Words || Jane Van Dartel
The scorching noon sun overhead. Costumes so bright and ridiculous they glittered painfully in the sun’s glare. The public oval by Gosford waterfront covered with a sea of teens toting various modes of manual transport – more nastily-cheap scooters than an entire Kmart can hold. The awful sour taste of goon in my mouth.
That was the day that heralded the end to my high school career. The day before we graduated.
To explain the glorious debauchery that is Fridge-to-Fridge is hard – mostly because the latter half of the nine or ten hour event is a complete blur for me (yikes). For those unfamiliar with this Australian rite-of-passage, it is essentially a tour de France that traverses several houses whilst participants drink every step of the way.
Each house is a ‘pit-stop’ where the stragglers can regroup with the main pack and refresh with as many easily-affordable-yet-highly-potent drinks as they can. The last house is where the final party is held, and cut-off time is when everyone is too drunk to stand, or when they suddenly realise that they are graduating tomorrow, and they really need to go home or else they will be accepting their diploma still drunk out of their mind.
Many high schools choose to do their Fridge-to-Fridge after they graduate in order to really get into the celebratory mood, but my high school made a game of how many kids would wear sunglasses for their Final Roll Call in front of the entire school and their parents. I was lucky enough to contribute to this staggeringly high number, and my graduation photos are lovingly ruined by a face that regrets every discussion made the previous day.
Yet, while it is easy to laugh off the ridiculousness of throwing up in a high school bathroom before your own graduation, it also highlights just how ingrained drinking culture is in Australian culture. Goon is a symbol of turning eighteen, of drinking for the first time in the backseat of a friend’s car, of adding that person you will never see again on Facebook after bonding over Goon of Fortune.
Bending the knee and drinking goon for the first time is practically an induction into adulthood in Australia, and while that sentence leads to an easy critique on alcohol abuse and issues with underage drinking, I prefer to look fondly back on it as the revelry of entering adulthood. Everyone remembers the freedom that graduation brought to us, allowing us to grow into our skin and stretch our legs into the real world. Goon is the taste that lingers with these bright and hopeful memories, and always will.
Nowadays I rarely drink – most likely because I can barely afford groceries – but when I do it is usually to catch up with old high school friends or to get to know new university friends. Without fail, I always bring up the shenanigans that occurred during Fridge-to-Fridge – telling someone about your drunken shames is always a good way of breaking the ice, right? It was such a defining moment in my life – the herald to my graduation, the literal and metaphorical journey I took into adulthood. An experience shared by hundreds of teens across Australia.
University and the tedious trials of being an adult lie ahead. It is scary to think, but ahead also lies many more moments that will define us and be retold as stories to reuniting and new friends over drinks. A literal journey of a lifetime.
A journey that started with the spectacular Fridge-to-Fridge and goon.