What Really Changes When a Son Turns 21?

What Really Changes When a Son Turns 21?


s-EVAN-GELB-largeDear Evan,

Twenty-one years ago today, I was in labor in a Houston hospital. The sun was setting and things were finally progressing, when your father suggested (he was joking, he swears) that maybe I would want to wait a few hours so you wouldn’t spend your 21st birthday “surrounded by very drunk people drinking green beer.”

I believe my response might have been a more colorful version of “No thank you, I’d prefer to have this baby today.” And at 8:11 that night, my St. Patrick’s boy was born.

The 21st birthday that seemed impossibly distant back then is now here — and with its arrival comes my realization that I’ve been planning for it since before you and I had even met. It has always been out there, a momentous event, a Before and After, a bright, incandescent line, representing … what?

That you are an adult? I used to think that’s what today would mark. But as it came closer, it became clearer that 21 is an arbitrary number, and legally it’s not even the most important one. You could sign contracts when you were 18, and demand privacy, and vote, and join the military without my permission. (Thank you for not doing that.) The only new right you acquire today is the right to buy a drink in all 50 states, and I suspect it will not be the first drink you have. READ MORE