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Not A Boy, Not Yet A Man

July 31, 2010

Never too young to be a Pre-Professional

Other titles considered:

  • Sixteen (+2) Candles
  • It’s My Party, I Can Cry If I Want To
  • The Virgin Suicide

I plan on this post being long and heavy, with a slight tinge of angsty coming of age melodrama, so buckle up.

You know how I said I hated birthday parties? That doesn’t mean I don’t like to party. Part of being an American Teenager is the house parties thrown when parents are away. But what happens when it isn’t a big deal? Take my family. Earlier this summer my family was out on vacation while I still had rehearsal for Legends. I had a small get together of friends for a fun night. No harm done. Now that I want to have a goodbye/late birthday/summer’s end party, all bets are off. After consulting with my parents the logistics and the possible ramifications while negotiating terms, it seemed to me the best thing to do was just call it off. Now to head to Facebook and deliver the bad news…

This made me reflect on a lot of things, most of which relate to my frustrations on things not necessarily controlled by me or those around me. The first thing I thought about was maturity vs. age. From a legal standpoint, my friendly get together probably would not have been kosher. However, I can’t help but question this institution. Though I am only 18, I can say without a doubt I act as mature as people who enjoy full legal freedoms. I mean, the cast members of Jersey Shore are all above 21, yet their combined maturity level is probably closer to a middle schooler than I am. And then you can pull in the argument of draft and the military requiring only being 18, so why is everything else above that? The age of 18 is not as glamorous as people think. If anything, though given certain extra prerogatives, it is a more frustrating age. It is much easier to wait for the whole package to come in the mail than to get half the book, and wait for something you already paid for and feel you deserve for another three years. I hate to whine, but the truth of the matter is that I will turn 21 the summer before my Senior year of college. The thought of staying substance-celibate almost all through college is ridiculous, haven’t any legislators seen Animal House? So then I’m forced to ask, what’s the deal? I did my research (shocking for a whiny teen, I know) and the arguments against legalizing 18 yr old consumption seem to me to be a bit self-controlled, punishing the masses for personal control issues. The main point was that with a 21 age requirement, the age demographic exposed to alcohol was on average 17+. They fear with many 18 yr olds still in high school, that the demographic exposed would be 14+. With that, new drivers, including newly acquired permit bearers, would be exposed to alcohol at a more available level than the previous 21. I completely understand this point and see where it is coming from. But at the same time, I feel that it all comes down to education. When I was 14 I was offered alcohol, but because of good home education, I said no. I feel the schooling system of America has many short-falls, one of them being in substance education, especially with alcohol. We as a nation are in a prohibition hangover, where we still treat the drinks in question as they ought to be illegal when talking about them. Also: we have demonized those who enjoy it’s use. I am in no way desensitizing and praising alcoholism, which is a problem we are facing, but there is a clear line between alcoholism and social use. I feel culturally we are paranoid about becoming like the stars we deem ‘trashy’ or a ‘trainwreck’ (yes, you, Lindsay) which is why we eliminate the middle class of consumers. We label people either on one polar side of the spectrum or on the other. Those who veer towards the middle from the clean side seem to be vacuumed to the other side of the spectrum. If we had more education on moderation and responsibility, I feel that our society of secret binge drinking would dissolve.

And I step off my soapbox. I realize a whiny teen is tolerated a significant amount less when it is about the privileges still denied to him.

But examining myself in the middle has made me think I should not be grouped with the mass label ‘teenager’. Mentally, I have departed from that group. Mentally, like I said earlier, I feel I deserve to have full legal rights. I feel I deserve to be 21.

Wait! Hold the phone! What? I don’t want to be 21!

And this is where my personal conflict of interests comes into play. I don’t want to be old, but I want what older people have. I hate to be in the middle, but I dread the thought of moving forward. This can be traced to our society’s praise for youth. The money making superstars of today keep getting younger and younger. Movies and such featuring an older cast are not doing well at all (seriously, did ANYONE see Nights in Rodanthe?). Also, within the LGBT community, youth is stressed even more. I feel like all gay men are vampires because we ‘die’ at age thirty, and then experience the ‘true death’ much later. Why is there such a stress on age and youth in our community? I think this is due to a lack of role models for the community on the grand public scale. No out gay men found initial success later in life. Elton was young and got fame and then came out. Times are changing though. People aren’t as afraid to come out as they used to be. However, the stereotypical image of the modern gay man is still a twenty something young hot thing.Consider this: the winner of 2009’s X-Factor just came out. I am really glad for that because it gives the youth of England a role model and public figure to show people everything’s ok. But again, the center here is youth. While he reaches out to an especially youthful audience, which itself is needed, the older gay community I feel would have trouble relating to him, or if they do it is because they wish to cling to whatever youth they have left. What I would give for a forty/fifty something action star like Daniel Craig or Bruce Willis to come out and bring newfound glory to older gay men. Without which, the glory of youth will shine on and the unhealthy youth-centric society we let dominate us lives on.

Again, I am done. I promise this time. Being in the middle of a maelstrom of personal change and uncertainty leads me on these idealistic digressions. All the above could be 100% false, but it is how I see the world at this moment in time. Like the Britney Spears song, from which the title was born (typical, right?), while I’m in the period of in-between, I need a moment that I can call mine. I am not a boy. However, I’m not yet a man. This is how I cope until I am.

~T

(image courtesy of  www.daverosenberg.com)

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