Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fake It Till You Make It

So many of the day-to-day challenges that my teenage daughter and her peers face are new to her generation. Thirty-five years ago, we didn't have smart phones; we didn't have cell phones; we didn't even have "car phones." 

If we were lucky, we had an extension phone (my sister's and mine was a pink "princess") in our bedroom. And, we carried dimes in our wallets to use pay phones when we left the house.

Mobile phones, the Internet, social media, texting ... these are all things that are new to the teen experience.

Fake I.D.s? Not so much.

In the Broadway musical Grease, the loving tribute to 1950s high school, good girl Sandy sings:

"I don't even have my corsage, oh gee
It fell down the sewer with my sister's ID"

Borrowing an older sibling's ID, or paying for a forged one, is clearly as old as sock hops and soda fountains. I myself never owned one, but that didn't preclude me from some less-than-legal fake ID behavior.

My first year in college, some of the older students in our dorm were trying to get us to go to the campus pub. "No one checks IDs," they insisted. To prove their point, they chose the whitest, youngest-looking, female freshman (that would be moi) and handed me the student ID of a dorm-mate who was (a) black, (b) a senior, and (c) a man.

And, yes. As you may have guessed, the students working the door at the pub took the ID, looked at it, looked at me, and ... let me in.

'Talk about instilling in all of us a respect for authority and a fear of consequences. Er ... Not!

(It didn't matter much though. I was only there for the music and the pizza and the popcorn. I didn't even like beer. Then or now. But, I digress.)

Since those kinder, gentler days of the mid-1980s, security everywhere has increased: airports, liquor stores, concerts. So has the technology behind official IDs: holograms, bar codes, microchips. While the IDs themselves have become more difficult to counterfeit, the avenues open to fake ID seekers have multiplied. No longer do teens have to count on "a friend's older brother's teammate's contact in the next town over." They can order fake IDs — and quite convincing ones — online. Many of them are manufactured in China.

Recently, some girls in my daughter's senior class decided to obtain said iconic symbols of independence.

(Don't worry, ladies. I'm not naming any names. After all, I trust you. And, I wouldn't want my own infamous pub story to go public. Oh, wait ... too late.)

I think, as senior year winds down, what we're seeing is a uniquely teen combination of boredom and thrill-seeking. Plus, there's the added pressure of fitting in with the crowd. I doubt that any of the teens in our town have trouble getting alcohol if they want it (trust me; it's everywhere), but owning a fake ID is a time-honored right of passage, and with it, in theory, you can go to concerts at 21+ venues.

My only word of caution would be this: fake IDs were always against the law — even for the kids at Rydell High. But, with today's worries about terrorism and identity theft, the scrutiny and potential consequences are higher. If you are caught using a fake ID, you can be charged with a number of crimes. Yes, crimes — not "Call your father to come pick you up at the station," not you're grounded for a week, but actual "crimes."

Laws vary state-by-state, but possessing or using a fake ID can result in anything from a misdemeanor charge and $500 fine, to felony charges of impersonation and forgery that can carry as much as 18 months in prison. If you've altered an official document (changed the date of birth on an actual license, for example), the penalties are worse: up to 7 years in prison for "tampering with a public record." And one fake ID incident can result in charges against multiple people: the person who made the fake ID; the person who bought it; the person who purchases alcohol with it; the underage friends who enjoy it. Even the bar or liquor store that sold the alcohol can face fines and they, in turn, can sue you for damages.

Doesn't this all sound a little complicated? And absolutely not worth it?

I get it, I truly do. When I was 18, I thought it was really cool that a bunch of seniors wanted to hang out with me, not to mention really funny that I could get into the pub with someone very different's ID. 

Maybe it isn't fair that we could get away with pranks like that in the 80s, but kids today can't. Sorry.

So, my dear young adults, if you have a fake ID, please don't use it. No beer, no fruity cocktail, no concert is worth it. Tuck it away in your yearbook ...

With your other high school mementos.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.     

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