stay.  He interpreted my question as “let’s get another.”  When he saw that I wasn’t drinking and I said that I didn’t need another one, he would not allow me to be drink-less.  “I’m not going to sit here and drink by myself!”  He would not rest until he had bought me another drink. If I had said, “The best thing that you – as a friend – could do for me is to let me drink this water,” that might have worked.  But he was so adamant that I have to think…probably not.

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6 responses to “Let’s Talk About…Going Out in Your 20s

  1. interestingly enough… I totally understand this whole blog thread… sometimes I turn down invitations because I can’t bare to drink/eat out AGAIN! It isn’t always about the cost (although it does add up)… it is the fact that my bf is skinny and adores desserts (which normally means a spoonful for me… “just to taste” he always says)… and the rest of my friends and I like our wine… so a few bottles always get inhaled….
    sigh – wouldnt it just be easier if eating out and drinking was calorie free (and tasty!) 🙂

  2. Yes, totally agree with this post. It doesn’t just affect my social life though, but also my relationship – my boyfriend and I have stopped going out on dates as much because I’m reluctant to go out for dinner and am cutting back on alcohol – we find other things to do, but going for a run together really isn’t as romantic!

  3. You all are missing out. I’ve had friends since college who love to do things like go hiking, go running, go to plays or museums, and lots of other non-food events. Even if we end up eating, it’s not the sole purpose of the outing. These people are out there, you’re just not going to find them in bars.

    • Well, I hope it didn’t come across like all we do is hang out in bars and hope to meet people there. Nor are my friends alcoholics or incapable of doing other things like music festivals and walking through the park. We just wanted to comment on how prevalent the “let’s get a drink” or “let’s grab lunch” culture is for people our age who – especially in the city – don’t have apartments big enough (or theirs enough) to hold gatherings, and it’s an acceptable way to get to know people, especially in an informal way.

  4. that’s about it, a pellet stove, it burns wood peletls that cost about the same or more per ton as the recent record futures price for milling wheat… It means I don’t get the fun of playing with a chainsaw and axe, but get sent to the garage all weathers to bring buckets of peletls in. One minor advantage is we can use the peletls as cat litter as well – we’re buying that in industrial quantities already.

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