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The Gair Rhydd Column: 21 in the 21st Century

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 20... and don't want to get any older

There are several things that have been playing on my mind since coming to the abrupt realisation that this year, I will turn 21 years old. According to unwritten but common social knowledge, this is a big deal.

At 21, Adele wrote and recorded a record-breaking, award-winning number one album. At the same age, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, which has earned him approximately $35 billion, and at the same age again, Justin Bieber has 74 million Twitter followers and is rumoured to have over fifteen cars stashed in his garage. Approaching 21, I have just about mastered how to make spaghetti bolognese and can almost paint the nails on my left hand without making too many smudges on my fingers.

Despite the extensive and dramatic celebration that is associated with a 21st birthday, it is unclear as to why it is of any significance whatsoever. When I turn 21, I will be able to drink in America. This, it turns out, will probably not be incredibly momentous in the foreseeable future. I doubt I’ll have a desperate thirst for a stiff drink when holidaying in Disney World with my family next summer, and my gap-yah favourite country, Belize, would be more likely to ask for a handful of garden peas than formal identification of age. I will also be able to drive a vehicle abroad. Again, probably not largely significant, as I can’t drive very well in rural North Wales, never mind a foreign country.

That is pretty much the extent of it. The majority of the worthwhile legal freedoms were given to us two years ago, at eighteen. However, when you become 21, our cultural, social expectation is to have a vast celebration. I will be expected to arrange a birthday party of some description, however my past experience with house parties is miserable. I did hold a house party once, after my GCSE exam results. One of my friends threw up on my kitchen floor and another tried to rectify this by sweeping it up with the handheld dustpan and brush, getting each chunk wedged firmly between the bristles.

I also threw a ‘flat warming’ party last year in my halls. Whoever suggested that throwing these events are enjoyable are fabricators and have never lived in Talybont Gate. The closest interaction I had with any attending strangers was over hearing one particular male murmur to his mate, “I just can’t decide if the one in the skirt (me) is fit” , to which the mate responded, “oh I thought that at first, but no don’t think so”. Brill.

Shortly after, an arm wrestle became so out of hand that the fridge, the actual fridge, went flying, knocking a chunk out of the kitchen wall, and subsequently hurling my last remnant of food, a tin of sweetcorn, across the room, and onto the floor. Consequently, I spent a good half hour salvaging each kernel from the floor and sadly dropping them back in the tin, copiously mindful that my pasta bake would now probably not taste as nice with bits of floor in it, but confident that this would help to confirm to those who were still considering if I was fit that I am, most probably, not.

At some point during the creation of this column I began to desperately google celebrities who are also turning 21 this year. I’m subconsciously urgently hoping to see images of exhausted, drunk celebrities who look like they have neither their life, nor bank balance, in check. I want to be pleasantly surprised and find out that Kerry Katona is also 20, and thus realise I am in fact, perfectly adequate. Alas, Kerry Katona is instead thirty five and the best Google could do to comfort me was suggest 20 year old Kendal Jenner and Gigi Hadid. Shit. I bet they have never had to scoop sweetcorn off the floor back into the tin, I am thinking to myself, sadly.

So I will turn 21, and I will become an adult. People will start asking me when I’m going to have a baby (“your body clock is ticking!” they’ll say) and I will start listening to Radio 4 and begin to actually enjoy olives. I will have to get a job, a real person job. Maybe I will stop getting ID’d in WHSmith when I’m trying to buy a glue stick and maybe I will have to stop watching ‘The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ before bed.

However, perhaps not. I remember going to sleep on the eve of my thirteenth birthday and being positively certain that tomorrow everything would change. I would wake up in the morning, having undergone a Kevin and Perry-esque transformation overnight, and would have unbearable mood swings, and double D breasts. However, this was not to be. I jumped out of bed on the thirteenth of September on my thirteenth birthday and was astonished to find I was exactly the same. The mood swings eventually made an appearance, although alas, the breasts did not.

I have to assume that my 21st birthday can only be too similar. Very diminutive noticeable change, and very little expansion in the breast department, but probably further soured by the fact my friends and family forced me to have a birthday party that I didn’t want, celebrating a birthday that is simply pedestrian.

For this reason, I have decided not to turn 21. This wholly unnecessary and taxing affair will be avoided, and my friends will be free from feeling obliged to buy me lavish gifts, and my parents will be let off hiring out some kind of warehouse for £700. Quite simply, it is for the best. That said, if I am forced, against my will, to celebrate this truly irrelevant birthday by having a extravagant celebration, there will be no strangers invited to my party, and no arm wrestling, and absolutely, certainly, definitely, no sweetcorn.