When do birthdays and all the trimmings become insignificant?
The answer is 23. Twenty-three sounds rather random, but it’s not random at all. When you’re a little kid, every birthday is significant because your little (big) ego (and parents) tell you it is so. When you’re a teenager, every birthday is still significant, but now each is significant for a reason.
Thirteen: When you turn 13, you’re finally a teenager. At 14, you can get your Learner’s Permit (in most states). 15 is Quinceanera for girls in Latin America. For girls in the United States, 15 is significant because birthdays that are multiples of five are automatically significant. Each half decade is an era in your life.
Sixteen is significant because you can get your driver’s license. For girls, “Sweet Sixteen” parties are a rite of passage. Seventeen marks the age of high school graduation for at least half the population.
Eighteen is the age of majority, when a teenager is officially an adult. An 18 year old can exercise the right to vote. (Thank you, all you 18-year-old voters of 2008!) At 18, new adults used to be able to drink legally. But a few rowdies of my generation ruined it for future generations.
Nineteen represents the last year of a person’s teens, but few teens feel sentimental about leaving the teens behind. Sucks to be a teenager and an adult at the same time.
The numbers stop adding up
When embarking on your twenties, even 20 year olds realize their twenties are special. Just how special, you’ll find out later. (Thank you, Mary Schmich.)
At 21, you are inarguably an adult. You can finally drink. Legally. But of course you have been indulging for at least a few years now. Twenty-one is the most significant birthday at all.
People might argue that 22 would be the first insignificant birthday. They are right technically, but 22 is significant just because it is the first insignificant birthday. Therefore, 23 is the first truly insignificant birthday.
Twenty-five is a milestone year and the year I had my one and only age-crisis. Twenty-nine is significant for women because that is supposed to be the ideal age, the last a woman admits to. No one makes that wisecrack anymore, but unfortunately the weight of 29 is in the female DNA.
Thirty is thirty, new decade significance. 33 and 1/3 used be significant for yuppies trying to be ironic. Think vinyl.
The significant birthdays are passing quickly now (remember the multiple of five rule). Forty used to be over the hill, but 5o is the year of the black balloons.
And now here it is: 52, finally playing with a full deck. I like that. I think 52 is the truly the last significant birthday.
Thanks to my old friend Jim Barrett for this birthday philosophy he shared with me when I was 21.