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Monday, August 07, 2006

Reeling in the Years

Lately I’ve had anniversaries on my mind.

Last month, I had my first blogoversary, and my niece’s birthday falls this week. Today is also the eighth anniversary of the horrific bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that left more than 200 people dead and an astonishing 4,500+ injured.

All this attention to annual dates has me thinking about the very concept of the anniversary—our tendency to mark almost everything important by where it falls on a calendar.

You might be saying, “Hey, Amulet! Don’t you know that some celebrations derive from naturally recurring heavenly or climatic events, like the seasons?” After all, I’m sure that’s how you all you speak in casual conversation.

You’re right, of course. But I’m here to tell you that many other things measured by years are just silly.

Look at marriageability. Most countries and US states have minimum year-based ages for marriage, sometimes with parental-consent or pregnancy caveats.

But I don’t understand why it’s OK for men in China to marry at 21 but not 20 … and for girls in Iran (and New York and New Hampshire, with court permission) to marry at 13 but not 12 years and 11 months. What is it about the number of revolutions around the sun that designates someone’s readiness for marriage?

These differing measures naturally wreak havoc on Chinese-Iranian wedding planning.

Other benchmarks—for drinking alcohol, renting a car, joining the military, and voting—raise similar questions. Driving-age laws are particularly comical. Sixteen was my lucky get-a-driver’s-license number, but exactly how my friends and I suddenly became responsible enough to drive a car on that birthday remains a mystery.

Then we have to consider the lunacy of minimum age requirements for political offices.

To be a Congressperson in the United States, you must be 25. You’ve got no chance to enter the Senate if you’re not 30. The President must be 35. (Even if you accept having age standards for national elections, remember that these benchmarks were set when life expectancy at birth was less than 40 years; now it’s between 70 and 80, yet these same measures remain.)

So we trust the people to choose someone to occupy the most powerful position in the world (next to Oprah Winfrey), but we don’t trust the people to determine at what age a particular candidate might be “ready” to assume office. Seems oddly undemocratic to me.

When it comes down to it, just about any decision of any importance has some minimum age limit thrown on it—and it’s almost always measured in years.

Am I the only one perplexed by how our abilities to make choices about marriage, control a vehicle, or run for office depend upon how many times our little ball of rock and water has circled a distant star?

It’s my top pet peeve—of the year.

45 Comments:

At August 07, 2006 8:10 AM, Blogger Death Warmed Over replied to my musings ...

The driving age is the most increadible to me. At 16 you're able to leagally drive a multi ton vehicle on public streets but you can't (in order of age): vote, use tobacco, or drink a beer. If you're smart enought not to kill me on the road, then you're smart enought to know whether you wan't to take a dip or puff while on your way to the liquor store after voting.

Instead of age tests, there shuld be a punk/idiot test. On the door of the DMV there should be a sign that says: punks and/or idiots need not apply.

 
At August 07, 2006 9:39 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

I'm not sure why they do things that way either or even if there's a better way to do it at all. But one sliding-scale they do have is the "you are old enough to know better" one where it is used on ages ranging from 7-85 years.

btw, I often use the phrase *naturally recurring heavenly events* - - doesn't everyone?? :)

 
At August 07, 2006 10:09 AM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Wow, I actually talk that way. However, I think the NY marriage thing has changed, as age of consent is higher. Imagine, getting married, and then being busted for having sex with a minor-your wife!!!! LMAO!!!

Anyway, I find it comical we can vote at 18, joing the military at 17 with parental consent, and can use tobacco at 18(or 19 depending on the county) but can't drink until 21.

Maturity tests? Who knows. It's just a bunch of numbers to satisfy lawyers.

 
At August 07, 2006 10:26 AM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Age is just a number, unless you're in your 50s(like me). Then it becomes a countdown...

 
At August 07, 2006 10:39 AM, Blogger Sage replied to my musings ...

Funny how we always lie about age. Higher until 30, lower after it. Age just makes us a bunch of liars from birth anyway.

 
At August 07, 2006 12:58 PM, Blogger Jenna Howard replied to my musings ...

oh see here...drinking at 18. Because we're not truly stupid at 18 until we've got a belly full of booze and the maturity of a Fisher Price toy.

It's the babies having babies that bothers me. When I was 13, if a 13 year old girl was pushing a stroller she was babysitting. Now if she's pushing a stroller - she's a mom. Sigh. At 13 I could barely look after myself let along a child. I stare at my friend's 10 year old and think "Dang. Oh dang." I feel like patting the cushion beside me so friend's hubby is beside me and then I'll say "Jay, have you heard about chastity belts? I think they should make a comeback."

 
At August 07, 2006 1:06 PM, Blogger DaBich replied to my musings ...

I was gonna say everything DWO said, so I'll just agree with him. ( I hope it's a he! )
And Jenna, yeah, it's sad when the kids are mothers. Breaks my heart :(

 
At August 07, 2006 1:17 PM, Blogger Mimi replied to my musings ...

Age rules make no sense. Must have been made by someone young and dumb, or old and senile;)

 
At August 07, 2006 1:42 PM, Blogger Blonde Vigilante replied to my musings ...

I always find it interesting that ANYONE can have a child, but you have to have a liscense to drive a car. I will never understand that.

 
At August 07, 2006 2:13 PM, Blogger Cinderella replied to my musings ...

I Totally agree, I mean who came up with these laws anyway? Ok, we will let people drive when they become 16, because 16 sounds good!! What is the difference between 16 or 17? Or 15 or 16? Have we matured that much in one year? Hmmmfff, things that make you go hmmmmmm....

 
At August 07, 2006 3:42 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

To be honest, stupid is just stupid - no matter what age the moron is. Maybe the cutoff is some half-ass attempt at making sure the idiots don't get whatever privledge the age requirement is attached to.

Maybe we should develop a stupid test instead.

 
At August 07, 2006 4:01 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

DWO, Dabich: Unless I've missed an update, that person who is old enough to kill you but not do those other things also can't rent a car until the age of 25.

OMW: I love the "you're old enough to know better" standard. Doesn't work for a range of people though, from Zidane to Mel Gibson.

OMW, Mike: I figured you might be the onse to speak like that in "real" life. Phoenix probably does, too, he just won't admit it.

Bruce, Sage: You make me think of a line from a Prince song: "Why is age more than a number/When it comes to love." It's good but not as famous as that other Prince age-related lyric: "Act your age, Mama/Not your shoe size."

Jenna: Agreed. When a woman is a grandmother by thirty, things have gone wrong.

Mimi: I'm guessing the rules were made by "they." You know, the same "they" that say not to stare at the sun, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to eat beets.

BV: It's harder to take a puppy home from a rescue operation than it it to have a human child. I guess that explains all the dumbass kids I'm always seeing around. Can we put shock collars on them?

Cindy: I'm confused. Does that make you go "hmmmmfff" or "hmmmmmm?"

Phoenix: Not a bad idea. If only there were such a test. Any ideas?

-- david

 
At August 07, 2006 4:10 PM, Anonymous mojotek replied to my musings ...

Great post. Arbitrary age limits have always seemed to bother me. The biggest issue with me being that you can be drafted to fight in a war at 18, but you can't enjoy a beer legally until you're 21. That 3 year age gap just doesn't compute for me.

 
At August 07, 2006 4:38 PM, Blogger Me replied to my musings ...

Great entry! Thanks for stopping by my blog. You're welcome there whenever! :)

 
At August 07, 2006 4:40 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

mojotek: I think it's set up that way due to some militant social awareness group, NADSS (Neurotics Against Drunken Skeet Shooting) or CHAP (Christian Hunters for Alcohol Prevention), or possibly SAS (Soldiers Against the Sauce)...

It's the idea that people should learn the responsibilities of being a soldier before they can legally drink. That way by the time they realize they misheard their recruiter when they were discussing their term of service as "Seven years" when the recruiter really said "Eleven years" they'll be old enough to drink their sorrows away. ;-)

Seriously though, I find that to be just as bogus and suspect as you do.

 
At August 07, 2006 4:45 PM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

you just might be the funniest guy in blogworld! Not only your writing, but your comments are so clever, too. Actually, reading your blog IS a naturally recurring heavenly event all by itself. :)

 
At August 07, 2006 4:56 PM, Anonymous BarBarA replied to my musings ...

The age limit thing has bugged me for years too. It's okay to send an 18 year old off to war, but he or she can't walk into a liquor store to buy alcholol or even serve alchohol as a waiter/waitress!

I do think it should be a law that no one under 30 can get married or have kids and no one over 40 can have kids or get divorced.
;)

 
At August 07, 2006 5:29 PM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

Age marked milestones are completely arbitrary. The fact that they differ from state to state and country to country only further proves this point.

Sure you are more prepared for some rites of passage at say 17 vs. 7, but days and months are just that- no more, no less.

I always remember thinking that the last known "forbidden" milestone was renting a car, which you can't do till your 25 in the states.

It's all downhill from there.:)

 
At August 07, 2006 6:46 PM, Blogger Grafs replied to my musings ...

I've wondered about this a lot. Then it occurred to me that, if 20 and 11 months is okay, then before long we'll have 6 year olds buying bottom shelf vodka with wild abandon!

 
At August 07, 2006 7:17 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

Yes, in just 6 years I will be eligible for a Senior Citizen's Discount at Kroger.

What special knowledge will I gain in those 6 years? I already know the Senior Citizen discount day is Wednesday; the "nice" voice at the 12 Items or Less/Self Checkout reminds me weekly.

Will those six years teach me the wisdom of wearing black socks with sandals, horrifically oversized black plastic-rimmed glasses, and Bermuda shorts hiked up above my navel? Will I glean the true secret of the power the Guayabera shirt wields at semi-formal gatherings? Will I equate ear hair with wisdom? Will I develop survival skills which help me carry a metal bucket at busy traffic lights, adorned in a fez cap??

In all too little time, I will find out.

 
At August 07, 2006 7:43 PM, Blogger Michelle replied to my musings ...

I find "age" laws in the States hilarious! You guys have different ages for everything. "18" is the popular figure here for most things. Drinking...driving.....voting.....marriage....but if you wish to travel anywhere then 15 you're classed as an adult.....12 you're classed as an adult if you wish to fly anywhere. Crazy!

 
At August 07, 2006 8:32 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

I got very lucky on the age for drinking. When I was 18 the age in Texas was 18, one month after I turned 19, the law changed to 19, when I turned 21, the next month the law changed to 21. Woo Hoo sorry all you young folks.

 
At August 07, 2006 8:42 PM, Blogger Trundling Grunt replied to my musings ...

I find the rights-of-passage ages so comic around the world. In the US you can drive at 16, get married, have sex, go to university, kill people for God and country at 18, yet not have a drink legally until 21. Yet back home you have to wait an extra year to drive, but then only have to wait a year to drive to the pub for a drink. Ok, bad analogy..
I cannot imagine ever doing my degree sober. It would have been ghastly.

 
At August 07, 2006 8:58 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Some people that are well into their 30's an beyond shouldn't be doing much of anything without supervison. There should be a mental test, not an age requirement.

 
At August 07, 2006 9:04 PM, Blogger Fred replied to my musings ...

Hey David: Thanks for stopping by today; I see we have lots of friends in common. As for the age thing, I have 19-year old students that still move from class to class when the bell rings. They sometimes seem oddly out of place.

 
At August 07, 2006 9:41 PM, Blogger Steph replied to my musings ...

It is bizarre, but without age limits there would be anarchy! Five year olds drunk in the streets! Ten year olds, driving and getting married.
CHAOS i tells ya!

Maybe we should have a special rite of passage ceremony to decide when someone is "mature". I have no idea how this would work, and most probably i would fail every time, so lets go with the five year olds drinking instead.

 
At August 07, 2006 10:21 PM, Blogger X. Dell replied to my musings ...

I once worked for a political lobbyist involved with age based limitations (specifically, drinking) back in the days when I was young, dumb, and conservative. The rationales of age requirements are based on actuarial tables.

That's not to say that the actuarial tables mean anything. For instance, if you have a drinking age of 18, then alcoho-related fatalities and injuries skyrocket between the ages of 18-21. When you raise the drinking age to twenty-one, those figures plummet.

But here's the catch--when you raise the drinking age to 21, then alcohol-related fatalities skyrocket for those 21-24 years of age. They don't jack up quite so high as the 18-21 year-old group will, and that slight discrepancy makes a hell of lot of difference in terms of damages that insurance companies have to pay out.

Sems to me it would make far more sense to make 16 the legal drinking age, and driving age 18 or 21. Even with five years of safe driving under his/her belt, a 21 year old who has never tasted liquor may not understand the effect of alcohol until it's too late. Likewise, the law, school, parents and other authorities could red flag teenagers and young adults who present problem drinking, thus delaying the issuance of the first driver's license--in other words, that could be one idiot/punk test.

 
At August 07, 2006 11:29 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

Hey I just had my 1 year Blog anniversary on June 29th!
Congrats on yours.

Hey, do you think we should celebrate anniversaries of birth every year instead of calling them birthdays?

 
At August 08, 2006 12:46 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

My 1 yr anniversary with Kristen my gf is in like 1 month, are you going to get me a gift? haha :)

You give me great ideas to ponder, interesting post

 
At August 08, 2006 2:25 AM, Blogger Ben replied to my musings ...

I can't for the life of me understand why the alcohol limit is set at 21 in the States.

You can marry, have countless children, drive a car, fight and die for your country, but the state thinks your not responsible enough to drink a beer.

 
At August 08, 2006 7:09 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Mojotek, Perplexio, Barbara, Grafs: Many people say that setting the drining age at 21 actually encourages binge drinking in college. I'll drink to that!

Me: Thanks for stopping by.

OMW: Stop that. You're making me blush. OK, not really, I don't really blush ... but thanks nonetheless.

Janet: You're right ... unless you plan to run for Senate or the White House. I find it funny that you can't rent a car before you can run for Congress.

ZW: I pictured you already doing all of those things. Espcailly the fez.

Michelle: The contrast that strikes me is that teenagers cannot drink, rent a car, vote, or join the military -- but they are often prosecuted as adults for crimes.

Fuzz: You have the magic touch, an aura of success. Maybe you can accompany people as they apply for loans and go on job interviews.

-- david

 
At August 08, 2006 7:21 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

T Grunt: Many brilliant philosophers and gifted artists used various substances to fuel their art. Sometimes alcohol, sometimes (like Dali) fermented cheese.

Mike: True, some "adults" require supervison. I may very well fall into that category.

Fred: I remember the kid at my school that was held back several times ... it was strange seeing him with a beard in fifth grade.

Steph: I agree; every time I think of a test we should use, I reject it because I'd probably fail miserably.

X Dell: Great data. Drinking and driving doesn't seem to be as serious in countries with lower drinking ages, after all.

Lee Ann: Anniversaries of birth is accuarte, but it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.

Phats: Early congratulations to you. Feel free to consider my post on that day my gift to you and your beloved.

Ben: I think the madness all has something to do with our British colonial heritage. I haven't worked out the mechanism, but I'm sure it's your fault.

-- david

 
At August 08, 2006 10:01 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I remember not being able to wait for my 16th Birthday, when I FINALLY got to drive. In retrospect I may not have mature enough but whatever ;-)

 
At August 08, 2006 2:24 PM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

I think everyone should have to wait to get married until they are AT LEAST 25.

I tell all my younger relatives "Believe me, you are not the same person at 18 as yu will be when you're 25. Honest!! I speak from experience!!!"

 
At August 08, 2006 5:32 PM, Blogger Pixie replied to my musings ...

I'm with Ben , why do you have to be 21 to drink yet you can do everything else?
Uk is 16 for sex, lottery tickets and marrige with consent.Wine with a meal.

17 to drive
18 to vote, drink and marry/

Until not so long ago you had to be 21 to engage in homosexual acts but I think thats 18 too.

But then as someone else pointed out, that if you are paying for something like theme park tickets or a plane seat you are an "adult" at a much younger age!

 
At August 08, 2006 7:08 PM, Blogger Carmel replied to my musings ...

It's interesting how you can drive at 16, I wonder why 16, I guess it's better than driving when you're 10!
The whole president and congress age thing is beyond me too, I think it should depend on "who" the candidate is, and what he or she has to offer the country.
I am surprised at some of the laws overseas, especially china.
I learned that in the USA you can legally drink alcohol at 21yo, here in Australia the legal age is 18yo.

 
At August 08, 2006 7:20 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

I wonder how much you could make at a busy traffic light in Atlanta with an red vest and a bootleg Shriner cap?

What are the real Shriners gonna do, kick my ass??

Hmmm....this is how Bunco crimes start out, with this persistent annoying little voice that won't go away...

 
At August 08, 2006 7:31 PM, Anonymous jane replied to my musings ...

I'm always amazed when reminded that you can join the military at 18, yet you can't drink alcohol for 3 more years.

 
At August 08, 2006 8:04 PM, Anonymous Leah replied to my musings ...

Die for your country, but can't drink a drop! Hmmmm....I always wondered about that as well. And of course, in MS you can get your drivers license at 15. Interesting tidbit.

 
At August 08, 2006 9:09 PM, Anonymous Jennifer replied to my musings ...

See, I don't agree with a drinking age. Take the mystery out of it and you'll have way less binge drinking. At least thats my take on it.

I actually FORGOT my anniversary this year.

 
At August 08, 2006 9:35 PM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

Age is a sensitive issue. It sets limits such as voting age, driving and drinking but it can be prohibitive in relationships and freindships. I wonder how much those limits impose on the way we relate to people.

 
At August 09, 2006 11:47 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa, Stacy: I'm not sure that anyone is ever mature enough to drive or get married--look at all the people well advanced in age who can't do either one correctly.

Pixie, Carmel, Jane, Leah, Jennifer: The drinking age in the US is certainly a touchy point. They tried to avoid the whole issue about 75 years ago with Prohibition, but that didn't work out so well.

ZW: As long as the ovices in your head didn't tell you to drink, drive, and vote at 14, you're probably OK.

ChickyBabe: Age does seem to inhibit some communications between people of different "age groups." I guess that makes sense, because 20-somethings that share many pop culture references won't necessarily click with an 80-year-old. (Then again, Hugh Hefner seems to do just fine with the younger ladies.)

No new post today--I'm going back to two per week due to much busier writing/consulting assignments and will post a new piece tomorrow. Thanks for sticking around.

-- david

 
At August 09, 2006 1:24 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

Okay, I glommed a hot fez cap on Ponce de Leon and took a picture of myself in it. What do you guys think? Will I pass? Please be brutally honest...

 
At August 09, 2006 5:18 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Hmm I dunno I was hoping for a money gift!

 
At August 09, 2006 11:38 PM, Blogger Jenna Howard replied to my musings ...

Only two posts per week? *pout* What will I do with all that spare time now? *sigh*

 

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