the more things change...

Gen Z Parties Totally Different Than We Did

For one thing, going out in pajamas and slippers is the norm.

Gen-z parties different then gen-x. They prefer weed over alcohol. They brings their phones with the...
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Growing up in the ‘90s, Friday and Saturday nights were always spent going out with friends. We’d try to find a house where the parents are out of town for the weekend or end up in the woods around a bonfire drinking a hangover-inducing combination of Natty Ice, Zima, and a bottle of vodka. If ‘90s hip hop was playing, it meant there’d be dancing later on. Grateful Dead meant you could probably get some LSD.

It was all about getting out of the house and away from our parents. We couldn’t wait to meet up with our friends. I remember helping friends sneak out of the house if they were grounded. I was always in full makeup, hair done, wearing the perfect outfit with a pack of Marlboro Reds in my back pocket.

Now, 30 years later, I have teenagers. And I have to say, Gen Z parties way differently than we did, and I wonder if it’s better. For one thing, going out in pajamas and slippers is the norm.

I spent a lot of years worried because my kids weren’t as social as me. My teenagers barely leave the house. When I was their age, I was dying to get away from my parents. But they have access to everyone they want to talk to on their own phones — there are no worries about your parents or a sibling picking up the phone and listening in on your conversation.

I know there are occasional house parties and Gen Z does drink, but weed seems to be the party ingredient of choice. Which all seems so mild compared to my high school years, when I was offered acid at house parties regularly. They prefer to hang out in small groups and do edibles.

I hear a lot about symptoms of social anxiety amongst their friends. They don’t want to see certain people, and they keep their circles small. I’ve discussed this with my kids, who all admit to “not liking people” as much as I did when I was a teenager. They’re fine staying in and communicating through their phones. And getting ready to go out doesn’t seem to be such a big ordeal, like it was for me. I’ve watched all my kids leave the house to go “chill with friends” in pajamas and slippers —no going-out shirts here!

My kids have all been very honest with me (I think) about what they’ve tried and what they haven’t (so far). They’ve all smoked weed and done edibles several times, but they have no desire to drink. I realize not all teenagers are like this, but I hear the same thing from my mom friends about their kids, so it’s kinda gotta be a thing. Even millennials are drinking way less than Gen X. So I think it is a broader multi-generational shift.

Instead of socializing face-to-face at a party, Gen Z is mostly on their phones documenting the night or sitting alone and scrolling.

When I tell my kids about how things were in the 1990s, they often say how magical and fun it sounds. How people seemed to be different, and there weren’t as many people dealing with social anxiety. Maybe this has something to do with Gen X parents just being more overprotective than our parents. Or maybe as teenagers, we just didn’t know how to describe the feeling of being anxious in public, so we didn’t talk about it as much. Now there’s dialogue around it, and as parents, we want to make sure our kids are adjusting well.

I get that not everyone had the same teen years in the ‘90s or even today, but something has indeed shifted. It’s all a bit calmer and more innocent. When I was a teenager, it was easier for us to get our hands on alcohol, sneak out of the house, and there was no way for our parents to track us, so lying was a lot easier.

Is it better now? I’m not sure. But I will say Gen X knew how to party, whether that was good or bad. And if I’m being totally honest, just between you and me and the Internet, I’m so glad I got to experience the sheer excitement of heading out of the house on the weekend to see my friends with a six-pack of Zima and Marlboro Reds in my pocket. Damn, those were the days.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.