Do you remember being aged around 15-17? I do, vividly. They were some of the best years of my life yet also some of the worst. You’re at that age when you’re old enough to go out by yourself and pretend to be a cool adult, but too young to actually do anything or go anywhere. My friend’s and I would spend all week at school planning our Friday and Saturday nights. We’d get a smart pair of jeans ready, a decent shirt, get some polish on the shoes, spray the Lynx, a splash of Joop and head out to town in the same direction as all the lovely girls. Within 8 minutes our hope had been neutered by a big man in a doorway asking for a form of ID other than a library card.
It was a hopeless time, there was only one pub in the whole of Kingston-upon-Thames that would serve us; The Albion. The reason being, I suspect, was that it was so crap and inhospitable that the owners just didn’t care. And there were never any girls there. Girls don’t need ID at that age anyway. Sexist bouncers.
Usually what would happen is that we would go to one of our houses and deplete a father’s beer supply or take a bottle of mixed death to a park, sit on a bench and pretend to be vagabonds. Upon turning 18 however, that was it, victory. You would march up to the same bouncer who had been turning you away for a year with a smug grin, show him your driving licence and you’d be in, alone, because you’re friends don’t turn 18 for another 8 months. Pathetic days, they really were.
Not much has changed; there is nothing to do for mid-teenagers anywhere in the world. They are old enough to be pitching woo to the opposite sex, old enough to wish to adopt a lifestyle of partying, DJ-ing, dancing and drinking but too old to be stuck inside on a Friday night playing Cluedo with Grandma or watching Jim Davidsons Generation Game, if that’s still on. Here in the UAE however the problem of occupation is ten time’s worse.
Growing up in hopeless Kingston there was always a chance you could get in somewhere, particularly at the end of the month if the brewery needed to push for its target income. The worst that could happen is that you would get kicked out, no matter; you’d simply try somewhere else. Here, can you imagine what would happen if an underage reveller was caught stumbling out of Barasti at 3am? Worse still, the legal age for drinking is different. You have to be 18 to drink in Abu Dhabi and 21 in Dubai. I always thought that 21 is too old an age but that’s for another day.
Now then, as I wrote last week, the UAE has a tendency to come across as a confusing place for tourists and even expatriates. Is it the country that will send you to jail for vomiting in the back of a taxi that you read about in The Daily Mail or is it that hedonistic party land where everyone wears swimwear and drinks Campari that you saw on TV last week? It’s a nightmare to know what to expect.
The UAE, as we know, is an Islamic country and that’s great, their rules apply and we all abide by that. We expats and tourists are allowed to quaff lager so long as we don’t create a pubic disturbance. But we’re all old enough to do things and go places, think of the poor teenagers at home with Grandma and Colonel Mustard and his candlestick. Well, an enthusiastic Irishman called Westleigh Flynn has come up with a solution.
He has started running teenagers only nights at his hotel, The Grand Midwest, and it all sounds great. The ethos behind the move is to “treat teenagers like adults” and as such the strict, Blue Peter like motto is “No kids. No adults.” I confess I did snigger when I read this. It all sounds so dreadfully tedious. I’ve had the misfortune to go to an under 18’s disco before an honestly, it is the worst thing in the world. The music, the attitude, the suspicious looking DJ in a shell suit, the lack of booze…
Anyway the point of the whole thing is that it is supposed to be a place for “teeny-boppers” (cringe) to go and hang out and get a taster experience of what it is like to be an adult. Stop right there, that is false advertising. How does going to a nightclub where all you can drink are Banana Smoothies and 7-Up and play Fifa simulate adult life? Where is the debt? Where is the anxiety? Where is the disdain for ones job? Where is the fear that your wife will run off with the postman? Where is the dread of the inability to deal with the hangover? The car registration is up for renewal too.
All its doing is making these young teenagers believe that when they turn 18 in Abu Dhabi or 21 in Dubai their life is going to be one great big party. Furthermore, when you go out to Barasti Bar or the 360 place there will not be Fifa X-Box games, there won’t be a piñata nor will there be pass the parcel. No, there will be pretentious morons that you will want to hit, there will be people who will look at you like filth and there will be tequila to consume, and believe me that will likely put you off ever wanting to drink again. There will be rejection, there will be self-loathing, there will be incurable hangovers and carrot chunks and you just wait until you see your bill at the end of the night. You talk to a pretty girl about how good you are at Fifa on the X-Box and I promise you that you will be given the wrong number…
No, there is nothing to do for teenagers for a good reason. Fluffy nightclubs with their computer games, lemon squash and CCTV do not prepare you for a real night out. It all sounds like a paradise, and in essence it is. You will be disappointed when you reach 18 in Abu Dhabi or 21 in Dubai when you go out, get laughed at by the regulars because you can’t neck a pint, get laughed at by the barman because you can’t afford the round and get laughed at by the girls because you’re wearing black shoes and they’re covered in sick. No, the teenage years of hopelessness and failure prepare you for the day you’re old enough to hit the ground running and can learn for yourself.
Enjoy being a teenager and don’t waste time pretending to be an adult because honestly, it’s overrated.