In 1970 Western Australia lowered the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, ensuring a whole bunch of freshly–turned 21–year–olds felt robbed of the last three years of their lives. Since that time, with 18 now considered the age you’re officially ‘adult’, eighteenth birthday celebrations have become an institution; a big, boozy, feel–up–your–best–friend’s–sister, wreck–yourself–before–you–have–the–time–to–check–yourself party.
But not for the parents whose adult–o–meter is set firm to 21.
For the parents of those young and drunken whippersnappers, 18 is still just a tad young. You’re still a probationary driver, you still get asked for ID at the local tavern, you’ve never voted, you’ve never traveled, you’ve never lived away from home, you still work casual hours at the local supermarket, and you’d never be approved for a credit card. Regardless of whether any or all of the above applied to me at that age, I’m inclined to agree with them in retrospect: I had a great time at my eighteenth birthday party, holding my then–love–interest Justine’s hair out of the way while she puked three kinds of cheap champagne into my bathtub, but with no life experience under your belt (bar the last twelve years of school life) it’s hard to consider yourself a real adult. Twenty–one, though, seems just that little more special; and with all of the above life–affirming events locked firmly in the bag, it’s officially a milestone.
For that simple reason, twenty–first birthday parties are a much bigger, much more lavish event for Australian families. Invitations are professionally printed, alcohol is provided to guests at the expense of the party–throwers, speeches are made by parents and longtime friends, nudity is generally frowned upon, and the end result is an affair more akin to a wedding than any other birthday of your life. If I were at all familiar with Judaism I might compare it to a Bar Mitzvah… but I’m not, so I won’t.
With all that said, if you hadn’t guessed already, today is my twenty–first birthday. Voilà. On September 14, 1983, my then–almost–five–year–old brother was cursed with a despicably adorable younger sibling; a happening he has tried to reverse many times since that day without great success. The partying this Saturday passed was fun (if not a massive undertaking to organize) and the birthday booty contained considerable funds towards my forthcoming world trip, some clothing and equipment (again, for the trip), a whole mess of alcohol I’d never buy myself but appreciate nonetheless (like Chartreuse and Cuervo and Chivas Regal), and from my wonderful Fiona: an iSight so we can videoconference in my absence. Long story short, it’s been a birthday chalk full of travel accessories. And despite the mountain of work I have ahead of me before I take flight on December 2 (my brother’s birthday, incidentally), I’m determined to enjoy it. Goodnight.