The Anti-Social Social Club: Struggles of a Late Birthday
By Kimberly Burton
Turning 21 years old is a milestone found on college students’ social media feeds far and wide. Silk sashes, holding bottles of cheap Prosecco, metallic number balloons floating in the background—you know the deal.
It’s an idealized celebration, yet seen as the real marker of adulthood. It means you can do just about anything, like down an insane amount of shots legally.
At the end of this summer (a day before the start of my senior year at Temple), I will join the ranks of 21ers. You’re probably thinking: you’re celebrating 21 years like any other normal person—what are you getting at?
Over the past (almost) 21 years, I accepted my status as the late-birthday girl. Growing up, I was always the youngest in my class. Plus, it doesn’t have the best timing. My 18th birthday doubled as freshman move-in day. I totally loved waiting in line for the elevator at Morgan North residence hall when I could’ve been celebrating... or registering to vote.
I even considered graduating early at one point, but quickly realized I would fully enter the professional world at 20 years old. No thanks.
You learn to accept it. However, it occasionally hits hard.
On a campus filled with a high concentration of new and old members of the 21 Club™, it’s extremely difficult to socialize. When you’re interning or working, and your co-workers or peers are several years older, it’s even worse.
Students, professors, career advisors, and your bosses tell you that networking could make or break your future. What they don’t tell you is that networking and being under 21 isn’t the perfect mix.
We’ve all seen Facebook events, emails, or flyers for networking event after networking event—it’s endless. A large majority include almost everything and anything alcohol-related. It kills motivation to see an event you’re really interested in stop you at the door.
Without the constraints of a drinking age, you can spread your wings in the networking world.
When I studied abroad in London, I practically waltzed to the local pub with my coworkers on a Friday night, no questions asked. No one cared if I opted for a pint, a cocktail, or even chocolate milk.
Now that I’m back home, I wish I could pen in a happy hour in my planner and look forward to discussing politics or current events with the higher-ups. Except I’m back on the soil where bouncers would physically drag me out because I’d be breaking the law.
While everyone's out celebrating birthdays, office achievements, and anything else in between, I’m watching Netflix. I want to socialize with Steve from marketing, not Jess from New Girl. As an extrovert, it kills me inside that I can’t go out to celebrate the completion of a large project, or meet people in other departments I don’t get to see in the office.
In offices where I’ve been treated as an equal, my age acts as a reminder that I’m just an intern. In the eyes of some colleagues, not attending happy hours makes me seem rigid or unapproachable. People are disappointed when you can’t attend, even if you have a valid explanation.
And for the record, you can probably get around the drinking thing. It’s easy to ask someone for coffee or to take them out for lunch… you just need to know their name first.
I can’t fathom how many job opportunities I’ve never heard about, or company representatives I’ve never met all because I’ve been barred from attending an event.
It may not always be obvious; emphasis on networking events like company happy hours or after-work bar crawls pushes high achieving college students out of opportunities. So yes, I feel bad for anyone who isn’t twenty-one. Not because we can’t legally drink, but because our social and professional growth is stunted.