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So here's the story. I'm 19 and just got a job at a small park in the middle of nowhere. There are less than 20 people working at this place, and I deal with them every day. Since everyone I work with in over 21, they assumed I was too, especially since I look so much older than I am.

Well, we had a little fire the other night, and my coworker offered me a beer. Being so used to drinking despite my young age, I accepted it... I immediately regretted it when a story that I told led one of my coworkers to jokingly asked "Geez, are you of age?!" Everyone laughed since they thought I was for sure legal, but I didn't know what to do. I just laughed along and replied "I'm just stupid."

Analyzing the situation I'm stuck in now, i'd say that at least that statement was true! Now I'm stuck with these people for 2 1/2 more months and I have to keep up this act that I'm over 21.

I plan on not drinking anymore, because I realize that that is just simply a bad idea, but I'm worried about them finding out my real age and being upset about it... I'm worried about them talking behind my back and creating a whole situation... What am I supposed to do?

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    I doubt this will end up being a big deal for you, but it's probably best if you avoid drinking with coworkers again until you are 21. Chances are, most of them drank while underage, so a 19 year old having a drink is nothing new. That said, you may choose to be honest with the coworker who gave you the beer, admit your mistake, and apologize for putting him in the position of having served a minor inadvertently (because this CAN be a felony in certain circumstances). – MK2000 Jun 7 '16 at 21:43
  • In a small park in the middle of no where they may not care – paparazzo Jun 7 '16 at 21:59
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Discussion on the drinking age in various countries doesn't help the OP. – Jane S Jun 8 '16 at 10:14
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    ... and this is a big deal? If they will ever discover this just tell them you felt uncomfortable in that situation and played along. BTW: I really don't understand some parts of US social behaviours... in Italy it happens all the time that people below 18 take alcohol that nobody would really care. Also the one taking the risk is the one selling you the alcohol... – Bakuriu Jun 8 '16 at 12:04
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    @Bakuriu same in France, are we all alcoholic in Europe ? :0 – Gautier C Jun 8 '16 at 13:04
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So how big a deal this is really depends on the local culture in your area. In the places I've lived and worked, underage drinking wasn't encouraged, but it was also recognized as something that happens, especially when teenagers get close to legal drinking age. Once you've left highschool and are in college or working full-time or close to full-time you become more like an adult and less like a child. As long as you aren't getting really drunk, or driving under the influence, an occasional beer isn't something that raises too many eyebrows where I'm from.

In my opinion, you should just leave it lie and not repeat your mistake, unless you feel that if it was discovered it would be a serious impact to your relationships with your coworkers. If the subject comes up, don't cover up your age and simply tell them the truth. If you feel like your coworkers would be very upset if they found out, you should not wait until it comes up; You should take them aside and explain the situation, apologize, and get on with things as best as you can.

The way I would phrase what I think is the truth is: You feel like an adult, and drinking was never a big deal to your family even though you weren't of-age. You realize it is illegal and you're sorry you put your coworkers in that position. It wasn't until afterwards that you realized how awkward it was and you weren't sure what to do, but after thinking about it, decided that honesty is the best policy.

You might want to think about how you would explain it yourself, but I think you should definitely include an apology.

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Disclaimer: this is terrible advice for almost every other situation involving lying or unprofessional / criminal behaviour. This answer assumes the social drinking with a fire was outside of working hours.

Firstly I'm not from the US, where I'm from it's legal to drink from 18 but the legal punishments for supplying alcohol to underaged persons are very harsh.

However socially / culturally speaking, this wouldn't be a big deal unless it got 'official', which is what would happen if you were to come clean to everyone now. The damage is done here, my thought is that it could only become worse if you were to tell your coworkers.

I think it's important to note that this seems to have taken place in a social setting, presumably outside of working hours? I'm assuming so for this answer, it would be different if you were both "behind your desks".

We all do these things when we are young, they are regrettable and unfortunate but 'fessing up' at this stage will only dump a load of stress on the person who gave you the beer - unless of course they don't care, but you can't know that for sure. Also it may damage your relationships with your coworkers, for the next 2 1/2 months, for something that can't be fixed now.

The hangover from this is that you are still maintaining a lie about your age to your coworkers, which I do not advise at all, but as others have said there's no 'good' way to deal with this now.

My advice - pick yourself up, learn the lesson, move on. In future, don't ever lie to your coworkers. Lies snowball, and leave you with other problems later.

Maybe you and the other coworker can have a beer in a few years and laugh about how dumb this situation was, and the lessons learned.

note I'm not saying lie further to avoid punishment - and this advice DOES NOT extend to every day situations in the workplace.

  • I don't think it's valid for me to vote this down, but I think this answer is not something I would do. Personally I find it easier to just tell the truth, then I don't have to remember who I'm talking to, and when, and what their construct of what I am is supposed to be today. I wouldn't make a public announcement or company-wide email about it. I would have a conversation with the person offering the drink, and not allow the lie to perpetuate as opportunity to end it comes up on a case by case basis with the other people at the fire. – Max Sorin Jun 8 '16 at 15:49
  • @MaxSorin fair enough, and I agree with you. I'm not advising the OP to maintain the lie, or continue lying - just that broadcasting the truth at this stage IMHO would do more harm than good. – nurgle Jun 9 '16 at 8:59
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Unfortunately, there are some situations with no good options.

By being "so used to drinking despite my young age," you created a situation in which this was likely to happen. The fallout started a long time ago.

Consequently, there's not a good way out. There might be a least bad way out, but it won't be easy.

Frankly, fessing up is probably your least-bad option, but you'd have to do it right. It's okay not to broadcast your mistake to the whole team. It's also okay not to make a big, huge thing about it. It might be as simple as telling the person who gave you the beer (aka a first-class misdemeanor called Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor) "So, I'm not actually 21. Your offer caught me off guard, and I didn't know what to do. I hope you can forgive me for putting you in that position, and help hold me accountable in the future."

It might turn out well, it might turn out poorly, but either way it will be the one option that you can defend to your own conscience.

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    This reads more like you're crucifying the OP for his personal choices and that he should repent his wicked ways. "help hold me accountable"? Really? – Lilienthal Jun 8 '16 at 10:14
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    How is this getting upvotes? The only real good Thing about this anwser is: "Unfortunately, there are some situations with no good options.". The rest is judge, Jury and executioner. (exaggerating I know) – Raoul Mensink Jun 8 '16 at 12:57
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    Yup, underage drinking is illegal alright. Doing illegal things is not a great idea. Causing someone else to unwittingly commit a first-class misdemeanor (in some states) is not okay. Not gonna pat him on the back for that. If it weren't a big deal, there would be no question about what to do. He wouldn't be asking, if it was totally awesome and everyone was okay with it. There's no sense pretending that this is like touching someone else's car (i.e. most people don't mind, but you've gotta deal with the few who are weird about it). Breaking the law is a foolish choice that has consequences. – mHurley Jun 8 '16 at 13:06
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    Sorry this is a terrible answer if you disagree go and read up on: workplace.stackexchange.com/help/behavior – Raoul Mensink Jun 8 '16 at 14:01
  • @Lilienthal While there does seem to be a moral "I told you so" in this response, "I plan on not drinking anymore, because I realize that that is just simply a bad idea" and "help hold me accountable" seem to be compatible statements. I didn't see any preachy calls to repentance. OP indicated some level of regret about this situation, and this answer addresses it by offering a recommendation that has the potential to ease the regret of the situation and reduce potential further regret later on. – Kent A. Jun 8 '16 at 14:05
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Well considering your situation I think the next time someone hands over a glass to you, you should just politely say Thanks but I've given up drinking.I mean if you do not intend to drink until you're 21.

If the co-workers of yours are mean and all that just say it in a funny-but-polite way like "I've given up drinking ( For now at least)" gives them the feeling that you'll be back at it some other time or just act as if you're not in the mood.

These are last resorts. That is if your initial fails.As much as I'd hate lying, if you think your age being revealed would make a whole scene, try approaching them alone and well after you're in the clear with them try asking them how they would react to a 19 year old. If they ask why just reply "Out of Curiosity" or something like that.

Hope this helps. :)

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