I was invited to a new friend’s birthday party and upon arriving found myself surrounded by 18-21 year olds. I realized it was my new friend’s 21st birthday. Exciting time for her! I still remember my 21st birthday (not really).
Normally, I don’t pay attention to age differences. Once someone is 21 I consider them adults and actual human beings. And normally, whenever there’s a party (and booze) and a fire pit, I can manage to have a good time.
But something was off tonight.
As I approached the group of people huddled by the fire pit I distinctly saw a few people exchange uncomfortable looks, stuff their hands in their pockets and politely edge away from the fire pit (i.e. Me!). I tried to make a joke to break the ice and show that I was “cool” but it didn’t go over well. In fact, I think it made a few more people leave the fire pit area.
It was like everyone knew I wasn’t a fresh 21 year old. Maybe they figured I was too young to be called “old” but they definitely knew I wasn’t 21. I was probably giving off a big sister chaperone vibe. They probably thought I was an undercover chaperone there to make sure no one got too out of hand. I was Jonah Hill and Channing Tatem in 21 Jump Street at a party but it totally wasn’t cool. I totally wasn’t cool.
But then again I’ve never been cool.
I asked a friend about it later and he told me that with the younger kids you just have to play it cool. Be aloof. Act like you don’t want to be their friends and then they’ll respect you. WTF?! But maybe that’s how it was when I was 21- I just didn’t know it. Hence the reason why I was never cool.
I stayed at the party for about 2 hours. Long enough to watch the fire die out and drink three beers. It was a nice, chill night – nothing like the wild 21-year-old parties I had imagined or seen in movies like Project X. I did chat with some people. They were pretty cautious but polite.
As I left, (after an awkward goodbye to everyone who, let’s face it, looked relieved to see me go) I wondered if the early 20s / late 20s gap was wider than I thought. When I was 21 I wanted loud music and dancing at parties. Now I prefer pretty fire pits, booze and conversation.
None of those kids were conversing with each other – they were mostly on their phones probably Tweeting and Instagramming. There was definitely a difference in party behavior. But if wanting to laugh and joke and actually get to know someone new at a party as opposed to going deaf or being glued to my phone all night is UNCOOL then I’m good with that.
But I worry that as I get older if 21-year-olds might not see me as fun. Because if so I’m going to have a tough time nabbing one when I hit my cougar years.