My friends' hs sophmore daughter is going to bars and they don't know.
June 28, 2006 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Some friends' fifteen year-old daughter was recently spotted in a bar. And then it gets a bit more complicated.

She's a great kid-- personable, pretty and seems confident. She's very tall and definitely looks 18 or 19 easily, and it wouldn't be a big stretch to say that she's 21. My wife's friend, who knows the girl in question and her family only slightly and through us, saw the girl at a lesbian bar during the past weekend. I initally insisted it was mistaken identity, but the girl's height and distinctive natural hair color make that unlikely. Combined with a description of a top that I saw the girl wearing earlier in the day, it seems unlikely that the source was mistaken. The girl was hanging out with three women who appeared to be in their mid to late twenties, drinking pints of beer and otherwide behaving normally.

Part of me is inclined to say "so what, kids will be kids" and just forget about it. But I also know that it's probably not a good idea for a teen to have peers that much older or to be hanging around in bars.

So what do I do? I could talk to my friends (her parents), but I don't enjoy the role of narc and, to add the complexity of this option, if she is gay she is not out to her parents. She might have been at this bar for a number of reasons, but the venue definitely strongly caters to a lesbian crowd and her folks will recognize it. I can't imagine it being a big deal to them if she's gay, but she should be able to discuss that with them on her own terms instead of as a sidenote to her antics.

I or my wife could discuss it with the girl directly. I have a better relationship with her (I've been her sports coach, I occasionally include her in sports-related activities that I organize, and because of that I chat with her more when our families get together.) But my wife knows a lot more about being a teenaged girl.

Or I could keep quiet. Or maybe there's an option that I haven't thought of. So if I say something to someone, who is it and what do I say? My wife and I both think she's an exceptional kid and want her to be as okay as she can be at that age.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (93 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could warn her before someone else does. After all, you & your wife might not blab to her mom - but you didn't say anything about the wife's friend. The friend may be a total blabbermouth.

I'd catch up with this girl ASAP and at least warn her that someone saw her there. And I dunno how you feel about lesbians, but you might want to approach it gently and don't be judgemental.
posted by drstein at 7:32 PM on June 28, 2006

Part of being a grownup is having to be the narc sometimes. Lesbian or not lesbian, no 15 year old girl (who looks 21) should be going to bars. Tell her parents she was spotted at one. You don't have to be deadly serious about it- maybe (?) there's some reasonable explaination.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:38 PM on June 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think you should definitely keep your mouth shut. It's none of your business, and you are probably just going to end up looking like an idiot and/or condescending jerk.
posted by bingo at 7:38 PM on June 28, 2006

She sounds like a relatively mature kid, though apperances can be deceving at that age. But in any event, it doesn't sound, from your description, that she's being coerced. Maybe she's a bit young to be drinking; maybe she's doing things behind her parents' back; but it's really none of your business, I don't think. I say this at least in part because it was a lesbian bar; if she's there not just to have fun behind her parents' backs, but also because she's in the closet, it is very much not your role to out her to her parents. It might be your role to say something out of concern if you'd seen her engaged in some self-destructive activity, but from the sounds of it, she's not putting herself in any danger (not smoking meth, etc.). Certainly it's a safer environment than a regular bar. You do not want to put yourself in the middle of this girl's life - let her be a teenager. Do not lead her to view you forever as a meddling narc who can't respect her privacy (from her parents). It also doesn't sound like she needs someone to talk to about things - again, she's not cutting her arms, she's having a drink and maybe exploring her sexuality. She's not in any danger; leave well enough alone.

I do think, however, that you are a good person for caring enough about her to ask this question. By saying stay out of this, I'm not calling your motivations into question.
posted by Dasein at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2006

It can be difficult for young gay men and lesbian women - they rarely have a stable support structure to meet potential partners, like straight kids that age do. Adding to this, 15 years old is a difficult time for ANY girl, and it is a difficult time for adults to relate to them in any short-term meaningful way.

Keeping this in mind, it might be a good idea to bring it up casually with her, just mention it and see how she reacts. Treating her like a child and going to her parents is NOT the way to react if you want to stay her friend, or have her blow up and do something even more destructive than drink a few beers with a few lesbians.

That's my two cents. (As a point of reference, I personally know a few teens the same age and younger who regularly go to bars with mixed-age groups, both with and without their parents knowledge. I'm not validating the activity, I just wanted to let you know that it's not uncommon).
posted by muddgirl at 7:39 PM on June 28, 2006

I'd talk to the girl first. Seems that she trusts you, and that's going to be the only way to retain her trust throughout this. She *WILL* be seen eventually whether it's now or not!
posted by SpecialK at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2006

If there's a gay youth orginizaion in your area, you could point her to that. PFLAG should be able to help with your questions.
posted by brujita at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2006

Ok, I agree with Dasein as well.
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2006

If there isn't an innocent explanation, her parents should know because a fifteen year old shouldn't be in a bar by herself.

Since there could be an innocent explanation, you might take that approach when talking to her or her parents. For example, if you spoke to her parents you could ask them, "Hey were you out on <whatever> street last week? I thought I saw your daughter while we were out." That opens up to the possibility that she was in the bar with her folks and they were just out of the room at the time you passed by. If you talk to her, you could use the same approach and be generic. I'm betting you'll get a reaction that gives her an "oh shit" look or opens a conversation...
posted by plinth at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2006

Many of my gay friends have complained that the only place they can find other gay men is in bars. Even if they're not into the "bar scene," they don't necessarily have the options that heterosexuals do for finding partners, especially if there's always the fear that the person you meet on the street might beat the shit out of you if you ask them out.

Most of the lesbian bars I've been to (which, granted, is a tiny number) have been extremely innocuous places.

It's not great for a 15-year-old to be drinking, of course, but what's she's doing, to me, is not quite the same as a straight 15-year-old hanging out in straight bars. And even if she's not gay, she's still drinking in what could be considered a fairly safe space. (I mean, really, what's the major concern that parents have about daughters drinking? Probably that they'll run off with unsuitable men and get pregnant. This girl seems to be neatly sidestepping the major problems with underage girls drinking here.)

I don't mean you have to condone it, or let it go; but I might approach it as if it were not a huge huge deal.
posted by occhiblu at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2006

And to be clear, don't mention the establishment or the nature of the establishment until it is either forced or brought up by her.
posted by plinth at 7:44 PM on June 28, 2006

I'm not completely sure what you should do, either. I will say that you absolutely should not go to the girl's parents first. It is never okay to out someone without his or her permission. While you might think her parents wouldn't find her sexual orientation to be a "big deal," if she hasn't told them, there's probably a reason for that.

You could talk to her, but I imagine that that conversation would be awkward for both of you and probably not move her to stop exploring or cut ties with her friends.

Personally, I think your obligation here is pretty minimal. She's not in any danger, nor is she endangering others. Generations of frightened, semi-closeted gay kids have made their first forays into gay life by sneaking into bars. I did it, my friends did it, and we all lived to look back and shake our heads about it. Also, on the whole, I think lesbian bars are generally less sketchy and more safe than most. Not sketch-less, to be sure, but also not crowded with predatory old men.

Whatever you decide to do, just remember that being a gay teenager is pretty confusing and scary and the absolute last thing you want to do is make that worse.
posted by chickletworks at 7:44 PM on June 28, 2006

I'd leave the lesbian part out of it entirely. She was at a bar, drinking and that is illegal and can get her into trouble. Given her age, I don't think it necessarily follows that just because it was a lesbian bar that she is a lesbian. Her friends might be and, at that age, I would have gone to just about any bar that I could get into and would be pretty curious about a gay or lesbian bar. But, I wouldn't think it was necessarily a strong indicator.

Your friends, her parents, are going to be pretty annoyed if they found out that you knew this and didn't tell them. But, one way or the other, I'd talk to the daughter first and find out what's going on. But, I really don't think you need to ask her about her sexuality or hint about it. It's no one's business but her own and really isn't relevant to the situation.
posted by amanda at 7:45 PM on June 28, 2006

I second definitely keeping your mouth shut. Not because of how you will look, (that's not important here), but because I agree that it is none of your business. I'd also like to make the argument that 15 year old girls are vastly more mature than people give them credit for, but I don't think it's an argument I can win.
posted by banished at 7:51 PM on June 28, 2006

amanda writes "I'd leave the lesbian part out of it entirely. She was at a bar, drinking and that is illegal and can get her into trouble. "

How the hell are you going to do that?

"My friend saw your kid at a bar"

"Which bar?"

"Uhhhh... I'd rather not say."
posted by mr_roboto at 7:57 PM on June 28, 2006

I would like to very strongly encourage you to follow drstein's advice.

Depending on where you live, finding a situation like this would be an absolute wet-dream (intended, of course) for a politically ambitious prosecutor, and could result in hard time for her companions and the sort of notoriety for her and her family which has ruined many lives.
posted by jamjam at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2006

Also, you say that this girl could easily be mistaken for 19, and then you assume that the "20-something" girls she was with were much older than she was. You do realize there's a contradiction there?
posted by occhiblu at 8:07 PM on June 28, 2006

"it's probably not a good idea for a teen to have peers that much older or to be hanging around in bars" -
such bullshit! it's none of your business to meddle in other's lives with such attitute, anon
posted by growabrain at 8:10 PM on June 28, 2006

When I was 15, I looked quite mature and was at bars when I could manage it. Sneaking into bars is part of growing up.

You are right that the mere chance that she might be gay (which is by no means a given) complicates things. Kids get ostracized, abused, and booted from home all the time for being gay or merely suspected of it -- a tragically high number -- and unless you know these people very well indeed you have no way of knowing what the outcome will be. There's no way you're going to get away with just saying "I saw your daughter at a bar." The parents will want more information, from her or from you. If you don't cough it up, they'll wonder why and undoubtedly either resent you or suspect whatever they think is the worst if you don't explain.

If it were me, and I already had a good relationship with her as you do, I'd follow drstein's advice and go to the girl and warn her about what a tremendous risk she's taking, especially if she is gay and doesn't want her parents to know. If she's going out a lot someone, at some point, will narc her out. It doesn't have to be you.
posted by melissa may at 8:12 PM on June 28, 2006

I'm not positive what he should do either, but this "it's none of your business" stuff is completely wrongheaded. He's friends with this girl's parents! That makes it his business. If I'm good friends with somebody, I watch their back. If that means helping them move furniture, well, we're friends. If that means driving 'em to the doctor when they're sick, well, we're friends. And if that means tipping them off that their FIFTEEN year old kid is drinking in bars without their knowledge, well, we're friends. What the heck kind of friends are you people?

If it was a straight bar there would be no question; you should rat her out without compunction. The gay bar angle complicates things. In that case, I'd say go directly to the girl and warn her that if you guys could recognize her, others could too... and they might not have your discretion.
posted by Justinian at 8:13 PM on June 28, 2006

Mr. Roboto -- Amanda said to talk to the kid FIRST, hence your scenario is moot.

I agree with Amanda. Talk to the kid but don't mention the lesbian aspect unless she brings it up.

Fifteen year olds do not belong in bars. Period.

I'm also wondering if this sighting was late at night (since it was a bar) and is she lying to her parents about her whereabouts (i'm over at a girlfriends). Bars don't always tend to be in the best part of town, especially lesbian bars. I'd hate to see her wandering around potentially by herself at all hours of the night. That's just not safe.

I'd also hate to see the state alcohol folks doing an ID check in a bar and see her caught with a fake ID and such. Gay or straight bar, a lot of states are tough on the underage drinking thing.

I don't know how big a city you folks live in, but many gay community centers have groups for teenagers. The kid needs to find some folks her own age to hang around with and deal with the coming out process.
posted by bim at 8:14 PM on June 28, 2006

I do have to second JAMJAM, their are prosecutors out ther that would like nothing more but to prove the friends she was with are horrid people bent on molesting her and taking advantage of her when they easily could not be the case at all
posted by crewshell at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2006

Don't narc her out to her parents. If you think you can manage it without completely freaking her out, do tell her that she's been spotted--she should know to have an alibi handy, to be more alert, and be safe. Honestly, this doesn't sound terribly risky to me, and I definitely see it as a part of "growing up"--maybe even a necessary one, if she's in the closet. However, she could get her friends in massive amounts of trouble, depending on which part of which country this is taking place in, and she needs to be aware of that.
posted by hototogisu at 8:20 PM on June 28, 2006

You've stumbled across something highly radioactive. Your best bet is to act like it never happened.

You are not in a position to notify the parents without risking really causing the girl serious, and probably unwarranted, problems.

You risk losing the parents as friends forever if they find out you knew about something like this and didn't tell them.

Either way, somebody loses and you're the bad guy. Bad ju-ju. I'd say keep it to yourself. But then again, if it was my niece, I'd be really pissed if she was hanging out in bars at that age, and even more pissed if an adult knew and did nothing about it.

posted by teece at 8:20 PM on June 28, 2006

I think that you or your wife needs to talk with her about it in a non-judgemental, non-talking-down-to-her way. Because if she's getting seen by people who know her mom, then it's likely that mom will find out soon where she is and what she's doing, and she probably won't like that. Plenty of kids do stuff that their parents don't know about -- but they avoid getting hurt and/or arrested, so the parents never know. Diiference here is that she's not only putting herself in the position to be found out, she's putting the business owner, her friends (whomever they are and however old they are), and depending upon the liberality or lack thereof of your community, maybe the GLBT community's reputation as well. Maybe come ready with some resources for her as others have said. It's just very important to be understanding and to talk to her as an equal. You're not her parent(s) -- so instead act like a trusted friend.

However, I will also say that I can see where you may feel obligated to say something to her parents. You might do well to tell her why you feel obligated, and then say that as long as she promises not to do it again, then you can go on with a clear conscience. BUT -- you mention they would "know" the bar by its name -- if the bar is in a bad part of town or is otherwise bad news (as people have said, most lesbian bars I've ever seen have been probably some of the safest places on earth, but you never know), you have to weigh that into how obligated you feel to tell her parents about it happening this one time.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:31 PM on June 28, 2006

In response to the shocked sentiment about a 15 year-old drinking at a bar, the fact that the drinking age in the U.S. is ludicrously high doesn't mean that it's necessarily self-destructive for a 15 year-old to be drinking; the drinking is not in and of itself something to tell her parents about. Lots of European kids learn to drink at that age (and end up learning to drink a lot more healthily than American kids who get alcohol poisoining their first week of college).
posted by Dasein at 8:37 PM on June 28, 2006

Nobody said that this was in the USA. Some countries do not have minimum drinking ages or don't enforce them.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:38 PM on June 28, 2006

I think the age matters here. She's 15, that's really young. She shouldn't be at bars. I think the lesbian angle is complicating things, as well it should, but if the girl were hanging out with mid-twenties men, would people just say "let her experiment"? I would mention it to her. She sounds like she can handle it. If she does confide she's worried about telling her parents, point her toward support groups for gay teens. Just tell her you care about her and want to make sure she is doing ok. What if something happened to her? Would you be able to face her parents knowing she was participating in dangerous behavior?
posted by sweetkid at 8:41 PM on June 28, 2006

One out is that this is second-hand info. YOU didn't see her there. That having been said, if someone knew one of my kids was in bars at that age and said nothing, they darn well better tell me. At that age parents are still responsible for their younguns.

At the very least talk to HER.
posted by konolia at 8:41 PM on June 28, 2006

It's not just that she's drinking, it's that she's a young girl in a very adult environment. If it were a lesbian bar for 15 year olds I'd think differently.
posted by sweetkid at 8:42 PM on June 28, 2006

It takes a village...or something like that. You should speak to the parents. For those who say she is not in danger, drinking at the age of 15 puts you in danger. I drank at 15. Bad move. No good came of it. The lesbian part is the least of it and is not relevant. The drinking with older people is.

It is not your job to determine what is appropriate about the drinking age. What if the bar was raided and she was caught? It would be a lot worse than if the subject is brought up before hand. This could be a regular thing or a one time thing. Maybe she met these folks on the internet and they were "harmless" but the next person she meets may not be. To assume no danger is absurd.

The only question should be do you speak to the parents first or to her.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:51 PM on June 28, 2006

There are a lot of things about this that make me think that talking to her parents isn't a good idea.

1) You didn't see her; your wife's friend did. You think it was her based on the description, but given that you didn't see her yourself, and you are getting this information from someone who "slightly" knows her, I think talking to her directly would be best.

2) You said that she could have been at the bar for any number of reasons. Is it a bar only? Do they serve food? Is there any reason that minors would be there (accompanied by parents, restaurant that turns into a bar only later at night, etc.)? I'd hate for you to tell her parents that she was in a bar if she was just there having a non-alcoholic drink and some appetizers with her cousin or something.

3) You say the venue caters to lesbians and that her parents would know that it was a lesbian bar by its name. If she is not a lesbian and was there with friends who are, and you were to tell her parents, what if they assume that she is a lesbian and react negatively? Whether she is a lesbian or not isn't the point, really - it's that it's her sexuality and her decision to out herself if she is gay, and if she's not, "outing" her could cause all kinds of problems with her family.

With all that said, I think you should talk to her directly, but don't make a huge deal out of it. Just mention that someone saw her in that bar, and see where the conversation goes. You can mention the potential consequences of underage drinking and being caught in a bar, but try and do it in a way that doesn't sound too judgmental - just let her know you're looking out for her best interests. If she brings up being gay or coming out or anything like that, then you can guide her towards youth outreach groups.
posted by bedhead at 8:56 PM on June 28, 2006

I'm the first guy to say "mind your own business" in similar situations — but you're talking about a kid, and that changes the equation. Someone above used the phrase "part of being a grown-up" and that's spot-on. You could take the attitude that you're not her parents, and that her parents will just have to fend for themselves and discover their daughter's indiscretions on their own — but I believe that it does take a village to raise a child, and you should suck up the unpleasant taste and behave like a responsible adult. Talk to her parents.
posted by cribcage at 9:09 PM on June 28, 2006

Regardless of how you deal with the "OMG, 15 year old in a bar" thing, I think you need to be careful how you approach her about the lesbian thing - whether she is or isn't, it could easily put her on the defensive. Maybe "hey, a friend of mine saw you at ____. I don't want to inadvertantly out you ... do your parents know?"

Even if you did know if she's out, that statement makes it clear that you're in her corner.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:10 PM on June 28, 2006

I'll add that, particularly in situations involving alcohol and broken laws and underage girls, choosing to directly address the 15-year-old (no matter what your prior relationship) is not a wise idea. But I'm not your lawyer.
posted by cribcage at 9:11 PM on June 28, 2006

Another vote for you keeping quiet on this one. First of all, it's hearsay. Second of all, just because she was in a lesbian bar, it does not necessarily follow that she is gay herself, at this point it's a little too early to make that inference. And in third place, but not necessarily last place, it doesn't sound like this kid has any sort of substance abuse problem, and to me that would be the only point that would push me into the "tell the parents" category.

I say this as a former punk-rock kid who at 15 also occasionally went to gay bars with her older 21-something friends. I was an art-nerd who got along with the students in my off-campus AP classes a lot better than my peers. I didn't grow up to be an alcoholic, or a lesbian for that matter.

I just wanted to hang out with people who shared my interest in painting. Sometimes it is as simple as that.
posted by lilboo at 9:26 PM on June 28, 2006

Definitely speak to the parents. They need to know that their daughter is engaging in inappropriate, dangerous behavior.

I am no prude. I have been to many of bars when I was underage, and I know kids her age experiment. But, if it were my child I would want to know.

I was also drinking at that age, and engaging in other risky behaviors that landed me in some trouble, and could of been a lot worse.

She is only 15 , and hanging out with adults that are serving her alcohol--in a bar no less.

She could be, or not be gay. I have been to gay bars when I was young. You said that her parents are open-minded and probably wouldn't be offended or upset even if she were gay. Go with that intuition. She may be experimenting. A lot of kids this age do.

I think the parents should know so they can hopefully have open communication with their daughter. Maybe something is upsetting her. Maybe she is exploring, or going through normal teenage angst. Either way, she sounds like a very nice kid. It would be a shame if she went down the wrong path, started drinking more, or end up arrested for underage drinking.

I have a special place in my heart for teenage girls. I did so many dumb things as a teenager. I didn't have a lot of parental support. Looking back, I didn't have much self-respect.

I think it might be nice for your wife to talk to her. A lot of 15-year old girls suffer from very low self-esteem. She would probably benefit from a woman to woman chat. I know I would of appreciated a woman telling me that I was a great person. That I didn't need to engage in risky, degrading behavior, and I should hang out with people my own age.

All kids, no matter what age, want to communicate and have a good relationship with their parents. They want their parents love and support. It sounds like this young girl needs her parents now.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:29 PM on June 28, 2006

Well, I started going to bars at 16 *, and I'm fine. I've never been drunk, and I always drank sensibly right from the start. Being 15 doesn't make her an idiot with zero limitations. Do any of you rat-her-out people even remember being teenagers, or were you born age 40?

I do live in the UK, where you can drink at 18, but no one ever actually makes it to their 18th birthday without having had a drink.
posted by speranza at 9:36 PM on June 28, 2006

Oh, and some of my best friends at that age were like 10 years older than me. They had a far better influence on me than anyone my own age could have had, and most of them are still a part of my life.
posted by speranza at 9:39 PM on June 28, 2006

Ummm, step 1: Make SURE it was her at the bar. Do that before you do anything else.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:13 PM on June 28, 2006

I just want to jump back in and second or third or nth making sure that it was really her at the bar. You didn't see her, and you're going by a description only from a third party who barely knows her. You or your wife should talk to her.

I also thought of something - if you do talk to the parents, the only way to do so without outing the lesbian bar aspect is to say that someone you know may or may not have seen her in a bar and that you know no further details. But still, that information is so sketchy I'd be reluctant to go running to the parents with it.

I say all of this as both a formerly wayward teenage girl who screwed up a lot as a teenager but turned out fine, and a non-custodial parent of a 15 year old girl. If it were my daughter, I'd want to know what she was doing, but I'd also be pretty pissed if someone sent me on a wild goose chase about something that my daughter might not have even done.
posted by bedhead at 10:39 PM on June 28, 2006

Nobody else seems to be taking into account that this isn't just some random kid, it's the kid of some friends. You have a responsibility to your friends that you might not have to random other parents.

If you are a parent and some "friends" saw your 15 year old daughter drinking at a bar and took no action whatsoever, would you be pissed? Yeah, me too.

They are your friends, man. You owe it to 'em to do something.
posted by Justinian at 11:03 PM on June 28, 2006

I had lots of friends in their 20s when I was 15. Everything was fine. I don't really think that being in a bar when you're 15 is necessarily a big deal, either.
posted by lemuria at 11:30 PM on June 28, 2006

do not out her
posted by matteo at 11:32 PM on June 28, 2006

She's a child. She's at risk. Her parents are responsible for her welfare. Tell her parents. You need to be an adult, and place the child's welfare and the rights of her parents ahead of any concerns about how the child might feel about you afterward.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:52 PM on June 28, 2006

Do not tell her parents. If your concern is such that you feel you have to do something, that something should be talking to her about it. Calmly.

Just because a 15-year-old girl is in a bar doesn't mean she's "at risk" any more than she'd be "at risk" in a cinema or game arcade or hanging out at a mall. Quite possibly less.

Just to resolve ambiguity in the original post, was the 15-year-old drinking alcohol? It's not entirely clear.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:13 AM on June 29, 2006

I'd leave it too. Or maybe just mention to her. 15 isn't that young and loads of girls go to bars at that age.

Whatever you say is pretty much going to be ignored or denied anyway. Offer advice about watching how much she drinks and basic bar safety. Tell her that the bar could be shut down if it gets raided and she's found to be under 21.

Let her make her own decisions and her own mistakes. She's not an adult yet, but she feels like one. Tell her that if she needs someone to talk to, you're there.
posted by seanyboy at 12:40 AM on June 29, 2006

I have an 11 year old daughter, so I'm not too far away from being the parents in the scenario. I also had my first drink in a bar at 15, and was regularly drinking from 17 on. I also to this day do not want my sexuality coming up with my parents.

If this was my daughter, I would appreciate it if you had a quiet word with her. Let her know that she's not unobserved. And let her know that there are other adults in her life who are keeping an eye on her. And hell, ask her if her parents know. No one seems to have raised that possibility, but maybe they do. In any case, this is an age where young people develop both the urge and the need to keep secrets. Be trustworthy.

You have to have led a fairly sheltered life to be surprised when a 15 year old sneaks into a bar. You know the parents, I don't. If you told me, I'd be pretty mellow. Not inactive, but the needle on the outrage meter is only twitching. If you know they'd be cool, then talk to them.

As to the lesbian angle, maybe it's an easier bar to sneak into. Or maybe she's a dyke. Again, I'd be hurt if my daughter didn't talk to me first, but who knows? I've heard plenty of coming-out stories where the parents knew and were cool all along. That's a side-issue.

I don't have a grand explanation along ethical lines; this is just what I would do, and what I would like you to do for me.

PS: I grew and still live in a place where the drinking age was 20 and is now 18. Like the earlier poster from the UK, I find this well within the range of normal teenage behaviour.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:27 AM on June 29, 2006

Teenagers will drink, going to bar sounds more controllable than stolen alcohol in the back of a car.

Lesbian bar sounds even safer than a normal bar.
posted by lundman at 1:40 AM on June 29, 2006

I'd try to talk to her, first. Whatever you do, you certainly shouldn't be outing her to her parents (if she is even gay - I've found that gay bars are a bit less strict about age checking in some areas). You assume that her friends were mid-20's, but I think there's a very good chance that they were late teens (since you already state that she could be confused for an 18-19 year old).
posted by antifuse at 2:19 AM on June 29, 2006

Older people will take advantage of younger people, especially when there's a hot, tipsy teen involved. A lesbian bar is safer than a het bar, but she could still end up drunk, high, going other places, and doing things she never intended to do and isn't exactly happy about afterward.

I would talk to her. Friendly talk. Just to be sure that she's aware and not just stumbling through things without thinking. That might not be the perfect answer, but I think that's what I'd do if I liked her and thought she might benefit from it.

I don't think you can harm her by talking to her. It is possible that you could harm her by not talking to her when you could have.
posted by pracowity at 2:21 AM on June 29, 2006

1. Try to verify that it was really her that was spotted. Talk to the friend's friend. Imagine that it was your child, and get that degree of certainty.

2. Only after you are as certain as you can be that the girl was actually there, talk to her. Quietly and privately. Mention that she was seen in a bar, drinking. Don't mention the lesbian aspect at first, because it is a secondary issue. Do mention the ramifications of underage drinking, being safe, staying in control of one's person, etc.

3. Tell her that you feel honor-bound to talk to her parent's, but will give her the opportunity to talk to them first. Tell her that the adults in her life care about her, and want to protect her from danger. Do tell her that you know the bar is one frequented by the gay community, but don't belabor that point.

If it were my child, I would want to know. I am responsible for my child's safety. I would want the opportunity to discuss the dangers of this situation with my child, and try to impart some parental wisdom.

Think about this: if something were to happen to this girl, say she got into a car with other people who had been drinking, there was an accident, and she were injured or killed, how would you feel? Not saying you could prevent it, but it cannot hurt to help a young person to see all angles of their behavior. That's what being a grownup is all about.
posted by Corky at 3:37 AM on June 29, 2006

I'm not quite sure what the big deal is. The law does say that kids shouldn't be allowed in bars at the age of 15, but who here can hand-on-heart say they didn't try to get into a bar at around that age?

And besides, who says that she was drinking? She could have been drinking Diet Cokes for all we know.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 4:35 AM on June 29, 2006

If you think what the girl is doing is wrong, keep it to yourself. If you think what the girl is doing is dangerous, tell her parents.
posted by klarck at 4:56 AM on June 29, 2006

I second what Corky just said.

A fifteen year old should not be at a bar drinking and socializing with people who could be five, ten, or even more years older than herself, lesbian or not. No fifteen year old should be romantically involved with anyone with such an age gap (if this is the case), because in the end, despite how much people might want to argue about maturity, a fifteen year old is not twenty-five, or twenty, or even eighteen.

Her parents should know and should they find out from another source and then find out you knew in advance, it could very well end your friendship with them based on their reaction. But, I think Corky's strategy is the best for all parties involved. So follow it.
posted by Atreides at 5:13 AM on June 29, 2006

Ask yourself if you would you want your friends to tell you if they saw your fifteen-year old in a bar. If I was asked this, I would say yes.

A vote here for "tell them, but leave out the lesbian bar thing as the issue is underage bar visits"
posted by poppo at 5:41 AM on June 29, 2006

I think this whole American "oh no!! 15!! in a bar!!" attitude is damn stupid. Bars and alcohol just aren't that dangerous, but for some reason you seem to have a really fucked up attitude to them.

I would vote for the "shut up" option. If you talk to anyone, talk to the girl.
posted by reklaw at 6:30 AM on June 29, 2006

Lesbian here, did my share of underage bar-going as well (although not that young). I think it's cool that you're asking. I don't have advice, but I wanted to share a couple of data points:

1. As it's been mentioned, there are very few venues for young queers that offer the kind of relationship-oriented social interaction that 15-year-old straight kids can do pretty much everywhere, and are expected to. So, any involvement on your part that has the result of shutting down one of those venues for her would be a significant piece of interference; don't minimize it in your thinking about the situation.

2. Don't make any assumptions about how cool-with-it her parents would be about it in their heart of hearts. Unless you've witnessed them having a kid surprisingly come out before, you don't really know how they'll react. It is a situation that evokes a wide spectrum of weird and occasionally grim behavior in people you'd never expect it from.

3. It's not great by a long shot, but realistically, the fact that she's drinking in a lesbian bar reduces nearly all of the underage-girl-drinking-related dangers she's facing to a greater or lesser extent. She is less likely to do crazy frat-style amounts of drinking because the standard is being set by women (god knows, lesbians can certainly drink, but what is considered a lot of drinks in the grown-up lesbian world is a lot less than what teen-boy/young-adult-male power-drinkers put away), she is less likely to get roofies or GHB in her drink, she is less likely to end up in a nonconsensual situation with someone who can physically overpower her, or multiple someones.

That doesn't mean there aren't assholes in lesbian bars, or that lesbians don't ever have crappy sexual ethics. So, if I were going to have a chat with her, it would be about how to keep her wits about her and not drink to the point that she can't judge the situation. i.e., don't get so fucked up that you end up in the car wreck that was being worried about in the post above, and that no means no and it goes for girls as well as boys, and that safer sex isn't entirely off the table because there are more STDs out there than just AIDS. Not to mention the one heightened danger in contrast to the lessened ones: women are in danger of getting bashed when leaving a lesbian bar in some cities, so make some accommodations for that reality by leaving in a group, or getting in a cab, or by not being staggering drunk when you leave and taking a very good look around.

Lesbians complain a lot more about how hard it is to hook up with someone in a lesbian bar than they do about what sleazy horndogs they have to contend with; the lesson is that women in bars are a bit shy in comparison with guys and she shouldn't have much trouble controlling the situation if she keeps her act together. I'd also mention that after she meets new friends at the bar, it's good to find non-drinking-related activities in common (bowling! new wave band! cat fancying! stitch-n-bitch! ice hockey!), because you don't want to end up a barfly.

I agree with Atreides in that I don't think experimenting with people with such an age gap is very healthy. Shame that most high schools are still way too homophobic for young queers to have a remotely healthy adolescence! It's often a choice between a number of unappealing options (and yes, "don't start experimenting with relationships or your sexuality until you're an adult" is a very unappealing option for most 15-year-olds). I second the suggestion to look into whether there is a gay youth center in your town.

BTW, this goes for the US, Canada and most big cities in the EU. But, I found the Sydney scene really hard-druggy, and if I knew a 15-year-old girl hanging out at clubs there, I'd narc on her immediately as a favor to her adult potential. I only mention this because there are no hints about geography in your question (sorry Aussies!).

One last thing: thinking about when I was a 15-year-old lesbian, it's a complete toss-up as to whether I would have found it weirder to have a straight woman talk to me from the "I know what it's like to be a girl" perspective or a straight man. No advice here, just a heads-up that if she is queer, your wife's experience might be relatively alien to her, since the parts of it relevant to this situation probably had a lot to do with connecting with boys.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:32 AM on June 29, 2006

I think the age matters here. She's 15, that's really young. She shouldn't be at bars.

I was hanging out in bars aged 15 - in france there's no limit on entering sych places, just an age limit on buying booze (16). Years later I am doing quite well, still going to bars, not abusing alcohol, and can recall great memories spent talking and socialising with friends at various pubs, clubs or bars.

On topic - Don't talk to her. Her homosexuality (if she is a lesbian, you're not even sure) can be a very touchy subject for her (or not) at the moment. Hanging out in bars with people w/ similar interests as her could be a great way for her to socialise and construct her future social identity. Better haning out in bars than being locked in her bedroom lamenting about her loneliness (that is assuming she's not abusing substances or anything else).

Many of my gay friends say they would have socially died without the bar scene. It has certainly helped them more than anything else.
posted by Sijeka at 6:36 AM on June 29, 2006

It's equally possible that she went to the lesbian bar because that's the only place she knows she'll get served. Bars that are off the beaten path are usually easier about carding.
posted by electroboy at 6:45 AM on June 29, 2006

A lot of mixed advice here, but I can't say firmly enough that you must not out her to her parents. She may still be a minor, but her concept of her adult sexuality is still forming and what happens now could really damage her, and her relationship with her parents, for life.

When you are that age it takes such courage and determination to stick your neck out and explore your surroundings and find answers as to what you are. And sure, you wind up in lots of the wrong places, and even possibly in danger because of it, but that's the price paid for living in a society that allows sexual orientation to come between family members, turning children into secret agents in their own homes.

I grew up in a small town and as soon as I was able, I was going to after-hours events at a gay bar 30 miles from home. I wasn't breaking any laws like the girl in question was, but it doesn't matter: the alcohol is the lesser issue. if someone had recognized me there and told my parents about it out of concern, it really would have ruined my life, and possibly the lives of my friends. I know this because even telling my parents about myself after I had moved out and moved on was a staggering blow to them-- I can't imagine having been stuck living with them as they came to terms with it. I have a friend who was outed early, and his parents seemed fine about it on the surface-- until his mother began staggering into his room drunk late at night, begging him to have grandchildren for her. No matter what you think this girl's relationship with her parents is or what it could withstand, you have no idea what you might unleash here.

A fifteen year old girl is old enough to account for her own actions and explain herself to you. You can help each other decide what needs to be done about this situation, if anything. But I can promise you that the very worst thing you could do is tell her parents about this without talking to her first. You have so much more power in this situation than you realize, and so much can go wrong so quickly. Go to the girl yourself and talk, or else pretend you never heard a thing.
posted by hermitosis at 6:48 AM on June 29, 2006

Having been a fifteen-year-old lesbian, I would like to put in my two cents.

Look, people, others have said already if this girl was hanging out in a straight bar we'd all be freaking out. "Of course you should tell the parents! Jesus! And talk with her about safe sex!"

Yes, the lesbian bar thing complicates the matter. Lesbian bars are slightly less sketchy than straight ones. But that doesn't mean you let this matter alone. Pull the girl aside and discuss the issue with her. "A friend of my wife saw you at Such-and-Such--I think we should talk about it. I understand this is probably pretty difficult for you so I don't want to tell your parents straight out, but I also think it's a really, really bad idea for a teenage girl to be hanging out in bars, any bars."

Address her as you would an adult friend. She'll appreciate you came to her first instead of immediately ratting out to her parents. Beforehand look for gay/lesbian support groups for teenagers so you can recommend a few alternative places for her to go.

Sure, she's going to want to keep going to the bar, and she may get pissed at you. But at least you're giving her the chance to make the decision about her life instead of you making it for her.
posted by schroedinger at 6:49 AM on June 29, 2006

Do bars differ from one country to another, or are US bars filled with adult predators & naive underaged teenagers?

I really don't know why bars are a big deal. More dangerous are 'underaged' house parties where booze is consumed until someone passes out.

It seems to me there's some hypocrisy here - how adults think because in the US u cant enter a bar til you're 21 means you won't drink, or won't be hit on by adults.
posted by Sijeka at 6:56 AM on June 29, 2006

I'm really shocked at some of the answers here, especially all the OMG A CHILD IN A BAR, SAINTS ALIVE!

Maybe it's because I didn't grow up in America but a 15 year old in a bar who was just chatting with some older women doesn't send me into hysterics.

My two cents: it's really none of your business and the best thing to do is probably nothing. But the girl may benefit from a gentle mention that "hey, I think my friend saw you in X bar the other day - be careful about getting busted." That way, if she is gay and not out, she knows it's risky to be seen, and if she wants to talk about it, she might be able to open up to you. Make sure you tell her you aren't going to rat her out to her parents though. (And make it all about being in a bar, don't bring up the nature of the bar at all. Let her do so if she wants.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:05 AM on June 29, 2006

Don't say anything to the parents:

a) it's not really any of your business.
b) it's actually pretty normal to be out at bars drinking underage. I was doing it from age fourteen onwards and so were all my friends and most people at my school.
c) outing her (or, rather, saying she was in a lesbian bar which amounts to the same thing when heard second-hand) is nothing to do with you.
d) all-women bars aren't going to be too dangerous.

I'd also hestitate on whether to say anything to her, either. An adult coming to me and saying, "I saw you at that gay bar," would freak me out considerably. I'd be thinking:

a) fuck! Are they going to tell my parents and therefore do I need to come out to them before someone else does it for me? [You could reassure her that you're not going to say anything, but it would still be un-nerving.]
b) ewww! Acquaintance talking to me about my sexuality = not cool.

In short, she's not in that much danger and she's going through a normal process. Best to leave her alone.

[Side note: being in a gay bar doesn't necessarily mean you identify as gay. Aside from my sexuality, I often found that gay bars are much more lenient on asking for ID.]
posted by pollystark at 7:12 AM on June 29, 2006

I'd catch up with this girl ASAP and at least warn her that someone saw her there.

Umpteenth second for drstein's wise advice.

Ask yourself if you would you want your friends to tell you if they saw your fifteen-year old in a bar.

This is pernicious bullshit. What "you would want" if you were the parents is irrelevant to what the poster should do. If my wife were murdered I would want whoever did it killed slowly and painfully. Does that mean that's what should be done? No, it's a natural human reaction, but it's emotional and unjustifiable. Similarly, the desire of parents to control their kids' lives and protect them from the slightest hint of danger is understandable, probably unavoidable, but it can be (and frequently is) destructive, and most kids have to start breaking away from it early in order to lead their own lives. I loved my parents very much, but I was deeply relieved to leave home and be able to do what the fuck I wanted without having to account for everything or worry about what Mom and Dad might think. Yes, yes, she's "only 15," but that's just a number, and many 15-year-olds are much more adult than you might think; this girl may be perfectly able to enjoy herself in a lesbian bar (with or without drinking) and ward off any unwanted attention (and lesbians are not exactly noted for aggressive solicitation). I'd say it's much more important to maintain your relationship with the girl (who may then trust you enough to ask advice about things) than to satisfy paranoid fantasies of What the Parents Might Think.
posted by languagehat at 7:17 AM on June 29, 2006

If it was my kid, I would expect you to tell me about it. Parents are supposed to cooperate with this kind of thing.

If you don't want to narc directly, talk to the girl herself. Tell her that you know she was in the bar and that you are going to tell her parents about it, but wanted to give her the opportunity to do so first. No negotiations. "I am an adult and this is what I have to do. Give her say 48 hours. Then call the parents.
posted by LarryC at 7:17 AM on June 29, 2006

For the non-Americans who don't feel it's a big deal: A lot of us would agree with you, but guess what? It's fucking illegal here, and the repercussions of breaking such a law will vary from state to state and can include punishment of both the 15 year old and the parents.
posted by poppo at 7:17 AM on June 29, 2006

On non-preview: what CunningLinguist and pollystark said.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 AM on June 29, 2006

No negotiations. "I am an adult and this is what I have to do. Give her say 48 hours. Then call the parents.

And they wonder why teenagers despise adults.
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on June 29, 2006

this girl may be perfectly able to enjoy herself in a lesbian bar (with or without drinking) and ward off any unwanted attention

I agree; it also may be that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that she is or is on the way to getting herself in any kind of mixed up trouble. The OP doesn't know one way or the other. He doesn't know what's going to happen if he talks to the girl, or if he does nothing, or if he tells the parents.

If the parents were total strangers to him it would be different, but they're his friends. He should tell them and let them decide what to do.

Someone said above it's a normal part of your teens to sneak out to bars. It's also normal to get busted and that can sometimes be for the best.
posted by poppo at 7:26 AM on June 29, 2006

"I think this whole American "oh no!! 15!! in a bar!!" attitude is damn stupid. Bars and alcohol just aren't that dangerous, but for some reason you seem to have a really fucked up attitude to them."

The difference is the social structure that surrounds it. If there are more 15-year-olds in the bar, it's less dangerous than being the lone one there trying to fit in with adult culture. Drinking's not a big deal, honestly, but kids really aren't that mature at 15— they tend to be pretty smart, but not always wise.

But. You need to talk to the girl. Either you or your wife, probably you (since you seem to know her better) and give her the heads up. A lot of the folks, like Reklaw and CunningLinguist, don't get that in the US there's a huge risk for THE BAR as well as a decent risk for the kid. Like, if you're caught with any alcohol in your blood if you're under 21 in Michigan, you can't get a license until you turn 21. Which is draconian and stupid, but comes from the same folks who were just on AskMe in high dudgeon over DUIs. If she's caught, the bar will lose its license and have a hard time getting a new one, especially since it's established as queer. And that's not even mentioning the massive fines that anyone who serves her has to pay out of pocket (here in Michigan, it's $5000. I don't like any 15-year-old enough to pay $5000 to get them drunk).
Basically, the arguments that she's "mature" fall flat because if she was mature enough to realize the risk that she's presenting to the community of people who enjoy that bar, she wouldn't be there. Her parents don't have to know unless she seems stupid when you adress it with her, but you should encourage her to tell them, since she's been seen and noted by at least one other person who you can't control.
posted by klangklangston at 7:29 AM on June 29, 2006

Justinian writes "I'm not positive what he should do either, but this 'it's none of your business' stuff is completely wrongheaded. He's friends with this girl's parents! That makes it his business. If I'm good friends with somebody, I watch their back. "

Agree. I'm on the "It takes a village" side. The girl is engaging in illegal activity (around here anyways) and her parents should know. They maybe OK with it or they may not but they should know and be able to make that decision.

I'd talk to the girl with my wife first explaining that she was seen at a bar and that we'll be discussing it with her parents in say a weeks time. I wouldn't bring up the lesbian aspects if I could avoid it 'cause I don't think it's important. It's important that teenagers develop a sense of consequences and it's better that be taught by parents than police.

Then I'd follow through and tell the parents.

speranza writes "Well, I started going to bars at 16 *, and I'm fine. I've never been drunk, and I always drank sensibly right from the start. Being 15 doesn't make her an idiot with zero limitations. Do any of you rat-her-out people even remember being teenagers, or were you born age 40?"

All these antedotes to the tune of "I was a drunken teenager and look how normal I turned out" are more meaningless than antedotes usually are. The teenagers who couldn't handle the drinking tend to end up dead, in care, or living in a trailer on $5 a day somewhere. At any rate they aren't posting to MetaFilter.

i_am_joe's_spleen writes "PS: I grew and still live in a place where the drinking age was 20 and is now 18. Like the earlier poster from the UK, I find this well within the range of normal teenage behaviour."

It's normal but it is also something the parents should know about.

badlydubbedboy writes "The law does say that kids shouldn't be allowed in bars at the age of 15, but who here can hand-on-heart say they didn't try to get into a bar at around that age?"

Me, but I'm a boring teetotaller from way back. Physical speed was (is?) my drug.

languagehat writes "And they wonder why teenagers despise adults."

I don't think most people really wonder. The conflict between teenagers and adults is that adults want teenagers to make new mistakes and teenagers insist on making the same old mistakes. Of course adults tend to lose sight of the fact that sometimes making the mistake is the goal.
posted by Mitheral at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2006

This underage drinking hysteria is ridiculous. "Eeek! Oh noes it's illegal to be in a bar!!!"

It's total BS. Where I grew up, everyone drank underage and everyone I knew was going to bars semi-regularly by 16 and the drinking age was 18. I think NOT drinking before 21 is MORE dangerous than this girl's behaviour, in that you don't learn in a relatively sheltered environment how to incorporate intoxicants such as alcohol into a responsible adult life. This is what adolescence is FOR - figuring this and hundreds of other things out before being out in the world on your own.

That aside - I think this is a huge opportunity for you to be a GREAT friend to your friends, and you do that by being a good friend to the girl, not narcing on her, not outing her, and demonstrating in no uncertain terms that if things DO get tough for her (for any reason, even related to things like her sexuality), there is someone she can turn to.

Honestly she's probably going to be mortified - but if the time ever does come when she is in serious difficulty, she'll remember you and that is a huge gift to her parents. This is a newly independent person out there who needs her own support system. How great for her parents that part of that might be someone they trust.
posted by mikel at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2006

I think this is a huge opportunity for you to be a GREAT friend to your friends, and you do that by being a good friend to the girl, not narcing on her, not outing her, and demonstrating in no uncertain terms that if things DO get tough for her (for any reason, even related to things like her sexuality), there is someone she can turn to.

Listen to this, it's excellent advice. You can be a better friend to the parents by being a good friend to the daughter. It may be that all the rest of their friends would rat her out (and she knows this); if she knows she can trust you, you might someday be in a position to save her from something really bad (unlike OMG being in a bar!).
posted by languagehat at 8:29 AM on June 29, 2006

I think this is a huge opportunity for you to be a GREAT friend to your friends, and you do that by being a good friend to the girl, not narcing on her, not outing her, and demonstrating in no uncertain terms that if things DO get tough for her (for any reason, even related to things like her sexuality), there is someone she can turn to.

That is such an awesome point I think I'd like to change my vote from "talk to the parents" to "talk to the girl"
posted by poppo at 8:39 AM on June 29, 2006

After rethinking the situation, I agree with Mitheral:

I'd talk to the girl with my wife first explaining that she was seen at a bar and that we'll be discussing it with her parents in say a weeks time. I wouldn't bring up the lesbian aspects if I could avoid it 'cause I don't think it's important. It's important that teenagers develop a sense of consequences and it's better that be taught by parents than police.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:41 AM on June 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of people are missing the fact that you're this girl's coach and you have a good relationship with her.

Please talk to the girl first. Try to find a time when the two of you are alone together, maybe with your wife present if it's at your home or with another teacher present but out of earshot if it's at school or practice.

Just say something like, "Oh, I thought I saw you at X the other day." If she says, and seems to mean, "It can't be, I wasn't there," you have to believe her. (If, on the other hand, she gasps and looks mortified and then stutters "It wasn't me," you don't have to believe her.)

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that it's a lesbian bar should be a total non-issue in your conversation. Just mention that you thought you spotted her at X, and give her a chance to explain why ("yes, but my parents know," "yes, for my cousin's birthday party," "yes, just stopping by to do Y"). Don't talk too much or overexplain yourself; simply give her a chance to talk.

If her talk turns up bigger issues -- "I'm in love with a thirty-year-old and there's nothing you can do about it," "I love to get hammered every night," "I'm a lesbian but I'm afraid my parents will disown me and I just want to find out about the culture" -- deal with those as they arise. Don't try to bring them up preemptively, or it will turn into a lecture. Let her tell you what's up, in a situation that doesn't put way too much pressure on her, and go from there.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:59 AM on June 29, 2006

Don't say anything to the parents. Only say something to the girl if you're close friends and think she might welcome the opportunity to confide in you.

The fact that she's in a lesbian bar is what's important here. As a gay kid growing up I craved the opportunity to meet anyone like me, particularly in a place where I wouldn't somehow be found out by my mom or my schoolmates. There are precious few options for young gay and lesbians. Don't screw up the one she's found.

I'm puzzled why you said I also know that it's probably not a good idea for a teen to have peers that much older. I benefitted greatly from having older friends when I was a teenager. Adults aren't all sexual predators, you know.
posted by Nelson at 9:03 AM on June 29, 2006

I think this is a huge opportunity for you to be a GREAT friend to your friends, and you do that by being a good friend to the girl, not narcing on her, not outing her, and demonstrating in no uncertain terms that if things DO get tough for her (for any reason, even related to things like her sexuality), there is someone she can turn to.

And hey, maybe you could score her a six pack now and then. You're the cool grownup, right?

Look, I was experimenting with booze myself at 15, I don't think it is a big deal. But I also understood that if any adult saw me, my parents would find out the next day. Maybe the girl is a harmless phase of experimentation. Maybe she is in over her head in some very deep shit. You don't know, and you can't count on her to tell the truth, and it is not your place anyway.

You can talk to the girl first, you can let her know that she has a friend in you, you can do all that, but you also need to talk to the parents. You can leave the gay bar thing out--though it will be hard--but they need to know their 15-year-old was in a bar.
posted by LarryC at 9:16 AM on June 29, 2006

Those of you who use the "it takes a village" theory as an excuse to tattletale are missing the point, IMO. "It takes a village" means taking on some responsibility for the well-bring of other people's children, which in this case, IMO, means speaking to the girl. Not lecturing her and giving her an ultimatum, but using your power as an adult (with more resources and more experience) to be a safe harbor, to be someone OTHER THAN HER PARENTS that she can feel comfortable talking to and asking for help. If you are as close to this girl as it appears, you have a valuable opportunity to simply be available for her. Don't screw it up by ignoring the situation, or by clutching your pearls in distress and running to mom and dad with your gossip.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:32 AM on June 29, 2006

Personally, I could care whether 15 year olds can go to bars, but the fact is that if this is the US, she could get in deep crap, her parents could get in deep crap, the person that owns the business could lose their license (although they should be carding, true enough), and if it's in a homophobic city, you get the news media out there "OH MY GAWD TEH GAYS!!1!!" and honestly, that's not good for anyone. I think everyone here understands that Europe has a different standard than the US w/r/t this issue, but if we're addressing this from a US standpoint, the fact that it is illegal and could have consequences for people other than the girl in question is a legitimate thing to address. And on preview, what SuperSquirrel just said.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2006

Is anyone still in doubt that this is a USian question? The direct reference to the drinking age settled that for me.

Someone pointed out that if the 15 year old girl can pass for 18-21 then her companions might also be 15. But it's unreasonable to assume that because some people are hard to judge then all judgments are unreliable. Besides, the poster said "mid to late twenties" and I think it's one thing for a 15 year to pass for 21 and another thing entirely for a 15 year old to pass for 25.

It's simply irresponsibe for someone of drinking age to enable the drinking of a 15 year old. The legal drinking age in this country may be a ridiculous law but breaking the law can have serious consequences. Many of you got away with drinking at that age but I hope by the time you were 25 you had better sense then to promote consumption in minors. The same thing can be said for deceiving and disobeying parents. I did it and you did it and it's normal but it's not normal for a 25 year old to participate in it. LarryC makes a good point that it's not your place to be the girls friend and her drinking buddies at the bar don't seem to understand this. This assumes that her companions have no motives more sinister than being the cool grownup. (Which, thankfully, I think is a pretty safe assumption but I'm not so sure that it's yours to make.)

Finally, offer the girl a chance to coordinate your stories. Warn her that you'll tell her parents about the drinking and the inappropriate friends but offer her a chance to change the name of the bar. She might not care about changing that detail either because she's out, ready to come out or not a lesbian. If you get caught in the lie by her parents they should understand your motives if they're decent people. If they catch you and they're not cool about it, that's probably for the best, too. Their daughter does have some right to privacy and if they don't understand it automatically, then standing up for it is the right thing to do.
posted by stuart_s at 9:56 AM on June 29, 2006

Regardless of what else you choose to do, talk to the girl.
posted by Carbolic at 11:03 AM on June 29, 2006

Spill the beans. Tell the girl first that you know, but give her the option of, "if you don't tell them, I will. It's your call."
posted by vanoakenfold at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2006

I agree on a more indirect, hey, you've been spotted (with parental raised eyebrow just in case) approach.

There's a lot that can not necessarily be assumed:

It doesn't sound as if anonymous even necessarily knows for sure that the girl was drinking.

Being in a lesbian bar does not necessarily mean that she is a lesbian.

We don't know that she was there behind her parents' backs.

Depending on the state/city and the type of establishment it may not even be illegal for her to be inside (whether it was against the policy of the establishment is a different issue.)

(As a teenager I often wound up in gay bars w/older friends of mine who I knew from being involved with local theatre. My parents knew I was there. I did get an "OMG I saw you!!" from someone who knew my folks and though they they had "found me out." They frankly did not believe my explanation, and subsequently embarassed themselves in front of my parents.)
posted by desuetude at 2:57 PM on June 29, 2006

I think everyone here understands that Europe has a different standard than the US w/r/t this issue, but if we're addressing this from a US standpoint, the fact that it is illegal and could have consequences for people other than the girl in question is a legitimate thing to address.

I'm not sure, but it seems as if you think there are no under-age drinking laws in Europe. There are. Under-age drinkers and people who serve them can still get into legal trouble. Two or three people, presumably Americans, have pointed out things like "the bar could lose its licence" to the non-Americans now as if unaccompanied five-year-olds were drinking gin all over Europe and everyone thought it was just fine.

The bar could lose its licence in just about every country Europe too, although for one offense it's unlikely.

What we're saying is that we don't have the sense of moral outrage and imminent physical danger that Americans seem to have when they hear "fifteen-year-old in a bar". To us, it's just that, a fifteen-year-old in a bar. To Americans it obviously sounds more like "fifteen year old addicted to heroin, sold into white slavery and then eaten alive by serial killers".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:42 PM on June 29, 2006

"The bar could lose its licence in just about every country Europe too, although for one offense it's unlikely."

No, it's really not. In the US, especially with a gay bar, it's REALLY LIKELY that if she's caught the bar will lose its license.

And in America, due to the lack of social approbation, a 15-year-old is too young to be drinking in a bar.

So knock off the bullshit about our moralizing until you live here, OK?
posted by klangklangston at 6:50 AM on June 30, 2006

No, it's really not. In the US, especially with a gay bar, it's REALLY LIKELY that if she's caught the bar will lose its license.

klangklangston, I gently remind you that:

Getting into bars before you turn 21 is tolerated/enforced differently depending on the context. The bar with dollar shots next to the college campus needs to be a lot more vigilent, for example. Anyplace that caters specifically to the youngest end of the legal-drinking spectrum tend to be very careful because the police are keeping an eye out.

Depending on the rules governing bars, in some places many bars are also restaurants, even though they're called bars, and just card to drink, or start carding at some point in the evening when the population tips over from more eating to more drinking/dancing/when the band starts.

Have you been to many lesbian bars? 'Cause the the pink neon and Miller High Life and ratty pool tables are awesome and all, but...not usually the hottest ticket in town. (Gay bars catering to men tend to be trendier and in my experience are much more vigilant about carding at the door.)

Also, I have seen 15-year-olds who look mature for their age, who could maybe pass for a couple of years older. I have seen younger teenagers who thought that they looked like they were 21. But no bartender or bouncer is going to honestly mistake a 15-year-old for a 21-year-old. Whether they care is up to them, of course.
posted by desuetude at 8:50 AM on June 30, 2006

Read my sentence again— If she is caught, it is highly likely that the establishment will lose its license. No matter how lightly things are enforced in your corner bar, a 15-year-old haftin' draughts will get a business shut down.
Then you add up the myrad penalties for whoever served her.
That much danger is not cool to put any bar in that you want to go to ever again.
posted by klangklangston at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2006

Anyway, I don't think overstanding the danger of whether or not it's likely that a bar will lose its license because one underager is caught drinking (if she was indeed drinking, which is not clear) is the issue anyway. The bar can look out for itself, the issue is that this teenager was seen someplace that would cause a raised eyebrow and is considered age-inappropriate.

Anonymous, since you're closer to her, I think you should talk to her. The coaching relationship is a bonus, because you're already in somewhat of a position of authority. Now, if she'd been caught having sex in the lesbian bar, I might say that you should send in your wife to talk to her woman-to-woman.
posted by desuetude at 1:23 PM on June 30, 2006

Clarify please:
What bar and what does she look like? I mean maybe she just needs the right man to show her the errors of her ways. Wink, wink, nod, nod.

Still think bars are a safe place for a fifteen year old to hang out?
How many creeps are out there thinking this exact same thing?
Tell her parents tonight.
posted by CCK at 5:49 PM on June 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Late to the party here, but it's worth mentioning that aside from the bar's concerns (which I don't see why you would care about) there's the person's concerns. Many states have made the -accepting- of alcohol by an underaged person an illegal act, meaning that the girl herself can be prosecuted.

For example: in my home state of Florida there's a provision for first and second+ offenses, with possible jail time of up to 60 days or 1 year and fines of up to $500 or $1000.

Just because our drinking laws are stupid doesn't mean they don't have bite.
posted by phearlez at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2006

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