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Posted on Jul 03, 2006 at 09:24 AM

[This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote freshmen year at Columbia] What is it that is so magical about age twenty-one? What is it that makes that number so exclusive, and therefore, more important than ages eighteen to twenty? At age eighteen, you can vote, you can go to war, you can get married without a parent or legal guardian's permission, and buy cigarettes. Hell, you can even drive at what, age sixteen? You can do all of these things, but it's illegal to go into a club and drink alcohol. Why do people think that just because you're twenty-one, you automatically become more responsible and knowledgeable? I know some young people (who aren't twenty-one, obviously) who are extremely more responsible, and perhaps more knowledgeable (to an extent) than some near thirty year olds. I feel that it is a common misconception that just because you are not a certain age, that it takes away your credibility as a decision maker. Shouldn't we judge others on the content of their character and the decisions they make? Would that not be the more intelligent way of doing things? In the past, I have seen several of my friends "go off the deep end" as some might put. The first chance they were around some real alcohol, they were insanely irresponsible. They were all over the place, drunk, and doing some, well, not so respectable things. One of my friends did not make it out of a bad situation unscathed. I was told that she had had several drinks. Alcohol for her was like the unattainable. Her dad was often strict, and she sought out alcohol and guys like they were some type of salvation. When they were passing them out for free, she couldn't seem to help herself. It turns out that she was possibly raped. I have a cousin, who always thought that alcohol was no big deal. Why? At age eleven, her parents allowed her to drink wine. Not an entire glass, or anything, but enough for her to see what it was like. Because of this, as she grew into her teen years, trying to find out what alcohol was like was never on her agenda. She is one of the most responsible people I know at only age nineteen. I think the whole "you'll know more by the time you're twenty-one, and will be able to make smarter decisions, dear," is bull. Plain and simple. If that's true, it's like saying if I don't go to college for the next two years and come back when I?m twenty one, studying at a junior's level when I've missed two years of experience, I will somehow be magically prepared. I guess some fairy will come and tap my head, and my brain will start bursting with knowledge and material I have never even seen or heard of before. Yeah, right. My point is, if the experience is not there to begin with, then it won't be there when one becomes twenty-one. I think the main issue is people being so secretive. Simply saying that "you're too young" or "it's just bad" is not enough. I think that young people are capable of comprehending the real reasons behind parents' feelings. But in the end, the ultimate decision is theirs. Whatever parent that may believe that they have sole power and control over their child is in serious denial. As soon as that parent turns their head, their child is going to as much as they can without regards to consequences. Why? Because they know that their parents do not believe in them as responsible people, and they end up proving them right. If they had some freedom and a little leeway, I don?t think that they (teenagers) would act in such irresponsible manners. But I bet you're thinking, "If I give them certain freedoms, they will abuse it and take advantage of me." Chances are parents, they are taking advantage of you anyway in rebellion, and it could potentially be a lot worse. And for those of you who think that your child is the proverbial angel, well, you know how the old saying goes: It's always the preacher's daughter who acts the wildest. What does twenty-one mean anyway? It is just another age. Somehow, it has come to represent the unattainable for those of us who feel that we are (more or less) already grown, who want to hang out with our twenty-one plus friends and/or relatives. I think that if one is a college student, then they should be allowed into clubs just like everyone else (with proper I.D, of course). I feel that it would cut down tremendously on fake ID's, juvenile delinquency, irresponsible drinking, and lame parties. My explanation for the responsible drinking statement is this: if you've ever been to a "real" club for people twenty-one and over, then you would see that drinking is not that big of a deal. But at parties for people who are under aged, then, drinking becomes a very big deal because they rarely are able to get their hands on any. Usually, the alcohol at those types of parties are not any good anyway. You have people the same age as you there attempting to pass themselves off as bartenders, when they are more or less mixing whatever it is they've got with cranberry juice, disgusting jello shots (because they can't make them properly) or there is nothing there but beer. It is not classy one bit. My conclusion is this: parents, do not expect your child to go to a well of knowledge and drink from its waters at 11:59 p.m. on the day before their twenty-first birthday, because it is not going to happen. If you give them the chance to be responsible, maybe, just maybe they might surprise you and do the right thing. I am a strong believer that one cannot rule with the iron fist alone. All it does is alienate and push people away, making them sneak out and do bad, irresponsible, stupid things. If you give someone your faith and your trust, then it might just guilt trip them into doing the right thing. Responsibility does not come with age, it comes with *experience.

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