I think there are many important rituals of transition in the United States. I think a big one people will think of is graduating high school, and entering college. This is an important period in any person’s life where they begin that transition from being a teenager to entering young adulthood. At the end of this experience they hopefully emerge as a fully fledged contributing member of society.
College might be the most obvious answer, but I think the argument could be made for the birth of a first child. Once a woman becomes a mother, how she views herself and how she is viewed by society changes. She now should be more concerned for this new life than even her own. Pregnancy can be seen as period of liminality where the woman begins to be treated differently by the people around her, but does not have the responsibilities of a mother yet.
Another ritual of transition is marriage. Marriage binds two people together, as well as changes their designation in society. People will socialize differently with a person who is married than with a single bachelor. Marriage also comes with the implications of maturity and adulthood, and the expectation of starting a new family unit. The period of liminality would reside in the time of engagement before the wedding day.
Another, more personal ritual of transition in the U.S., might be a girl’s first period. This moment marks the beginning of a girl’s transition into womanhood. Puberty in general might be seen a transition or liminal period in adulthood, but menarche is a clear and physical marker of it. Households differ in how they might acknowledge this moment. Unfortunately, it appears that in dominant U.S. culture, that this moment is often shrouded in secrecy or even shame.
I have only completed one of the aforementioned rituals of transitions. At the time of having my first period, I was initially freaked out. I knew it was coming, and what to expect from it, but when it happened my first inclination was to hide it from everyone in my family. My mother and older sister never talked to me about anything regarding puberty, and I felt almost ashamed to have started mine, and wanted the whole experience to end. However, my mother soon found out the following day and we had a talk. Eventually, I began to lighten up about the whole situation, and even was proud of myself. I had been one of the first girls in my friend group to begin to have periods. I thought that this made me more mature than them, and closer to being an adult. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been so scared. I wish that I knew that there was nothing to be ashamed of. I hope if I have any future daughters they can have a better experience than I did.
College is an entirely different experience than puberty. In high school, I was still only a child, no doubt about that. Sure, I had a part time job, but I lived with my parents. They provided my food, my clothes, my shelter. I belonged in the child category. When you enter college, suddenly things change. That first Fall semester I entered the liminal period. I lived on my own, but it was a dorm. Things were still provided for me. I never cooked, because I could head down to the cafe whenever I wanted. My biggest responsibility was getting to class on time and doing my homework. However, I felt independent in a way that I never felt before in high school. I could go anywhere without needing to tell my mom. I had to rely on myself to get my work done, and clean my clothes, and make sure I went to bed at a decent time. However, things change more and more as I progress throughout school, and as I come closer to graduating and becoming an “adult”.
As I go through college, I have gotten many implicit and explicit messages on how college men and women should behave. At the beginning of college, every freshman had to go through a sexual safety on campus class in person and online. This explicitly explains what is expected from both men and women on campus. These things might include; interfere in you believe a sexual assault may happen to someone, don’t walk alone at night if you can help, don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol, don’t do drugs. Implicit messages also affect how people behave. Men can take up more space than woman, and be more rowdy. Women are expected to be made up or wearing something nice or revealing when going out at night. Men should be more confident and make the first move in relationships. These messages can affect how people behave, but also how they feel about themselves as well. Men and women both have expectations to live up to on campuses.