Lately, I’ve been going around telling people that 25 is the best age to be. I’m single, I have no kids, I have a stable job (not to mention a kickass writing gig), and I live fairly cheaply in a city I love. Unlike when I was in college, I finally have the freedom, funds and a Southwest credit card to do whatever the hell I want. I love being 25.
However, every September, I really begin to miss college. There is no feeling comparable to being on campus those first few weeks of school. There is an electric optimism in the air about the year to come. People are excited about parties and football season and a whole lot of attractive fresh faces. You don’t get that feeling when you work in an office and the September days are no different than the May, June and July days.
I’ve made it my mission to make a pilgrimage back to Manhattan, KS and THE Kansas State University at least once every fall to attend a home football game and re-experience a little of the magic I felt when I attended school there. The problem is, I’m just not cut out for the hard-partying lifestyle that I had when I was in college. I no longer get drunk on Thursday nights just because drinks are a dollar. I get cranky if I stay up past 10:30pm. However, there are certain tricks of the trade to surviving a weekend filled with cheap drinks, early tailgates and people with much higher alcohol tolerances than you. And because I’m a nice person, I’ve crafted a guide for you, the somewhat-successful 20-something returning to your college town for game day.
Pre-party (before you go):
1. Pick a game – one that isn’t a noon game. It is possible to survive until closing time at the bars if you start drinking at 6 a.m. It is possible. But it is not likely. And you will pay for it later.
2. Acquire tickets. My advice is to try and get student tickets. You can usually pick them up for cheap (especially early-season games) on a ticket-swapping Facebook page for your school. If you don’t know where to find this, ask someone you know who currently attends your alma mater.
3. Round up your homies (and carpool). This will significantly lower your trip budget, plus you can reminisce about your golden years, listen to your school fight song ten times and get hyped together on your way there.
4. Pack light. You’ll only be gone 48 hours and you’ll be wearing a tailgate-appropriate outfit for 40 of those. Get over yourself and pack one bag.
5. Pre-hydrate. You’re going to be outside, walking a lot, and boozing for more hours than a typical Saturday. Drink a lot of water the night before, and as often as possible at the tailgate.
Party time (stadium in sight):
1. Dress the part: wear your team’s colors with pride, but remember that you are a sort-of adult now. You’re alumni, someone to be respected. Maybe fewer leggings as pants and crop tops once the temperature dips below 70 degrees. Also, it should be against the law to wear a dress to a football game, but that’s just me.
2. Locate a tailgate, preferably one run by real adults. They have real grills and tents and plenty of beer and food to share. I seek out my parents’ tailgate, if they happen to be in town, because my stepdad makes fajitas. He and his friends like to force as much food and beer upon my friends and I as we can handle. If you have an older relative who is a diehard tailgater, make friends with them. You’ll be glad for it. If you or your friends’ parents aren’t available, a frat tailgate is often an acceptable substitute. Pick one of the bigger frats, say ‘dude’ a lot, and you’ll blend right in.
3. Find the people who thought you were really cool when you were in school. You know those kids who are a few years younger than you and thought you invented beer pong just because you were old enough to buy beer? Find them. They have now become the cool kids and they can help you look like you belong.
4. For every five drinks you have before 5pm, make four of them beer. No, actually, just make all of them beer (preferably light beer. No one needs to be pounding IPAs at noon). Beer drunk is the best type of day-drunk. It’s a slow wade into it, so you can keep checking in on acceptable levels of drunkenness. This will ensure that you get drunk enough to have fun, but not too drunk that you black out and wake up in the back of some strangers truck bed before halftime.
5. Catch a ride back. I know because it’s daytime, it seems like you can drive wherever you want and the cops won’t be suspicious that you’re drunk. Wrong, son. It’s game day. You know what’s worse than getting a DUI in college? Getting a DUI after you graduate. Take zTrip. Call your sober friend (if you have one). Hitch a ride from the tailgate to the bars. Walk your ass to wherever you need to be. Just DO NOT DRIVE.
6. Do NOT take a nap. Now this may sound counter-intuitive, but if you take a nap after being day-drunk, you’ll never want to get up. And if you do manage to get up and get yourself to a party or the bars, it’s really, really difficult to get drunk twice in one day. Resist the urge to nap. Pound some Red Bull and man up. You can sleep when you’re dead (or, you know, Sunday, when you get home).
After party (surviving Sunday)
1. Bring comfortable clothes – sweatpants and flip flops will suffice. It’s a college town, not the Met Gala. Everyone is going to be looking just as grungy as you on Sunday.
2. Locate your favorite grease pit. You know, the place you went at least once a week in college for a burger and fries under ten bucks. This will be life-giving to you, as you can feel a little nostalgic about it, as well as try to curb your hangover. I also recommend a dark soda with some caffeine in it.
3. Nap NOW. If you have a comfortable place to stay for the day, that’s fine, but it’s always my preference to get back home ASAP. The car ride might be miserable, but it’s worth it to crash in the comfort of my own home. Do NOT plan anything for this Sunday, except takeout food and football on in the background.
By following the steps outlined here, rounding up your best college friends with you, and hoping that no one roofies your drink, I guarantee that (for one weekend) you can party like you did in college and still be worth a shit at your job Monday morning.