Wherein I grant permission for judgment.

I was a late bloomer where alcohol was concerned. In high school, my rebellious partying streak lasted roughly three hours, when someone coerced me — by way of candy corn expertly thrown down my tee's V-neck tee, into the depths of my then-negligible cleavage — to take several sips of their white Russian at a party. Which was attended by members of my 24-person chamber choir.Clap me in irons.

I stood by, horrified, at my first sorority Bid Day party, as I watched my freshman "sisters" (ugh) get stumbling drunk at the Theta Chi house — which, though unrelated to this, always reminded me of the Seven Dwarfs' cottage — and hobble off to do unspeakable things. I left early and probably cried myself to sleep. Freshman year was sort of…like that. My first voluntary drink was a Smirnoff Ice (Triple Black, no less) just before Christmas break that year. My five-foot-tall, 100-pound friend and I were both tanked, or so we thought, and we danced around my friend's off-campus apartment to Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" until…at least 11 o'clock. I kept that bottle cap.

Being a journalism student did speed my journey (spiral?) to where I am today. After many schooner nights in downtown Lawrence — where I drank double Skyy and cranberry — and my third last night of production, which involved a Nalgene bottle full of cheap chardonnay (or two; who am I kidding) and a bottle of $3.99 champagne, I finally found myself in the corner of a classmate's house with an industrial-size plastic trash can between my knees. Legendary. (This is the sort of thing you must do to be the stuff of j-school lore. Unless you somehow wind up with the clown suit. Then you don't even have to puke in the corner.)

And now? Fast-forward to last year. Actually, let's skip last year: 2008, in its entirety, is another long, drunken story for another time — which may require more drinking on my part to get out. Or at least a box of tissue.

So I'll venture straight to my most recent…episode. I was in California for the week. On business, which meant that the following has no business ever having happened. But it did. Every year during this trip, one of our clients invites us to their site for a barbecue and bonfire. Where there is Fat Tire. (NOW.) And logs to be thrown at a blistering inferno after drinking said Fat Tires. And after the blaze had died down to embers, the client's head of sales sauntered up and invited the three (young. attractive.) females in our group out for drinks at Lompoc's diviest watering hole. With 15 other men. Attractive men. Married men. (A detail that would be important only if I were sharing the entire story. Which. I'm. Not.)

So, great. After four Fat Tires — which, I was recently informed, contain far more alcohol than lesser beers — I was down. Because if there's anything I like more than drinking? It's drinking for free. I walk into Jasper's and am instantly bogarting the jukebox, full of someone else's quarters, and programming Fall Out Boy, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Franz Ferdinand. Screaming like a high-schooler with my coworker when the intro to "Take Me Out" blares over the tinny sound system. I'm scratching the 8 ball (whoa). Flinging shuffleboard pucks across the table at men whose names I forgot as quickly as I learned them. Jumping out of my flip-flops, twisting barefoot in shallow puddles of my own sloshed Sapphire and tonic. And suddenly — inexplicably, now, though I must have said something about loving karaoke — two men have hoisted me up by my elbows, and I'm barefoot on one of the pool tables, singing Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" at the top of my lungs. Into my fist. SoCo and lime shots — one, two. More Sapphire and tonics. Cell-phone camera compromised. Drunken tweets submitted, regretted later. Car keys commandeered. I remember plodding barefoot through the parking lot and attempting to break into the hot tub. Unsuccessfully. But there's not much I remember after that. McDonald's had never tasted as good as it did the next day.

Five drinks in a night constitutes a binge, my therapist tells me. ("Like…in what kind of time period?" I ask.)

I know I can't live like this forever — especially given my lofty aspirations of running a half-marathon at the end of the summer. But if you'd known me back then? The virginal, infinitely sober, 16-year-old geriatric? I was so uptight and so. judgmental. I much prefer this version of myself, even if my liver resents the shift. I get that there's something to be said for balancing barren asceticism and binge behavior. I haven't quite figured that one out, but I'm getting there. It feels good to make a few bad decisions now and then, the details of which I remember fuzzily and gradually as I move farther from them. Like many late bloomers, it could be said I'm making up for lost time. But I'd like to think I'm just having fun. No regrets, right?