Is being a teenager in Manhattan really as glamorous (and sordid) as Gossip Girl suggests?
Thu Sep 20 2007
Scene from Gossip Girl
Where are the kids hanging out these days? Well, we don’t rightly know, but if they’re anything like we were at their age, they’ll be anywhere that their parents are not, knee-deep in self-abuse. We interviewed some recent New York high-school graduates to see what kind of trouble they were really getting into, and then went out on the town to see if we could observe them in their natural habitat. In the interest of full disclosure, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
“I started doing coke when I was, like, a sophomore in high school,” recalls Jessie (who graduated in ’05). “We’d go out to places like Key Bar (432 E 13th St between Ave A and First Ave, 212-478-3021) and Bar None (98 Third Ave between 12th and 13th Sts, 212-777-6663) a lot: basically, any place that we could get into with our shitty fake IDs.” She adds, “I used to sleep at my boyfriend’s house, like, all the time and tell my mom I was sleeping at my friend Lisa’s. Lisa would lie for me, because my boyfriend at the time was 22 when I was 16.”
Bobby, another recent graduate, told us that “for parties it is usually a lot of forties. There is always weed, and almost always blunts. Pills were around, though I never knew anyone who had a dealer for them. It was usually what you could steal from Mom and Dad’s cabinet, and almost always downers.”
Scene from Gossip Girl
A third product of the New York school system, Chrissy, reveals that “in high school there was a lot of drinking in the East Village dive bars, snorting Adderall, smoking Marlboro Lights and going on ‘coffee’ breaks from school—to smoke our one-hitters on random stoops in Soho. We also went to a lot of hookah bars because they never used to card.”
All in all, it sounds like kids these days are fucking up in much the same ways that we did (for the record, I spent my formative years playing Dungeons & Dragons and waiting for my acne to clear up).*
Still, I wanted to see it for myself (and maybe score some contraband), so I headed to the UES douche-bag vortex Dorrian’s Red Hand (300 E 84th St at Second Ave, 212-772-6660) where you can almost smell the ivy and pomade. While it has a well-established reputation for catering to a young, boorish crowd, it’s still not that easy to sleaze your way into a group without looking like a maladjusted creep—or worse, like the “Preppy Killer,” who met his victim at Dorrian’s in 1986. Some observable parties could well be underage, but all attempts to chat were viewed as piss-poor pickup attempts. Many young ladies appear to be drinking low-carb Michelob Ultra, perhaps fearing the inevitable “freshman 15.”
Scene from Gossip Girl
Slightly deterred, I headed north to The Big Easy (1768 Second Ave at 92nd St, 212-348-0879), which is a nominally a New Orleans-themed bar. It doesn’t so much resemble post-Katrina Louisiana as it does a white-bread Georgetown after-party: Dudes drinking beer out of plastic cups, girls laid out on the bar doing body shots and beer-pong tables in the back. Suddenly, a young-looking brunette (Girl No. 1) tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that her friend (Girl No. 2) “thinks you’re cute.” An awkward moment, but as I tried to think of the least lecherous way to segue into useful reportage and ask them for drugs, Girl No. 2 requested that I “punch her in the boob,” referring to Girl No. 1. Alarm bells went off in my head amid visions of jail and cries of “I didn’t know she was 15! You don’t understand: She told me to punch her fun bags!” I fled.
My final stop, Saloon (1584 York Ave between 83rd and 84th Sts, 212-570-5454), has all the charm of a malignant brain tumor (and the brass to charge $10 at the door). The gamble appears to be paying off, though, as it was packed with well-heeled debutantes and future disgraced senators. Feeling like a narc, I jostled my way to the bar and even managed to get a drink after 15 minutes or so. Looking around for telltale signs of illicit drug use (dilated pupils, smeared makeup, stray crack pipe), the only thing my amateur sleuthing got me was a Camel Light I bummed off some girl out front. Well, at least the kids are still smoking.
Are teens partying more than they used to? Maybe. But if our recent experience is anything to go by, then mammary assault is the new cocaine.
—Additional reporting by Sophie Friedman
*A reference to Sindergarten was removed from this story's print edition, as it turned out to be a hoax.