Teenagers not drinking? I blame the parents

'Go on chap, have a beer' is repeated so often in our household that, could the walls speak, they would surely be on the line to Esther Rantzen
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The scene in the local Polish restaurant had the flavour of a timeless intergenerational row. "You've obviously had too much. You really should stop there." "I'm not drunk! I'm just passionate!" said the other, refilling his vodka shot glass mid-song, for the umpteenth time.

What was slightly odd, as you might guess from the strangled ballad being "Bridge Over Troubled Water", is that the one doing the rebuking was me, the 17-year-old son, and the one being affably if deafeningly drunk was my 50-year-old father. He ignored my pleas to sit down, shut up and drink some water, and continued to sing the chorus, with the vocal dexterity of an elephant with its trunk in a mangle.

But then, perhaps it isn't so odd. My relationship with my father seems to have become the norm, as last week's news that teenagers are behaving much more abstemiously than their predecessors confirmed. "Go on chap, have a beer" is repeated so often in our household that, could the walls speak, they would surely be on the line to Esther Rantzen. "Don't bother with your homework – book learning's wildly overrated" is another mantra oft reiterated when I choose to stay in and knuckle down like a "nerdy squirt". As I type, my father is requesting that I abandon my journalistic hopes and dreams to go out with him.

A couple of months ago, when I was out with some mates celebrating the end of exams, a drug dealer sidled up and offered us some pot. "Going cheap!" We all smiled awkwardly, then buckled under the weight of our middle-class politeness: "Yes my dear fellow, thank you most kindly for the offer of this substance known to damage our bodies and minds in irreparable ways, but we must decline with the most sincere apologies" (or words to that effect).

When I told my father, he was surprised. While I have received the "Don't do [insert random drug]" lecture so often that I can recite it by heart (with correct intonation and cadence), I'm not sure he expected me to take it seriously. He never expects to be taken seriously, in fact, and with good reason, and he certainly didn't expect my friends to take any notice.

It is virtually a cliché that today the young have little prospect of walking into a lucrative career, and none at all of affording their own homes, or even rent. Getting into a decent university is a performance that takes all joy and lustre out of learning itself. My generation has to work for grades and university places, and even if you're a straight-A student, one boozy photo on Facebook could turn a prospective employer away. We literally and metaphorically cannot afford to lie about the place – we have exams to pass.

The prospect of living at home for decades while trying to scrape together the deposit on a converted outside loo in Brixton isn't enticing. But home it is … Still, at least the old boy will have someone to keep him in line and provide the discipline every adolescent of his generation so badly needs.