The writer of this piece has asked to remain anonymous, due to questionably legal content that will shortly become clear. All names have been changed.
Soon after the end of the dizzying array of 18-and-over Welcome Week parties, every freshman realizes that the NYU party scene is not quite as accessible as it is at other schools. There is no fraternity row and realistically, only so many people can cram into someone’s Weinstein double. When I came to NYU, I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised by this reality — NYU’s campus is unique in its integrated, urban nature, so as such, student nightlife is often, as our admissions mantra so frequently touts, “in and of the city.” Not yet knowing any peers who threw apartment parties or knew where underground student-populated parties were, I decided to dive into the glamorous world of New York nightlife. I wanted to lounge in the luxurious rooftop clubs in Meatpacking, grab a pint in East Village, or go bar hopping in Williamsburg. I was a young New Yorker now, and I wanted to be just like Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Carrie Bradshaw, and Blair Waldorf, exuding sophistication, never without a martini in hand. But, there was one problem — I was not 21.
This reality hit me hard on my first night out after my first week of classes. My friend, Eve, had seen a facebook post about a party in a nightclub off of Union Square. It was early on a Thursday night, and since there was no line of anxious party-goers to make us feel self conscious, we stepped right up to the bouncer by the door. He asked for our IDs, and without a moment’s pause, I pulled out my real driver’s license. The bouncer, looking genuinely surprised, incredulous and upset, asked, “Seriously? Don’t you even have a fake ID? What’s wrong with you?” Eve, thinking fast on her feet, said, “Well uh…we know Alex!” Whispering to my friend, I asked, “Who’s Alex?” She sheepishly replied, “I have no idea, but I always see this guy posting about parties in this club on Facebook.” The bouncer said, “OK, well, let me go bring him up here.” My friend and I glanced at each other with complete horror. Several minutes later, a tall, well dressed, handsome guy in his mid 20’s showed up and said, “Oh yeah, these girls are with me,” and hugged both of us. I must have looked as awkward as I felt because he gave me a look that said—act cool or you won’t get in. Of course, Eve and I warmed up quickly and acted as though he was our best friend. I didn’t know it then, but I had just met my first club promoter. As we walked downstairs, the bouncer, laughing, called after us, “Get it together, girls.”
That night ended well — with champagne, shots, and bottle service from our new “best friend,” but I knew that we had been lucky, and I needed an ID that said I was 21. But how to get one? My first few weeks at NYU, I hardly knew anyone’s name, let alone who would have shady connections. It seemed that anyone who I met already had one that they had gotten in high school and was surprised that I didn’t. I googled, “fake IDs,” which led me to websites that were supposedly “totally legit,” but I felt uncomfortable sending my picture, information, and payment to god-knows-who on the internet. So, I decided I would just wait and feel out the situation.
For a few weeks, I went to bars without bouncers and my friends with IDs would buy the drinks for the table, but I grew frustrated when friends invited me to clubs that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into. Finally, after a trip to the Met with several classmates for a group project, over Shake Shack burgers, my team members pulled out their fake IDs to compare with each other. One of the guys bragged that his ID scanned every time, and even worked when he bought lotto tickets at age 16 from a 7-11. He offered to give me the number of his friend who had made his, and overwhelmed with joy, I happily accepted.
This “friend” instructed me to meet him in the early evening at Grand Central, and I figured that location was a safe, public space. As precaution, I brought along my friend Diana, who had also ordered an ID, as well as a trusted can of mace. We wore leather jackets and tall boots, trying to look tough, badass, and mature. When the 6 train pulled into Grand Central, I texted the given number, announcing that I had arrived. My eyes frantically searched around the terminal, brimming with anticipation, trying to see if anyone looked shifty. But soon enough, I received a text back telling me to exit on 42nd street and walk three blocks south and four to the east. I turned to Diana and said, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing I bought mace.”
Full of nerves and increasing paranoia, my friend and I followed those treasure map-like instructions until we found ourselves on a corner behind a large dumpster across the street from a desolate parking lot, under a freeway by the edge of East River, alone on an empty street. As we stood on that corner, I began to wonder if this whole thing was a scam and the police were on their way to arrest us. Diana remarked, “We look like drug dealers,” because sure enough, we did — especially with our yellow envelope full of rolls of cash. We scrutinized every biker and car that passed us, wondering who the dealer would be. Finally, we saw a huge, Samoan-looking man dressed in all black with a leather trench coat and beanie coming towards us, down the block. As he walked by us, he held his arm out for the envelope and said in a low voice, “Keep walking.” We quickly handed him the cash as he handed us a stack of IDs. The man never broke stride or looked back at us as he left with the cash. We quickly glanced at the IDs before we broke into a run, still full of excitement and fear from our intimidating encounter. Once we were back in Diana’s dorm room, we took a deep breath — we had pulled it off.
As it turns out, the IDs work — most of the time. Though they have somewhat sketchy black light images, they do not scan. The maker had, of course, told me that it would scan, but what was I to do when I found out it didn’t? Report him to the police? That thought was laughable.
I don’t want to make light of the fact that I have technically committed a crime, as have most of my friends and peers at NYU. This is quite frankly, new territory for me, as I have no criminal record, or even any disciplinary infractions from high school. Had I gone to any other school with larger, underage, on-campus parties, I probably would not have gotten a fake. But here, I never wanted to feel constrained from joining my friends at bars or clubs. When I go out, it’s always easier to gain entrance into an establishment as a girl, and male peers who are my age often have difficulty getting in, even with fake IDs. As a result, I often meet men who are older, young professionals who can afford bottle service, ridiculous cover fees, and $14 cocktails. Many come off as sleazy, and I am rarely ever interested in their company. But for the most part, dancing in flashy clubs and making distinctly New York memories with my friends has been fun, though I am always on guard against sketchy promoters, photographers, and older men trying to impress me with their investment banker business cards. My ID is my gateway into the glitzy world of New York nightlife that I dreamed about before coming to school at NYU. The social aspect is the draw—not the drinking.
Having been at NYU for more than a year, I have made friends and know more people, so my social life tends to involve parties at friends’ or friends-of-friends’ apartments that don’t require my fake ID, but I still enjoy getting dressed up and going out for cocktails every so often. It’s risky, but it’s my personal choice. But, as common as having a fake ID is amongst the students of NYU, we should never forget the constant threat of real-life consequences of what could happen if we are caught — confiscation, extortion from bouncers, or arrest. Before buying one of your own, you might want to consider if the risks of buying and using a Fake ID are greater than the benefits.