The time has finally come. At the time that I am writing this (19:45, Tuesday 11th December 2012) I am a sprightly youth, without a care in the world; when this article is published (Sunday 16th if all goes to plan) I will have crossed over to the realm of the aged. Yes indeed, the big 21.
What wonders await me there? What horrors? What secret pleasures and soul-destroying mundanities?
Quite why these seemingly arbitrary ‘landmark’ ages (16, 18, 21 etc.) are given such reverence, I’m not sure, but rational argument is powerless to mar its inherent worth to my subconscious. How do I know that? Because, at this advanced age, having long grown used to the idea of birthdays representing little more than the inevitable passing of time, I find myself looking forward to this one.
I’m told that most people my age tend to take it upon themselves to give their livers the biggest shock that they can muster; by bathing it in alcohol during a rip-roaring weekend in Malaga/Ibiza/Miscellaneous Hellhole with the guys or gals. Alternatively, some fling themselves to the far corners of the planet, or indulge in fantastical flights of fancy such as skydiving or bungee-jumping.
I, however, will not be partaking in such things. At least not this year. I plan to save the wilder side of life for my golden years; backwards to some, but that is, as they say, how I roll.
I will be visiting the Old Vic theatre to see Kiss Me Kate with my girlfriend, after dining À la carte, and then we shall spend the night in a London hotel. I’m not one to put any great weight on the concept of celebrating occasions, but I cannot imagine a finer way to do so; especially an occasion which holds such high esteem in our culture.
But what does adulthood entail in modern times?
Turning twenty-one is often touted as a person’s final transition from the protective embrace — and trappings — of youth. But as times have changed, so have prospects, and expectations. Whereas before a person could expect to tie up loose ends with regard to education or apprenticeships, take a job, marry and settle down to a life of child-rearing and mortgage-paying, things have taken a turn towards a situation in which any one of these grown-up hallmarks are nigh impossible to attain.
People do not simply ‘take a job’ if they are young at the current time; they pry them from the hands of employers like snarling dogs if they genuinely want one, and slave away for several years not as tea-boys, but as something akin to a tea-boy’s aide. Alternatively, one could spend the decade in university necessary to bypass such an impossibly high employment ladder.
On top of that, mortgages are being kept close to the chest by banks, less than half of UK residents bother with marriage, and increasing world-population carries with it a sense of guilt whenever procreating is even considered.
Adulthood might, therefore, seem like an intimidating state of being.
The upside of the situation is, of course, the freedoms that come with no longer being lumped in with modern ‘youths’; those who are relentlessly demonized for no particular reason other than a lack on the part of the media of sects of people unprotected by equality and anti-discrimination legislation. No longer, hopefully, will I be seen as one of those feral imps that infest the nation, but a person; a human being.
So, am I glad to be joining the ranks of the grown-ups or not? Well, as is so often the case in life, only time will tell.