Coming of age
September 22, 2002 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Coming of age in America is a ritual occasion with the goal of having an adventure that will serve as story fodder for decades to come. Whether it's waking up near death in a filthy Guadalajara alley next to some wealthy guy that you think you met in New Orleans or blowing most of your college savings on a weekend of tame debauchery in Amsterdam, the moment is meant to be simultaneously cherished and regretted for the rest of ones life.
posted by bunnytricks (19 comments total)
or not.
posted by quonsar at 2:01 PM on September 22, 2002

the moment is meant to be simultaneously cherished and regretted for the rest of ones life.

I tried to read the story, but was too distracted by the third-grade grammar and complete disregard for punctuation. Do you think there might be a connection between an inability to grasp basic language skills and personal debauchery?
posted by Ayn Marx at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2002

or not indeed. Marx - I'd have to agree.
posted by woil at 2:50 PM on September 22, 2002

Marx: I think it was a suitable starting point for people to relate their 18th and 21st birthday (mis)adventures. I found the story entertaining despite the lack of literary polish.
posted by bunnytricks at 2:58 PM on September 22, 2002

posted by pekar wood at 3:24 PM on September 22, 2002

I was straight edge* back in high school - no drugs, no alcohol, no sex - so turning 18 involved going to a punk show and doing some of what we old timers called "slam dancing." I understand the kids these days call is "moshing" or some such.

Anyhow, since I missed out on the whole traditional "rite of passage thing," I found this story to be fascinating. I confess I am at a loss to understand why debauchery marks the symbolic passage from youth to maturity. Perhaps it is sort of a "Fat Tuesday" sort of experience? One last blow out on the last day that we're young? Perhaps it is the contemporary equivalent of a "spirit quest?" Pushing the limits of endurance and chemical use in the hopes of seeing some transcendent vision?

I don't know, but I don't think I missed anything.
* For the record, "straight edge" in my neighborhood didn't yet have the racist overtones that it eventually incorporated.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2002

I don't know anyone at all who did anything memorable on their 18th or 21st birthday. Drunkenness, yes, but that's about it. Does anyone really do this?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:46 PM on September 22, 2002

I went to Mexico over the summer with some recent high school grads. One of the 18 year old boys blew $180 on a Puerta Vallarta whore. He picked the girl out of about 20 and ordered his postition off of a menu. oh and then he didnt even get off. I guess that fits this, "the moment is meant to be simultaneously cherished and regretted for the rest of ones life. "
posted by Recockulous at 3:50 PM on September 22, 2002

There is no real coming of age ritual in American (US) culture, specially for males.
posted by jaronson at 3:57 PM on September 22, 2002

There is no real coming of age ritual in American (US) culture, specially for males.

sure there is, and this writer almost nails it. the ritual is actually to perform progressively more stupid and insane acts until you either (a) wake up and think to yourself, "ok, i need to calm down and get a life" or (b) you die. this ritual may take as long as the rest of your life.

for me, where i woke up was an alley, where i was wrapped around my motorcycle. what woke me was the siren of the approaching ambulance. i was 20.
posted by hob at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2002

I forgot what my Anthropology professor called them, but these are modern America's "rites of passage." Getting your driver's license, turning 18 or 21, etc. are all cultural markers of a transitional period in one's life. It's a liminal time where people are allowed and expected to act outside of societal norms.

My best friend got seriously drunk on her 21st birthday. On my 21st I bought some liquor. Symbolically, it meant we had entered a different sphere of society. Not as cool as a spirit quest, but it's still something.
posted by lychee at 4:33 PM on September 22, 2002

There is no real coming of age ritual in American (US) culture, specially for males.

Not any that anyone wants to talk about, at least. Because, if we did, then ... you know, we'd have a boyzone or something like that. And that's bad, for some reason. No one wants to hear about it. Shame, really, because it keeps males in a juvenile state. How pacifying is that?
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2002

I don't really remember much of my 21st birthday. I know it involved a bar, and I woke up the next day in a bathroom. Must have been great!
posted by askheaves at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2002

My 19th birthday (legal age in Canada) was extremely uneventful. I bought a 750ml of Jack Daniels and a cigar. (And my first pack of cigarettes I didn't have to worry about being ID'ed for -- but, since I look so old, I had to force the cashier to ID me.)

I never got the point of going nuts when you became legal age. Most people who would do that, seemingly, did far crazier stuff well-before that age. (Clubbing, drug use, whatever.)

*shrug* Maybe because it seems to be expected.
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2002

19 is not the legal drinking age everywhere in Canada.
posted by titboy at 6:22 PM on September 22, 2002

One of the 18 year old boys blew $180 on a Puerta Vallarta whore.

Pesos not dollars reco, or else he just fed an entire family for a month.
posted by poodlemouthe at 8:16 PM on September 22, 2002

The first time I felt really grown up was at 25 when I quit my day job and started freelancing. Five years and $50K worth of personal debt later, it became obvious that running my own business was, indeed, something I would cherish and regret always. I recommend it.
posted by kindall at 10:56 PM on September 22, 2002

I really don't remember either. On my 18th, I was on a bivouac at Fort Jackson, SC in basic training. On my 21st, I was at Ft. Campbell, KY. I don't really remember doing anything special.

Of course, once I started college at Indiana U. I seemed to make up for lost time. i.e.- Morning of Nov. 1st 1998. Woke up in a car dressed as Ace Frehley from kiss. A random car. Several miles away from the party I had attended earlier. No idea how I got there or why I decided to camp in a strange Buick. I just remember wandering around the neighborhood for a few hours looking for my glasses, sweatshirt and truck and groping a girl dressed as a nun. Good times.

I suppose that I also had a coming-of-age experience in South Korea while I was 19. My moment of glory- got drunk at a chicken hut in Segukdong. Pissed on the seat of a woman's moped. She saw and chased me. I stole a bike to get away. Rode bike directly into rice patty. Good, although rather blurry, times.
posted by ttrendel at 1:24 AM on September 23, 2002

So how many coming-of-age experiences didn't happen at a bar, or at least under the influence of large amounts of alcohol?

Oddly enough, even little ol' boring me has had a COAE. Basically, I gave the finger to their favorite ska band and their friend onstage, who was leading the crowd in a mock Heil Hitler salute, and then got jumped by three of their (antiracist) skinhead fans. The band? Inspecter 7. The bar? Wetlands. The town? New Yorking Fuckin' City, baby - aww yeah!

And I don't even drink.
posted by skoosh at 6:40 PM on September 23, 2002

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