As a dozen comedians have pointed out, when we are young, none of us know how the world works. Everything is strange and confusing, but that’s okay, because we don’t have to know that sort of thing. That’s what grownups are for. They are the smart ones. They must be, right? They run things. Surely they wouldn’t end up in charge unless they had some idea of how things were done. Then, years later, there comes the most terrifying moment in your life. Maybe you are on your way to work, maybe on the way out of the store. Whatever the case, a younger person calls you sir or ma’am, and you realize that you were wrong. There ARE no grownups. There are just kids who got older, and that means that no one has a clue.
I guess we all sort of assume that, at some point, we will go through a metamorphosis. A committee would show up and hand you your membership ring and the rule book to the game of life. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Instead we get a bogus evolutionary process filled with acne, heartbreak, speeding tickets, idiot bosses, and premature ejaculation. We don’t learn the things we are supposed to do. The best we can hope to achieve is a list of things that we never want to do again because of how badly they turned out last time. For those of you who are wondering, that’s what people mean by ‘wisdom’. I don’t think that I would mind the rocky road so much if only the line between childhood and adulthood was just a little less fuzzy. And the annoying part is, in the old days, it WAS.
There were, and are, plenty of societies that have a rite of passage. You see them all of the time on the History/Science/Learning/Discovery Channel section of the dial. There are a few left in modern society, but the most interesting ones are from from cultures that some people would consider less civilized. Not me. I say they have the right idea. Think about it. They never have that moment of realization. If you are a man, you KNOW you are a man, because you stuck your hand into that glove full of bullet ants when you turned twelve. If you are a woman, you know you are, because of the horrible ritualistic scarring. Say what you will about the traumatic, disfiguring ceremonies, they sure have a way of putting a firm boundary on youth and adulthood. It is about time we brought the rite of passage back.
I realize that slicing off pieces of prepubescent anatomy or having teenagers jump off of cliffs might be a tough sell, so we’ll need to come up with something new to signal your passage into the world of grownups. The first time you have to fill out tax forms seems like a good one. Or how about if you managed to talk a cop out of giving you a ticket? Actually, it should be more difficult than that. I say you aren’t an adult until someone presents you with a fad and you identify it for the ridiculously arbitrary idiocy it is. All of you guys with your pants half way down on purpose? Keep on trying. Anyone choosing to wear crocs for a reason besides comfort? You’ll get there some day. And if you have emulated anything you’ve seen on Jersey Shore? … I’m not sure you’ll ever be ready.
It is true that there will be consequences. Not everyone is going to pass the test on their first try. But who says that’s a bad thing? I’m sick of someone getting to be a grownup just by growing up. Running the world is far too important a task for someone whose only qualification is not dying. The only thing is, though, you’ve got to make all of the really good parts of being an adult contingent upon actually being considered an adult. No drinking, no driving, and no sex until you prove you are worthy. The way I figure it, it either means more people will step up to the plate and act their age, or else more booze, less traffic, and less overpopulation for the rest of us. Win win, I say.