On March 10, I will make the final leap into adulthood by turning 21 years old. However, unlike many my age, I will not be chugging beer, downing tequila shots, or barhopping on this landmark day.
Every weekend on campus I always seem to have at least one conversation with a friend that will go like this: “Hey, any plans for the weekend?” “Well, so-and-so is having their 21st birthday so … .” There’s no need to explain any further. Obscene amounts of alcohol will be consumed, and a sizable wad of cash will disappear from the barhopping that will take place that weekend.
But is getting blitzed to the point of not remembering a very important milestone really that great? To me, the typical 21st birthday celebration is the antithesis of what turning 21 is all about. On this birthday we are allowed to legally purchase and imbibe in alcoholic beverages, yet as soon as we are granted this privilege, we immediately abuse it.
Being mature isn’t about acquiring the permission to do something; it’s about the ability to know how to use that privilege correctly.
Much of the time, students are exuberant and thrilled to get hammered when they turn 21. Studies show that many college students get absolutely smashed on their 21st birthday. In 2008, a study done by the University of Missouri, entitled “21st Birthday Drinking: Extremely Extreme,” showed that 83 percent of students consumed at least some alcohol on their 21st birthday. 49 percent of men, and 35 percent of women had estimated their blood alcohol content (BAC) to be at 0.26, which is over three times the legal limit of intoxication. At this level, most people experience a blackout for some portion of time, essentially erasing a part of their memorable day.
Like many underage college students, I have drank to the point of “feeling it.” There have even been a few nights where my memory of the things I had done was hazy the morning after. But why drink to the point where I can’t recall such a great day? After all, subsequent to next Wednesday, the only birthdays I will look forward to for new privileges are 25 when I can rent a car, and 50 when I get my prostate exam.
If abusing a privilege as soon as it becomes available to us is the epitome of “mature”, then let me be immature on my birthday. Take me to play laser tag! Let’s eat crappy pizza and go bowling with bumper lanes. That’s how I want to spend my birthday.
I’m not arguing that drinking alcohol is a bad thing to do. Chances are I will buy a beer for myself on my birthday. But on Wednesday, all that I need to make my birthday great are my friends, being complete morons like we usually are.
Many people would disagree with me and say that it’s an American custom to go absolutely crazy on one’s 21st birthday. Because one is now allowed into any establishment, bar, or restaurant, going to one of those previously off-limits places can be a way to celebrate. For thousands upon thousands of years, alcohol has been there during times of celebration, so it only seems logical that it should be there during the celebration of its legality for someone.
To that, I say why should I follow what custom dictates? If I turn 21 and am finally “mature” enough to drink, I can make the mature decision to have a Bud Light if I want to, or not have one, if I so please.
Although on March 10 it will be my legal right to drink as much as I want, I will choose to abstain from that. Some good friends, good food, and a couple of bucks for laser tag are all I need to make my 21st birthday one that I will without a doubt remember.