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.