A few months back, an acquaintance told me that she was visiting New York City for the first time. She wondered about how to spend her time there, so I offered up some ideas. Walk through Central Park and its zoo. Enjoy the Met. And stop at Gramercy Tavern for a drink.
Gramercy boasts the nation's finest bar, I told her. The selection of imbibeables is astounding, and the bartenders possess an extraordinary depth and breadth of knowledge about spirits, wine, and beer. (In my opinion, Gramercy's bar ought to be declared a national treasure.)
"Oh," she replied. "I'll be visiting a friend and her 14-year-old son. I wouldn't want to have a drink in front of him. It would set a bad example."
A mere heartbeat elapse before I seized the moment to spread my particular gospel. "That's precisely why you SHOULD stop at Gramercy for a drink. It's a civilized and pleasant setting. The bar is full of comfortable chairs and there will be all kinds of people there, including families, enjoying time together. You and your friend can enjoy a fabulous drink and chat with each other and her son. It'll be the perfect opportunity for him to get a positive message about alcohol and drinking."
I pointed out to her that right now, the only message the boy gets is a negative one, and mostly from his peers. They all know about alcohol, right? It's that evil, demonic, forbidden stuff that they have to lie and steal to obtain. And when they do have some, they slug it down without thinking about what it is, what they're doing, or the consequences. That's all that young man knows -- because no one wants to provide an alternative view.
But if she and her friend took him to Gramercy Tavern, he'd see and experience an alternative. He could sit down with two adults, watch them talk and enjoy their drinks, sharing each other's company and his. He'd see that adults can drink without getting drunk (there's no rule that says imbibing equals intoxication or that drinking inevitably leads to drunkenness). He'd experience a place where alcohol is treated with respect and dignity. He'd have the chance, in other words, to see the other side of alcohol, the one he's not learning with his buddies at school.
End of lecture. Spread the word.