Everyone sees the birthday girl at the bar strutting around in her “Just Turned 21!” sachet, but nobody sees her curled up by the toilet the next morning.
Birthdays, like the basement of the library, have a creepy underbelly. They are nothing but crude reminders that we have survived another round-trip journey on a piece of rock that hurtles precariously through outer space.
Although birthdays may seem pleasant because you receive gifts and a tidbit more attention than usual, they are just gimmicks to make us forget something terrible–we are getting old, slowly but surely.
When I was young, around nine, I always thought it would be fun to be “older” because older kids seemed so cool. So when I was nine, I wanted to be 13, and when I was 13, I wanted to be 16. Well, it turns out that I was an idiot, because now I’m 21 and it’s a bummer.
Along the course of my youth I feel as though there were certain birthdays where it was a privilege to be old. It starts at 16. We get our licenses and start cruising the U.S.A.
However, a car usually requires a job, so we have to put on our very best polo shirt and apply to Dairy Queen. After serving upwards of 500 frosties, you realize that you hate your job and your car. Suddenly being 16 is not so cool.
After slaving away for two years we turn 18. We become technical adults, but all that means is that we can buy our own cigarettes and waste money on scratch tickets. I guess you could also go and buy yourself the latest edition of Playboy, but seriously, who does that?
However, the real thought in the back of everyone’s mind at that age is, “This is cool, but it’s still three more years until I can drink.” And as those years pass you’ll probably often wish you were “old enough” to drink. But wait a second, there is nothing cool about getting “old enough” to do anything. Getting old sucks.
Three years later you turn 21 and think everything is golden, but the truth is whether you end up dancing on the bar or puking on it, it is bittersweet. You feel so young before midnight when you walk into the bar, but by noon the next day you feel old and hung-over.
When you are of age, you will become used to spending inordinate amounts of cash on margaritas, or any other nasty drink that promises to have you rushing to the bathroom in the middle of class the next morning. You will probably wonder why you ever thought being 21 was so cool, because being broke and perpetually hungover isn’t so awesome to me.
As time passes you will take your younger friends out on their 21st birthdays and buy them nasty shots that you drank on yours. Their sophomoric behavior and the amount of alcohol they’re consuming will have you clenching your teeth, thinking, “Did I look like that too?”
Eventually you will have to go out for your friend’s 22nd Birthday. And make no mistake; the 22nd birthday is the worst. When you were younger, turning 16, 18 and 21 all seemed to mean something, but at 22 you are just a bag of meat that has completed another lap around the sun.
All the old people I know (my 22-year-old friends) wake up after their birthday with the worst hangover they’ve ever encountered. They say, “I have to get my life together, get an internship, or apply to law school or something. I’m getting too old for all of this,” and I look at them like they have just peed in my cereal.
It’s like once you’re 22 you wake up with arthritis and a hunch that you should get your colon cleaned. Nobody has to tell you that you’re old because you know it. It’s absolutely terrifying.
So for all you kids who are 18 to 20 and upset that you’re not “old enough” to do anything fun in this town–get over it. Quit thinking about getting old, because in three years when you really are “old” you’re going to miss the days of your sweet, sweaty youth.
Quinn Scahill is a senior English major. His columns appear Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.