Wednesday, October 18, 2006

18th Birthday

In the UK, the milestone for birthdays used to be twenty-one like it is in NZ and most other places. Then, the voting age was reduced to eighteen and this caused a lot of confusion. My parents gave me a choice of having an 18th birthday party or one for my 21st. I chose to have a 21st because the idea of eighteen being the new landmark was new and it didn't feel right yet. Nowadays, there is still a hangover from 21st birthdays being special and this is where the confusion comes in. A lot of young people end up having big birthday bashes when they are eighteen and again, when they are twenty-one. They get two for the price of one and that doesn't seem fair!
There is a campaign in Britain for the voting age and age of consent etc. to be reduced further to sixteen years of age. Supporters of the campaign argue that young people mature more quickly now. This may or may not be true, but I'm thinking about the confusion this would cause if it becomes law. Then, the kids would have three choices to pick from! Would they have a big celebration for their 16th birthday, 18th birthday or 21st? I suspect parents would be shelling out for all three and it will cost them a fortune. Fortunately, my two children are both over twenty-one now. They had parties for their 18th, which were more than the average celebration but the big bashes were reserved for their 21st birthdays.
We had a bit of a problem when it came to booking a venue for our kid's 18th birthday. None of the pubs or clubs wanted an 18th celebration on their premises, and we ended up throwing the parties at home. Eighteen is the legal age for drinking in the UK and the managers didn't want eighteen year olds who would bring lots of under age friends with them. They were worried about losing their license and I can understand their predicament. Under age drinking is a big problem in the UK.
Whatever age people might consider to be the age of maturity, an 18th birthday is pretty special. In the UK, an 18th birthday means you can vote in elections and drink alcohol, although I suspect that the vast majority of teenagers do not wait until their legal age! The next level of minimum wage kicks in and you can serve on a jury. All this and a party too!