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Waiting on 21

Megan O'Neil | Thursday, September 16, 2004

Speaking from 208 days of experience, being 20 is a very unexceptional and frustrating thing. What is the year twenty good for anyway? There are no obvious changes in your legal status, no notable 20th birthday perks. I have never heard the expression ‘sweet 20’ and the excitement of being able to vote is two years old. Twenty isn’t really one of those birthdays that people excitedly anticipate, except maybe for the fact that it kicks off the countdown to 21.The troubles of my 20th year have only been exacerbated by the fact that I spent second semester last year abroad in Spain. The fives months of carefree bar hopping, I now realize, were a teasing glimpse of the fun that is being legal. It took only one 12-hour flight to rob me of it.Being a junior and 20 can curtail your social life. In all likelihood you have friends who are seniors whom you may rarely see thanks to the difference in one little digit. Major campus parties are fun, but overshadowed by the concern of hovering police. Friday night I set out for Lafayette looking forward to a little Kickoff Classic fun. The men in blue stalking the length of the parking lot put me on edge, however and I was home by 1 a.m. I longed to be one of those cavorting 21 years old with unapologetically slurred speech cruising from one apartment to the next.The cruelty of 20 is so cutting that it even bars you from helping friends commemorate their freedom from it. Celebrating someone’s 21st when you are still a few months short is punishing. First, jealousy sets in. You know from now on he will be able to take his pick of local joints on Saturday night. They will roll in at ridiculously late hours. laughing about some guy who was dancing funny or the girl who dropped her drink, leaving you completely out of the loop.Second, you cannot join your friend at midnight for his inaugural bar run nor can you entice the other patrons to join you in a rendition of happy birthday. When I complain about the boredom of 20 to my parents, they always respond positively with some cliché such as ‘youth is fleeting’ or ‘these are best days of your life.’ Clearly, they had fakes. But as I can’t change my date of birth, I am going to buckle down and wait it out. Only 157 days to go.