Rite of Passage – California

Eighteen Year Old Celebration – Exercising of Rights

When a boy turns eighteen years old, he is considered a man.  Now that considered an adult, he is given a slew of new rights.  In order to celebrate his new freedoms, he goes with his friends and buys a cigarette, and pornographic magazine, lottery ticket, and registers to vote.

My friend Grant told me this as we were driving back to USC from my house in Hermosa Beach.  He explained that this ritual takes place when an individual turns eighteen, a number set by the government in which a minor crosses over and is finally considered an adult.  The individual is lifted of many restrictions, such as the restriction on tobacco, pornography, the lottery, and voting.  Having chafed at these restrictions for eighteen long years, the individual is now allowed access to them all.  While some may argue that the restriction on tobacco is the most bothersome, others may feel that the pornography law is the most grievous, while still others more politically inclined may be most upset by their lack of a political voice.  Whatever the case is, when one turns eighteen it is fitting that he should exercise all these newfound freedoms in celebration of his new adult status.  “You can do this shit now,” he said in closing, “you may as well.”

When I asked him, Grant later on replied that he couldn’t remember who had taught him this ritual.  After a short discussion, we concluded that it was a natural result of the system of restrictions set by the government.  These heavy-handed rules are universal, applying to everybody throughout the nation regardless of their unique personal situation.  No exceptions are made; whether a person is a mature seventeen and a half year old, living on his own, working two jobs while taking care of his little sisters, or an obese, immature mama’s boy who still wets the bed, the laws are the same.  The unforgiving, universal nature of the law is the facet that is the most unjust and stirs up the most resentment.  These restrictions, furthermore, are put in place by elected officials – officials elected not by the individuals who these rules affect, but by their elders.  In this nation where everyone is supposed to have a voice, the massive population that is the youth of America is silenced.  Angry about the rules they must follow which they had no say in the creation of, when the youth finally breaks free of the restrictions he is naturally indignant and at the same time excited.  Whether he really felt the urge to or not, since he now can practice these previously restricted activities, he feels he must.  It is for this reason that he engages in this somewhat questionable activity of purchasing cigarettes, pornography, and lottery tickets.  He is also understandable eager to finally have a say in the rule by which he must live, and registers to vote.

While I had not engaged in this particular ritual when I turned eighteen, I had known many people who had.  I simply refrained because I had little desire to smoke, view pornography, play the lottery, or vote.  With that being said, I still see why one would engage in such activity on an eighteenth birthday.  It is for these reasons along with our deep analysis of the internal motives at work driving this behavior that I do not feel ritual is regional.  From “Nor Cal” down to sunny “So Cal,” these pent up feelings of resentment coupled with thrill of release make this routine quite universal.