To Be A Man

by Jonathan Weinblatt

           As I turned 21 this week, I’m beginning to learn more and more about what it means to be a man. Everybody asks me if I feel older. What am I supposed to say? “Yes, the days of man upon this earth pass swiftly like that of a flower in the field. The wind rushes over it and it is gone. My hands wrinkle before my eyes and I can no longer smell the scent of a beautiful woman.” Don’t worry, guys, I’ve already preordered my dentures and my electric wheelchair. Seriously, is there really anything to look forward to once you turn 21? Can’t I just stay 21 forever?

           I suppose I’ll finally be able to rent a car when I turn 25. Wow, I’m so excited to turn 25 that I need to change my underwear just thinking about it. For my 21st birthday I can get drunk and celebrate. For my 25th birthday I can get drunk and celebrate … in a rental car! I mean, who really enjoys renting a car and why would this be something to look forward to? From what I’ve heard, it’s all pain and suffering. Some people have special privileges and gold cards at car rental centers. Other people are too poor to buy special privileges. That’s about all there is to know. In my opinion, renting a car is overrated. Stealing a car is underrated.

           But back to business. I turned 21 this week. From what I hear, this means that I can now drink in public without fear of police repercussion. Everyone knows that turning 21 has nothing to do with drinking alcohol for the first time. Really, it just means being able to drink without visiting the confessional every Monday. Oh, wait, I’m Jewish. I guess I’m cursed to burn in hell anyway. The funny thing about turning 21 is that it has nothing to with drinking and everything to do with plastic. If you’re not yet 21, the big fear about buying alcohol is getting carded, whether or not you have a fake. If you’re already 21, then getting carded can be an unwanted hassle. Not only is it a pain to get carded, but I hear drinking loses its appeal of rebelliousness once you turn 21. There’s really only one day in your entire life when you can really enjoy drinking, and that’s the very day you turn 21.

           On my birthday evening I walked into Allegro’s, preparing to order my ceremonial first 6-pack of beer. My hands were shaking with excitement as I readied my wallet. I reached behind my Penncard for my driver’s license, eager to pull it out faster than a dueler in the Wild West. The cashier asked for my money and I gave it to him. I waited for the 4 magic words … “do you have ID?” The man reached for my beer, puts it in a bag, and handed me my change. I’m still waiting. I stood there confused for a second, and then walked out. I walked home heartbroken.

           I had imagined this momentous occasion many times in my head, but it was supposed to happen much differently. I pictured that I would walk into Allegro’s, set the beer on the counter and I’d get carded immediately. The skeptical man puts on his reading glasses so as to discern the fine print on my driver’s license. He reads: under 21 until 12/06/2006. He looks at the date on his watch. Still incredulous, he asks the cashier next to him, “Hey man, what day is today?” Finally satisfied, he cracks a big smile, heartily wishes me a happy birthday and says, “Buddy, the beer’s on me.”

           You know what? Fuck it. Ignore the previous two paragraphs. From now on, this is what happened. I stroll into Allegro’s like I own the place. All the customers look my way, stop eating, and rise as I enter. Surely they know that today is a special day. I reach into the refrigerator, grab a 6-pack and slam it down on the counter. The cashier angrily demands my ID, which I present to him smugly. He refuses to believe it’s my real ID and threatens to call the police. At this point, I leap over the counter, punch him squarely in the face and knock him out cold. I drop a twenty on his twitching body, grab my ID and my 6-pack and sprint the hell out of there. Yeah, that’s how I bought my very first beer.

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