Sweet Sixteens are a big deal where I come from — kind of like Quinceañeras, Bat Mitzvahs or debutante coming-out parties. They represent a girl’s first foray into womanhood: the blush-inducing spectacle of youth, teetering in heels, feigning brazen eye contact with your relatives, daring them to pinch your cheeks or to tell you how big you’ve gotten. It’s when your mom daubs your lips with the slightest hint of lipstick and you can finally rub your tongue over your un-braced teeth.
I was miserable the morning of my Sweet Sixteen, frowning as I unwrapped the Nextel i860 I so desperately wanted, plying my mom with the heaviest eyelashes, begging her to put only 12 candles on my cake, to pretend just for a moment I wasn’t getting any older.
I didn’t want to grow up. I was averse, allergic, to the somewhat predictable chain of responsibility that would inevitably fall into my lap at 16: a permit, a license, a fake ID, a real ID, a marriage license, a minivan and mom jeans. My life played out like some dusty photo album on the coffee table.
For me, age has been a destructive Domino effect that nips at my heels as every summer dims to fall, winter, spring — marked by the day I add another year to my internal tally.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already turned 21.
But on that day, my Sweet Sixteen, when my parents drove me to Chuck E. Cheese’s to celebrate that momentous landmark on my path to womanhood, I knew this was the first day of a long life of regret, and age, and loss. And I was only turning 16.
But at this, the cusp of such a great milestone – amidst my protest, and still heavy-lidded lashes, still pleading with my mother to change my birthday to my half birthday (who wouldn’t want to be a summer baby?), I came across an article from a girl just turned 25 and the hard truths she had faced in her nearly equivalent time on earth.
Yet, there was a general conceit that permeated the list — that 25 meant the end of a silly, blind celebration of youth, that 25 was somehow the magical stopping point of the “I’m just young and dumb” excuse – and though I am far removed from the alcohol-soaked year that marked my turning 21, I’m not quite ready to give up on the reckless culture that I’ve lived and breathed thus far in this decade.
Maybe I’ve heard the “30 is the new 20” and “80 is the new 15” diatribes for too long, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet; I’m not ready to accept this birthday as a death sentence.
Maybe it’s to provide justice to that 16-year-old me, doling out breadsticks instead of candles, taller than Chuck E. himself — but I want to devote myself to the idea that turning 25 isn’t the end of life as I know it. These are the 25 reasons that turning 25 doesn’t have to be the end of youth:
1. You’re old enough to have regrets and young enough to right them.
2. You’re old enough to finance a trip and young enough to drop everything and go.
3. You’re old enough to rent a car and young enough to drive it anywhere.
4. You’re old enough to give advice and young enough to ignore it.
5. You’re old enough to be married and young enough not to be even considering it yet.
6. You’re old enough to choose which nights are worth it and young enough to go out anyway.
7. You’re old enough to write a book and young enough to have no time to read it.
8. You’re old enough to support your bar tabs and young enough to rack them up unapologetically.
9. You’re old enough to have a job and young enough to quit it.
10. You’re old enough to think YOLO is ridiculous and young enough to still yell it.
11. You’re old enough to enjoy a fine wine and young enough to still drink it from a box.
12. You’re old enough to have principles and young enough to contradict them.
13. You’re old enough to be $250,000 in debt and young enough not to own a credit card.
14. You’re old enough to cook and young enough to know the names of half the delivery men from Seamless.
15. You’re old enough to go to art shows and young enough to still think about becoming an artist.
16. You’re old enough to help your parents out and young enough to need them.
17. You’re old enough to succeed and prosper and young enough to fail and recover.
18. You’re old enough to meet someone special and young enough to ruin it.
19. You’re old enough to pay your rent and young enough to forget to.
20. You’re old enough to have lost friends and young enough to make more.
21. You’re old enough to date George Clooney and young enough to date George Clooney.
22. You’re old enough to know death and young enough to believe you’ll live forever.
23. You’re old enough to go to the doctor when you’re sick and young enough to want your mom’s chicken noodle soup instead.
24. You’re old enough to have a kid and you’re young enough to still act like one.
25. You’re old enough to have gotten your heart broken and young enough to have it break 20 more times.