This week TicTacGirl turned 18.
Do you remember turning 18? Well it wasn’t yesterday but I remember it vividly. This was back when Thatcher was still on the throne and Michael Jackson was Bad but you know in a good way. And we were still prosecuting Nazi War Criminals. Ah happy days.
It was a big deal then, turning 18; back then it was all about the KEYS. Symbolising the keys to adulthood and in fact literally getting your own key to the front door. So you could come and go as you please, treating the house like a hotel. Now to be fair, my house was very little like a hotel by any stretch of the imagination. Very few chocolates on the pillow, and a very poor concierge service indeed. But still, nice to have your own key to fumble around for on the darkened doorstep.
And for some reason you also got another key when you turned 21; I guess this was the key to all the things you could do at 21, like, er, well I’m pretty hazy on that one.
These days it’s all different. By 18 most children seem to have not only their own key but their own car, garage, annex and kitchenette. But it still seems to be a cause for celebration. Cakes are baked and eaten and congratulations are in order. There’s still a feeling of Coming Of Age.
So I was browsing the racks to find a suitable card to celebrate this momentous occasion, which was very enlightening for any observer of the world in 2012. What message is contained in these cards? What are we passing onto our fresh young people about what it means to be an adult?
Well it’s very simple. How do we celebrate the passage into the adult world?
Now I knew for certain that TicTac Girl had no plans to get drunk on her birthday. Mostly the conversations about her forthcoming celebrations centred on whether Twister should be played before or after the food*. Less with the vodka, more with the Vimto.
So all those cards reading – GET TOTALLY OUT OF IT ON YOUR BIRTHDAY AND VOMIT ON YOUR FRIENDS! And YOU’RE 18! It’s time to start on the long path to CIRRHOSIS! – Well they just didn’t seem appropriate.
In the end I was forced to create my own personalised birthday card for Tic Tac Girl, a sort of collage of her favourite Tictacs providing an interesting texture on a backdrop of quotations from Eric Hobsbawm. Now I appreciate that TicTac Girl is perhaps not the average 18 year old but surely she’s not alone in having hobbies and interests other than drinking. Surely we have more to offer a young woman on the cusp of adult life than the prospect of public vomiting.
And TicTac Girl is certainly contemplating the end of childhood with a sort of thoughtful introspection, so I was very sorry that I didn’t have some sort of ritual to jolly her along a bit. A couple of weeks in the wilderness might do the trick, but there is precious little wilderness within striking distance and leaving her at the side of the M4 isn’t really equivalent.
So I had a little browse on the internet for some coming of age rituals. Well it all sounded very exciting. There was quite a bit of blood letting, a great deal of scarring, and – my personal favourite – wearing a large conical hat with leaves to the waist to symbolise oh goodness only knows but it does sound funny. I’d like to see just about any of my friends and acquaintances, of whatever age, in one of those.
But to distract her attention while I sneak up behind her and clamp this enormous conical hat on her head, I thought I would come up with a list of the real initiations into adult life, which TicTacGirl can work through methodically before she gets the key to the, er, door of life or something.
So here they are, the true endurance tests of adult life:
1. Paying out more in library fines than the actual books would cost in the first place. If I added up all the money I have spent on library fines over my adult life I would be able to buy a small flat in Bloomsbury and that’s no exaggeration. Ask the Long Suffering Husband.
2. Going to the house of an old person and listening to them read out the obituaries while you pretend to know who they are talking about (‘you know! Maureen! Used to live next door to your Auntie Joyce! Had that dog that looked like Eric Morecambe!’) whilst eating a very questionable bit of homemade cake and drinking bright orange tea from an extremely chipped cup and saucer.
3. You must be able to remember any number of passwords, PINs, phone numbers, postcodes, old addresses, when you moved to this house, the shoe sizes of all your children (and ballet shoe sizes which are slightly bigger, or smaller, possibly), which month and year you had that minor accident in Iceland Car Park, answers to secret questions, various unmemorable combinations of letters AND numbers and you must keep these all in your HEAD AT THE SAME TIME AS EVERYTHING ELSE. NB I am not quite here yet, but still not quite as bad as the woman of my acquaintance who writes her PIN on a sticker and sticks it to her credit card.
4. Pretending to understand and care about your pension, even to the extent of reading the letters they send to you every year with a deeply furrowed brow before chucking them into the pile of Important Stuff with the sinking feeling that your twilight years are going to be spent eating Pedigree Chum whilst wearing a lot of jumpers.
On second thoughts Tic Tac Girl, I’d go for the hat; or maybe having your canines filed down like they do in Bali – ‘slightly to symbolize the effacing of the individual’s “wild” nature’. It won’t hurt a bit. Well maybe a little bit.
OR HOLD ON we could have a debutantes’ ball! Now we’re talking! Nice frocks, passion fruit TicTics on the tables and a great big cake with – why not – a key on top.
And don’t forget the Twister.
*BEFORE! Clearly before. You see, these are the lessons that only experience can teach you.