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What-does-it-take-to-say-no

What does it take to say no?

High School, Year 8, First Semester break. I was invited to a sleep over at my friend’s house down the street. To my surprise watching movies and painting nails was no longer considered sleep-over trendy. My friends had something else in mind; to share a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, wait until the adults were asleep and then sneak out to meet some boys down at the oval for a few more drinks.

Alarm bells went off in my head at the first mention of their plan. I don’t want to sneak out, I have never done that before and I don’t really like the taste of alcohol. Why can’t we just have soft drink? I like Lift!

I remember the girls pressuring me to take a sip from the bottle of whisky and feeling my face heat up because of the pressure. I refused to have some and at this point I told them that I wouldn’t be sneaking out either.

1:00 am came and a mobile phone alarm broke the silence in the living room where my four friends and I lay in our sleeping bags. The girls got up, promptly fixing their make-up and clothes. Again I refused to go, and it was agreed that I would stay and be look-out, tasked with alerting the girls by phone and telling them to come back in the event that the parents woke up.

If not for the fact that I fell asleep, that would have been a pretty good plan.

In the morning I was the worst friend in the world because I had fallen asleep I wasn’t up waiting for them when they got back, but my friend’s parents were!

My name is Anna and I am 21 years old. I was brought up in a family that allowed me to drink alcohol within the family environment under the age of 18. My parents are of Italian heritage and I think it is because of their strong European background that their perception of alcohol is so different to many Australian’s today.

If I think back to the night of the Year 8 sleepover, I wonder what influenced me to say ‘no’. Was it the way my parents had brought me up? Was it the close relationship I have with them? Was it the schools I had attended? Or was it simply just my personality type?

I am aware that some parents deny their children any and all alcohol until they have reached the legal drinking age. From my experience and comparing myself to my peers growing up, my view and behaviour towards alcohol was generally very different to theirs.

Growing up I felt no desire to drink while under-age. My parents and I could openly discuss alcohol at home and if I wanted to try a drink or share a little of an alcoholic beverage with my parents they allowed it. There was no need to sneak alcohol and the idea of engaging in such an activity seemed immoral and pointless.

Alcohol was not the main topic of our conversations but I always made my parents aware of the alcohol culture that my peers engaged in, such as getting drunk and drunken behaviour.

They were very against it and still are, but this didn’t stop them from letting me go to birthday parties or school socials because we enjoyed a very close and trusting relationship. They were still very conscious of it and would always remind me to never abuse alcohol.

Growing up I regularly saw alcohol responsibly shared amongst family to celebrate a wedding, a birthday and other important family occasions. I certainly have never felt the urge to binge drink after turning 18; I was already exposed to it, surrounded by it and my family never over-indulged in it so I had no negative associations with it.

For many of my friends, their whole perception about turning 18 was consumed by the fact that they would finally be able to drink legally. I think there is this idea that you have to get ‘smashed’ on your 18th.The pressure to do so is unbelievable, with sculling chants and large birthday drinking glasses the notion has become a custom.

Like the saying ‘you always want what you can’t have’ I feel that many of my peers developed such a hunger or shall I say thirst for alcohol because they were told they couldn’t have it.

Anna Musitano

Anna Musitano

Anna is a third-year public relations student at the University of Canberra.

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