flickr: jessicalea
Imagine you're in high school again for one night, only this time with booze and seasonal depression

By Vanessa Quilantan

It's the holidays, which means that, for all you transplants out there, it's time to go home and see Mom and Dad. After a few hours with the family, however, you'll get that urge to get out of the house and go to a bar. Which is great! Except that, with all of these (formerly) familiar faces in the room, you're going to be opening a pandora's box of intense feelings. Here's how to handle the situation.

First, let's set the scene: At the bar, likely divey and likely close to your parents' house, you will be encountering former classmates, childhood friends, and old flames. Yay? Sure, much like a friend's wedding or a high school reunion, these nights can be fun and nostalgic. But they're also rife with opportunities for emotionally-charged, booze-fueled decision making.

“The crowd those nights is usually anywhere from 22 to 28. It seems like the older you get, depending on how misanthropic you are, those nights are like measuring sticks,” says Steve Steward, a bartender at Fort Worth, Texas's Boiled Owl Tavern. “For a single dude, it's like: Who's gotten fatter? Who's gotten balder?”

Keep yourself in check. You're more likely to have fun if you're not comparing yourself to others. Don't talk about work too much, and if you catch yourself doing salary math in your head, snap out of it. It's fun to look back at how far you've come with the people you grew up with, but everyone's definition of success is different. It's Thanksgiving, not your Reality Bites moment.

If you're one of those weird people who stays friends with their exes, then the potential for awkwardness might be lower. But you're still at risk for drunken mistakes. This is especially true if you run into a first love type, someone for whom you still have a soft spot. Whether you get along with them or not, you don't want to end up drinking and talking to your old high school sweetheart all night. It's weird, and no good can really come of that. Catch up for a bit, then keep it moving.

“There's all this nostalgia and feelings of general good will, so people generally try to throw down,” says Steward.

Make sure to watch your booze intake. There's a lot to toast to, and the holiday spirit tends to keep the drinks flowing. For starters, think of your bank account.

And let's not forget that you've got a stomach full of Christmas tofurkey. You're already going to be bloated tomorrow, so take it easy. Plus, you're going back to your parents' house. Do you really want to wake up on your mom's couch reeking of peach Schnapps? Or worse, have everyone remember Christmas 2013 as the year you vomited in the parking lot? You've got to be able to walk back in here next year.

Keeping all this in mind, there's no reason why your hometown holiday drinking experience can't be joyous and anxiety free. Though you're bound to these people by your past, toast to your futures, and the promise of many more holidays together. Tip your bartenders, and never forget how effective a good jukebox can be in setting a festive mood.

Just please don't play any Christmas songs.

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