Parties and photos and big red cups


“Red Solo Cup, I fill you up, Let’s have a party. Let’s have a party.”

Yep, somehow I know the lines to Toby Keith’s country ode to this past weekend’s headline-making Red Solo Cup (although I did have to Google the name of the singer).

I don’t know why they are synonymous with parties — maybe they are sold at beer distributors, I don’t remember, I haven’t been to a beer distributor since my college days. But I remember, from even back then if there was a party, there were big, red, plastic cups. And they weren’t for soda.

And, our attorney general isn’t the first to be pictured in major newspapers at a party where the revelers had said cups in hand. Back in 1985, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a huge story on underage drinking at college and there, in the center of a large photo that ran above the fold, was Meredith Levin.

By way of background, let me tell you what I was in high school. I was editor of the literary magazine, president of the International Club, member of the student government, first chair violin player in the orchestra, active in USY, and, oh yeah, science fair participant (don’t laugh, I competed at the state level). So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I didn’t go to a party with alcohol until I went to college. And even then, I went to Haverford College, which, in a million years, would never be featured in an “I’m Schmacked” video (ask your kids about that reference).

The above referenced photo, in fact, was taken at Swarthmore College. They were hosting a “tri-college party,” and my friends and I had taken one of the buses that traveled between Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr College campuses to attend.

When the paper came out the next day, I was thrilled. I thought it was cool. My parents were mortified. My high school teachers thought it was hilarious. Several of them hung it on their classroom bulletin boards, much to my younger sister’s dismay and even pointed it out to her when she walked from class to class. “Seems your sister is having fun in college.”

But what could my parents do? They called me and told me to cool it. But I was in college. They had gotten me party-free through high school. They had to trust me to use my judgment (as much judgment as an 18-year-old has).

Those days were different. In those days, the Philadelphia Inquirer was quickly thrown in the trash (not even recycled). The photo forgotten.

The Gansler photo was all the buzz among us parents of high school seniors this weekend. Added to the mix was the fact that several area high schools had homecoming, which means after parties. And, this week marks the first major deadline for college applications — Nov. 1, when many early decision and early action applications are due. Beach week is looming.

What’s a parent to do? we asked each other.

“If we were running for political office, we’d stay as far away from beach week as possible,” was the consensus.

I even heard about a homecoming after party, where the parents collected the kids’ phones in order to prohibit them from taking and posting photos.

So, it seems, it’s not as much about the solo cups as it is about the cellphones. Not as much about the underage drinking as it is about the reputation damaging.

What am I going to do come June and Beach Week? I don’t know yet. It’s still months away. But I’m inclined to let her go. She’s a kid much like I was, except she has better judgment. She’s headed off to college next year, and it’s time to let go and trust that she’s listened to what we’ve taught her. Not just about drinking, but about social media and being aware of how her actions might circulate on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Because these days, it’s not so much that the parties are different. It’s the rules of privacy that have changed.

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