Stuff

​I Spent a Day Pretending I Was 17

Everything used to be better when I was a teenager – including Gwyneth Paltrow, Pokémon and myself.

by Michael Buchinger, Photos: Dominik Pichler
01 August 2016, 10:00am


The author now (left) and at 17 (right)

This article originally appeared on VICE Alps

Everything used to be better when I was a teenager – of that, I'm sure. Not only were Pokémon and Gwyneth Paltrow amazing back then but, as I'm continuously reminded, so was I. At 17, I was far more likeable, funny and all 'round more awesome than I could ever be today.

At 17, I was simply unstoppable. Back in those days I could hardly wait till Friday, when I would finally change out of my Catholic school garb and get into my thoroughly cool going-out getup to party through the night and into the early morning hours. I danced in trashy Viennese nightclubs as if no one was watching, lived as if nothing could hurt me and drank as if hangovers were a Big-Pharma conspiracy. Then spent Sunday trying to piece together the events of the night before.

Today, in contrast, my ideal Friday night consists of a pot of tea, a Sex and the City box set and compulsively hitting the "play all episodes" option without a second thought. By the next morning, the only thing that's left for me to piece together is what episode I fell asleep watching.

It's all too often now that I feel like a complete shadow of my former self. I live on the memories of those far-gone glory days. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with my comfortable, semi-adult life. I just can't help but wonder if there's still a bit of that youthful spark in me. Could I be 17 again if I wanted to – even if just for a day? There was only one way to find out.

8:30 AM

Despite it being abhorrently early for a Saturday morning, I wake up fully rested and would love nothing more than to jump out of bed singing 'Here Comes the Sun'. However, this would be as impossibly out of character for 17-year-old Michael as that episode of Tom & Jerry in which they're friends for some reason – so I decide the proper course of action is to lie in bed for a few more hours.

12 PM


"The dog is getting drunk tonight!"

At noon, I groggily roll out of bed, having very clearly overslept. In a move driven by nostalgia for being scolded, I promptly call my mother.

– "Mum, I just woke up, and it's noon. And I haven't eaten anything yet!" I state in a manic attempt to press all of her buttons at once.

But instead of hissing at me or aggressively vacuuming as loudly as possible over the phone, my mother reacts in a shockingly calm tone: "Good for you," she says. "You work hard and you've earned a relaxing weekend."

Deeply disappointed in her refusal to take part in my "17-again" experiment, I decide to switch strategies.

– "I'll put this energy to good use! Tonight, I'm meeting my friends in the park and we're probably gonna drink a bunch of alcohol," I tell her in my most provocative tone.

– "Alright then, have fun!" she chirps cheerfully and says goodbye. She did not even tell me to remember to bring a sweater. A little later, she inexplicably sends me a picture of a dog sitting at a bar with the caption "The dog's getting drunk tonight!". I roll my eyes in frustration. Mums, right?

1 PM

After I've prepared the favourite dish of my teenage years – a plate of pasta with ketchup – I begin to wonder what I ever did over the course of a Saturday when I was 17. I settle that teenage-me would have probably watched some crap TV shows or played video games.

As it seemed rather fitting for the experiment, I load up Pokémon Go and begin my march down the path of nostalgia through the city, hoping to catch a couple of rare specimens along the way. This portion of my experiment is wildly successful in comparison to the phone call with my mother because sometime after I've caught my third Pidgey, I'm really feeling like a teenager again and I am already looking forward to getting wasted and (hopefully!) making out with someone too.

2:30 PM

I make my way down to the supermarket on a mission to pick up a couple of the favourite drinks of my youth: Eristoff Ice and Eristoff Red – just like with WKDs, the thought of these two reprehensibly disgusting swills flushes all colour from my face. This reaction does not come undeserved; Between 16 and 18 I vomited regularly from having drunk these poisons, most frequently in the parking lot of a gynaecologist's office, which after some time became my designated spewing-zone.

In the supermarket, carrying myself in as covert a manner as possible, I snatch my two drinks up and bee-line to the register trying to hide my bounty as though I were smuggling a corpse across the border. I was so caught up in my 17-year old world, I had a genuine fear that the cashier would ask me for an I.D. She didn't though because I'm 23, and look like 32.

6 PM


"Look what I got!" I chime to my friends, who at this point I've already met and began to picnic and pregame with in the park. I enthusiastically reach for the two Eristoff bottles in my Eastpak backpack, and proudly present them to the group. They are aghast – undoubtedly because they simply cannot grasp how amazing and young I've once again become.

"BOOM! Eristoff!" I proclaim, my announcement met by silence instead of jubilation. It only then dawns on me that my picnic buddies are nauseated, not overjoyed, by my haul. They emit a variety of sounds of disgust that I personally reserve for board games or the music of David Hasselhoff. Obviously, they haven't had good experiences with vodka-infused soft drinks.

"Michael, I've only puked from drinking those things" comes the response from my friend Bianca, the first to break the silence. "Why would I ever want to drink such a thing?" But Bianca has just turned 30, so I choose to simply ignore her so as not to let her dampen my youthful spirit.

Instead, I pop open my Eristoff Ice and steer the conversation to themes like homework, Pidgey and Professor Willow. My friends absently nod their heads, while exchanging looks that can only be interpreted as saying, "Who invited Michael?".

7 PM

You might think that after two Eristoff Ice and three shots of Eristoff Red I would start to feel a buzz coming on, but you'd be wrong. Maybe I've graduated to the master level of drinking, because where I'd be drunkenly prattling on and professing my love to everyone around me at 17 today, I feel steady enough to pilot a 747.

8 PM

I'm beginning to remember why everybody hates vodka mixers. They taste light and fruity, giving you a false sense of sobriety right before they hit you like a mortgage payment. An hour ago I could fly a jumbo jet – the best I can do now is scramble for a sick-bag in my Eastpak. I decide to take a break from drinking for the next half-hour.

9 PM

My new friends

It's worth to note here, just how many teenagers are hanging out in this park. I thought only drug dealers and sex fiends were lurking here at this time of night but I was wrong; There are more teens here than at a 5 Seconds of Summer concert. They're just sitting around on the grass, unperturbed, smoking and drinking away. I make a mental note: "Cool kids love parks!"

I end up managing to engage a group of real teenage girls in conversation. My attempt at extracting their youthful essence ends in abject failure. They give me a couple of tips for cool places to drink at, then get rid of me by disappearing further into the park, undoubtedly to discuss pressing issues like Pretty Little Liars and hoverboards.

10 PM

Inexplicably, about a third of my friends decide to leave me in the park. Along with the remaining group, I make my way to a place my new friends recommended, located right at the centre of the Bermuda Triangle of Vienna's nightlife: the Kaktus Bar. I remember enthusiastically visiting this establishment at 17, on occasion even referring to it as a "real hip joint".

The Kaktus Bar was the spot where, for example, I once snogged a guy named Gerald for about an hour because he bought me a round of tequila shots. But as Gerald made a move towards my genitals, I was forced to bring our romance to an abrupt end, heading out to the parking lot to vomit in peace.

Anyway, what I found was a small, pink-lit room that looked as though Katy Perry had exploded all over the walls. The waiters all wore suits and the guests surprisingly all looked like they were about the same age as me. Maybe they were conducting a "17-again" experiment of their own?

10:15 PM

I order a round of beers for me and my friends, which is brought to the table in record time.

– "Wow! You're quick!" I say to our waiter.

"That's what my girlfriend says," he replies without missing a beat. How many shots of tequila must I drink to forget this night ever happened?

In a moment of teenage rebellion I snatch all the empty beer bottles off the table and sneak them into my backpack – not for the rush of having nicked something, but because my friend makes his own kombucha and needs bottles with attached stoppers.

11 PM

I wish I could claim that I partied the whole night, finally passing out fully dressed in my living room, with my shoes firmly on my feet. Sorry. After spending less than an hour at the Kaktus Bar, I'm already heading home dreaming of a bath filled with disinfectant gel and holy water.

In a last-ditch attempt to relive years past, I head over to the nearest McDonald's and in the midst of a crowd of wasted teenagers, I treat myself to an order of fries. But even this attempt fails in its own way. The fries aren't that bad but taste a bit bland and they are certainly not as good as I remember them back in the day. I see this as a metaphor for myself.

CONCLUSION

Maybe I'm just hopelessly boring or maybe being 17 was never as good as I remember. While I was carrying out my little experiment, I couldn't help but think of all the time I was wasting – time that could be better spent at home, comfortably lying on the couch.

I don't ever want to be 17 again, and I'm even starting to wonder how I ever made it through the first time around. And while I wholeheartedly welcome the Pokémon revival with open arms (and would even prescribe a bottle of Eristoff-Ice for the occasional kick), there are perhaps some things better left in the past: my 17-year-old self being number one on that list.

@michibuchinger