Amateur Night

The seven people you see the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, aka "Black Wednesday"

November 17, 2017

Volumes have been written about the minefield of Thanksgiving Day, from the passive-aggressive family exchanges, to the pulled groinfest of an afternoon football game to the stress of telling whoever's slaving over that new creative cranberry sauce recipe that it's really still better straight out of a can. Not as often chronicled but equally as treacherous is Thanksgiving Eve, when most of your high school friends converge on their old haunts to raise a glass to the glory days, take note of who's put on an alarming amount of weight, and in the case of a fortunate few, lure back to their childhood bedroom someone they had absolutely no shot at in 12th grade.

“Black Wednesday,” as it’s been called, or “Drinksgiving,” has been unofficially cited as the biggest drinking night of the year, and theories why abound—because most people who don’t play for the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys have the next day off, because you and your high school buddies can now drink together somewhere other than the woods behind the football field, and because everyone is projecting ahead 24 hours and they know they’re bound to feel sufficiently awful regardless. Whatever the reason, the night is also known as “Amateur Night,” because it attracts a wide, but reliable assortment of characters who you will likely run into— and in some cases hope to avoid—over the course of the evening. For instance:

1. The guy who remembers your friendship as being much closer than it actually was. There are big hugs involved, and probably a round of shots on him, and at some point he’ll launch into a vivid retelling of a shared experience that you don’t remember in the slightest. On the plus side, he helps inflate a version of your old self that you’ve always quietly questioned. On the down side, he’s attached himself to your side for the night and you’re not 100 percent sure if his name is Jason or Jeff.

2. The guy your age who looks as old as your dad. He survived law school and his early days as an associate, and now that he’s made partner he drives a car more expensive than your house. Yet you still take shameful glee in how deeply he’s already entrenched in middle age, and that no number of European vacations can bring back his hair.

3. The guy who didn’t drink in high school but now wants you to know he definitely does. In college you were always leery of the kid who hadn’t tasted alcohol until then because it meant he was sprung like an uncaged lion on the rest of your dorm. This often extends into his post-college existence because now he needs to show everyone else that he likes his beer, and his rum and cokes, often at the same time. By the end of the night he’ll either be passed out in the corner, implicated in a harassment suit, or worse, betting on the Lions to cover.

4. At least one of your friends’ parents. There is a modest novelty to this — “Drinking with Marv! And I’m now calling him Marv!” — but it wears off quickly. Because while the rest of your pals are down the bar ripping off inside jokes from senior year, he’s droning on about sales slagging in Q3, the minor procedure he’s scheduled for next week, and how he and your buddy's mom aren’t as intimate as they used to be.

5. The guy who forgot tomorrow is Thanksgiving and just comes here every night.

6. The late-blooming girl from 11th grade biology who makes you wish you hadn’t been such a dick in 11th grade biology. High school is such an imperfect snapshot, because we all develop at different rates, and some of us take a while to hit our stride ... blah, blah, blah. The point is there are invariably classmates who don’t emerge from their shells until well after graduation and all it takes is one night under a flattering set of bar lights to find you cursing your adolescent insults and lack of foresight from a decade earlier.

7. The high school star who has maddeningly remained cooler than you. The disappointing contrast to the jowly former standout athlete kept prisoner by his former self is the one who parlayed his teenage success seamlessly into adulthood. He has a good job, a beautiful family, and looks like he could still bust out a decent time in the 40. Even worse is he’s shed his rough edges to become well adjusted and wholly likable, and is devoted to causes that will make the world a better place, the asshole.

MORE FROM THE LOOP