New York Challenged: The 21st Birthday Might as Well be the Worst Birthday


Yes, I tried to eat all 20 of these cupcakes, but now that I’m an old fart, my body immediately regretted it. (Lucy Sutton/The Observer)
A lot of my friends have been celebrating their birthdays this past month. The general consensus has been that a person’s 21st birthday is the last birthday to look forward to, which I found both depressing and ridiculous. Sure, you can legally buy alcohol. You can legally gamble. You can legally drive an 18-wheeler truck across the country (that’s common knowledge). But surely there’s more to life than this, although it may be hard to imagine what else there could be. It took some serious searching, but I made a list of birthdays to look forward to after the big Two-One.

25: When you turn 25 you can rent a van from Enterprise car rental, which means you can go on a road trip when none of your friends own vans. It’s almost like turning 16 again, except you don’t have get groceries for your parents in order to use the car. Also, when you turn 25 you can become a Catholic priest. I think the ultimate 25th birthday would involve a van full of priests.

30: According to, “At age 30, the human body’s major organs begin to decline.” This is actually not something to look forward to. But it definitely makes every birthday before your 30th birthday worth appreciating. Incidentally, you also have to be 30 years old to become a United States senator. Somehow, it makes sense that senators are required to have deteriorating organs.

33: According to J.R.R. Tolkien, this is the coming-of-age birthday for hobbits. At age 33, I expect that many people have hairy feet (hobbits have notoriously hairy feet, in case you’re confused), so it might be a good time to ask your family if you were adopted. This might be comforting for short people in a tall family. I’m too tall, but I would still find solace in being a hobbit.

You can run for President of the United States in two years. You can shape the course that the country will take. That is a very exciting thing.

35: On my 35th birthday, I’m going to start campaigning to be the presidential nominee of the American Birthday Party. We won’t take a stance on many issues, but we will really care about birthdays.

40: Traditionally, people are allowed to have a mid-life crisis when they turn 40. A mid-life crisis really can be used to justify anything unusual that you decide to do. It might not make your deeds acceptable, but you can at least use your crisis to offer an explanation that most people can understand. When I turn 40, I’m going to get married.

62: According to, you can retire, but you don’t get the full benefits of being a retired person in the U. S. I’m pretty immature, so I think I would retire as quickly as possible. It would almost be like returning to those magical years before kindergarten, when I had no idea that I was going to be working to obtain a currency based on the mere faith that the currency itself was valuable.

67: You can retire with full benefits. People with more developed frontal lobes in their brains will probably enjoy their 67th birthday more than I will enjoy my 62nd birthday.

75-78: According to the CIA World Factbook, the average male life expectancy is 75.78 years. I’m a fairly average male, so I did the math for my own birthday, and if I did it correctly, it means that I’ll die on Dec 24, 2065, at 12:08 p.m. This is exciting because it means that I can plan ahead and come up with some great last words, or make sure my death is ironic. I could compliment a chef at a restaurant where I’m eating my Christmas Eve lunch, at 12:07 p.m., and say, “Wow, this futuristic soup is to die for!”

80-81:This is the average female life expectancy in the United States. I would have done the necessary math if I was an average female, but I’m not. I’m a below-average female.

100: I’m pretty sure that you can do whatever you want when you turn 100.

123: No human has ever lived this long. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest person to ever live, Jeanne Calment, lived to be 122 years old. I can’t even imagine how much the world had changed between 1875 and 1996. Just thinking about it freaks me out. She must have been so confused.