Romanticization of the Age of 16

Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of old music, soul music, throwback music and I can’t help but notice a common theme: the age 16. Why is 16 the main focus of many of these songs I used to love and listen to on repeat? I asked myself, was being 16 all that great? For me, it really wasn’t. Not to say it was bad, but it wasn’t so influential that I’ll find myself writing about it over and over again (this doesn’t count). So here I am sharing a few thoughts.

What happens when you’re 16?

  • The ability to get your driver’s license or learner’s permit depending on your state
  • The sense of freedom from driving.
  • Many songs talked about young love at 16.
  • And?

I get the whole driving part, but does driving completely transform the entire age, the entire year of being 16? That’s a bit dramatic. Maybe I just don’t get it because driving isn’t a big thing to me. I hate driving, but I do enjoy the freedom it gives me to go wherever I want, when I want. But again, this didn’t drastically affect that year. I realize this now, probably because I’m older, but driving comes with so much responsibility. You have lives in your hand as your drive because of the risk of an accident, all the money that your parents (or you) pour into driving: driving school, buying (or the general upkeep of a car), car insurance, this all adds up.

Now let’s get to all this love nonsense. Young love isn’t real love, it’s young love. It’s about realizing you can form feelings for someone else and liking them for a deeper reason than they have the same friends as you (or not). The young love described in songs, in my opinion, is puppy love. When thinking about my love life at the time, I think of being led on for the first time by one of the first guys that I cared for. I remember thinking he felt the same way. I remember writing my first song about it. And then I remember discovering that he had a girlfriend (a common occurrence in my life, many more came and did the same). While he wasn’t 16, he basically had the mental capacity of a 16-year-old. And height. Yeah, I’m kind of throwing shade. Now I’ll use his words against him, “16 ain’t so sweet anymore,” especially after he was gone. Not bitter, but I’d like to take the opportunity to throw a certain finger up at him and also thank him. The feelings I developed for him helped me write my first song and really got my creative juices flowing again so that I could develop my creative writing portfolio. Heartbreak is good for something, guys. All jokes aside, I am thankful for this experience at 16, it helped me grow and become more guarded and choosy. Sure I’ve made similar mistakes to the ones I made with this unnamed musician, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything.

Maybe I’m a late bloomer, but if I had to pick an age to write about for the rest of my life, I’d pick the age of 18. It was my freshman year of college and I feel like I grew more that year than any other year to date. It is definitely one of my hands down favorite years, one I plan on talking about and sharing stories from for a long time.

So seriously, can we please stop romanticizing 16. It’s not that great. Maybe I have MTV and “My Sweet 16” to blame for this. The societal construct surrounding the age 16 of the year you become a woman. Where did the idea of a sweet 16 come from? My guess is that it’s an adaptation of the Mexican culture’s quinceanera for a 15-year-old girl’s transition into becoming a woman. Or could it be a later adaptation of the Jewish culture’s Bar mitzvah’s and Bat mitzvah’s? Or could this just be society’s way of calling a 16-year-old an adult, cause honey, that doesn’t legally happen until you’re 18. Do you even feel like an adult at 18? I could go ahead and discuss historical relevance to this age, but let’s not.

All in all, no matter what happened in your life at 16 or 18, there’s an age where you kind of realized who you were and grew from it. An impactful year that you will remember forever. I for one do not think this age is 16. But if it was for you, congrats. Now let’s please stop talking about the joys and love stories from the age of 16.

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