Cheers to 21 years!


Next week my daughter will turn 21 years old.

(Quick, somebody pour her me a drink.)

Twenty-one years old. How the hell did this happen? Wasn’t I just celebrating turning 21 in Vegas with my boyfriend who, despite what it looks like in this photograph, didn’t become my husband for over three more years?

Blurry photo courtesy of our friend Chad, who was most likely drunk. Matching plaid shorts courtesy of 1990.

It’s hard to grasp, this whole being the mother of a bonafide adult thing. Sure, she’s technically been an adult since she turned 18, but we all know things don’t get real until you can legally buy yourself a jug of Boone’s Farm.

And apparently, so does society.

Seriously, search gifts for a 21-year-old on Pinterest and you’ll get pages of boozy related stuff like bedazzled wine glasses and hangover kits and personalized puke buckets (I’m not kidding) and fun bouquets made entirely of delicious miniatures.

Amazon is also full of ’21’ labeled things to use to get your drink on &/or things to wear while getting your drink on that tell the world in sassy lingo that you are now legal to get shit faced drunk so it’s all cool.

Same goes for cards. Yesterday I went to Hallmark looking for a birthday card and every card that was specifically for someone turning 21 was a lame attempt at an alcohol joke, not to mention the hilarity of underage drinking, as in, “You’re 21!” *open card and see a poorly drawn cartoon dude chugging a beer* “Now you can finally do all the things you’ve been doing for years!” #facepalm

At Party City there’s an entire 21 section filled with shot glass necklaces and shot glass eyeglasses and stacks of decorated shot glasses and games about doing shots.
In related news, I imagine there’s thousands of adults out there who blame Party City for their lifetime aversion to tequila.

My daughter really isn’t a drinker, so sadly it appears she’s not getting any birthday gifts this year.
Or cards.

But really, it’s maddening how much the whole 21st birthday thing is tied to drinking (says the girl whose 21-year-old self spent her birthday weekend in Vegas drunk on Fuzzy Navels and is now shaking her head in shame and disappointment at what she’s become). I mean, I get it. Believe me, I get it (and so did the trash can outside the Flamingo Hotel that I threw up about six Fuzzy Navels into at 5 a.m. on March 22, 1990). But because I have a daughter who doesn’t tie her 21st birthday to getting completely wasted I’m also a little bit frustrated by it.

Is it because I want to make her an adorable bouquet of miniatures or get her a silly shot glass necklace? Don’t be ridiculous — of course it is, at least a little bit.
But it’s also because as a mama I hate the pressure that’s put on her—and other college kids who don’t depend on alcohol to have a good time—telling her that the social world revolves around not just drinking, but drinking until you get drunk, which seems to be the point.

Listen, as someone who admittedly was over served on her 21st birthday—willingly—I realize that might seem a bit hypocritical. But without getting into an editorial on society’s influence on the alcohol consumption of our teens and young adults, as well as how as adults we should model smart consumption habits, here’s what bothers me: My daughter is making strong, honest choices that are extremely atypical in a college environment, and the fact that she is sometimes made to feel different and even somewhat embarrassed for those choices is maddening, especially on her 21st birthday, a day society is telling her won’t be a success until she’s puking up her Buffalo Wild Wings.

Next week we’ll be able to celebrate with her as we’ll be visiting her at college for a long weekend. Will my husband and I raise a glass to her 21 years? You bet. Will she join us? Absolutely. Will it matter if her glass is full of vodka lemonade or just straight lemonade? Not a bit. (I offered to make her a Fuzzy Navel but she declined—she’s heard the story.) Because what we’ll be toasting to is so much more than what she chooses to fill her glass with. It’s about focusing on and celebrating the remarkable, resolute, courageous, and self respecting adult she’s become.

And if she chooses to do a shot, I’ll join her.

Flowers, cards, and a sweet new spiral perm for my 21st.

Shoulder pads, acid washed jeans, and a sweet new spiral perm. Happy 21st to me.


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