There are many important rites of passage in the US culture. I believe to asses a few of them I’d start at the very beginning, infancy. From the day a child is born until they take their first steps is such a big deal. As a baby, they cant fend for yourself, they have to be carried everywhere, changed, fed. Once they start crawling its exciting for the baby as much as the parents. Babies watch humans stand on their two feet and try very hard during that liminal period to stand and be a part of that standing, walking without assistance group. All of those struggles are so critical, they are recorded, photographed and put into the baby archives for years to come where their parents can retell those stages when their bundle of joy grows up.
Fast forward to young children learning to tie shoes and ride a bike. These two passages are in place to be more implicit in US culture. Its comes with growing older and becoming more independent. I remember when I learned how to tie my shoes, my dad made me do it over and over again. It felt good being in charge of putting on my own shoes. And riding a bike starts off with training wheels. I like to think of an elementary biker crew that just got their new bikes, they’re all neighbors just going for a ride through the subdivison with adult supervision. At that point, they’re all equal in their abilities to ride, until one gets pushed to graduate to a “big-girl” or “big-boy” bike without training wheels. I know from experience that that process of learning included much chaos with many scrapes and falls, but also persistence with the encouraging spirit of my dad. That accomplishment is pretty major in a child’s life.
Graduating from high school os a big rite of passage as well. The main reason for that is because of the open house some graduates throw. It’s a grand party where your nearest and dearest family and friends come by to have eat, chat, network, dance, play and to shower the graduate with gifts that will help them succeed in college. Open house are crucial for monetary gifts. With tuition being expensive, and college experiences varying from person to person, I think open houses serve as a means to give generously out of love and support. I had the opportunity to through one and we went over budget just a tad. I had a bounce house, DJ, slushy machine, custom desserts, Mexican cuisine, southern cuisine, huge tent and chairs in my back yard. Looking back, I know we went all out unnecessarily, but that just shows how big the transition from high school to college really is. I had a wonderful time, my friends from high school visited, I visited others in my neighborhood. I really enjoyed myself and give so much thanks to my parents for making it happen.
Influenced by the legal drinking age, turning 21 makes you a more official adult. It gives you the last bit of responsibility you don’t get when you turn 18. Getting drunk at a bar is first on the list usually. Me, I just turned 21 but even since I started college 3 years ago i’ve been pressured to drink many times. I was okay not being a part of that rite of passage of having my first drink until I was legal, and most importantly, comfortable. I couldn’t understand why my peers though it was so important for me to have a drink. The drinking culture on college campus is overwhelming. I believe some people do it to have fun, but also escape from the stress of classes and tough family and social situations. After my birthday I had my first drink, no regrets but I didn’t go get drunk at a loud bar or have a huge party.
As far as the liminality-belonging, as an Intercultural Aide on campus I get to talk to alot of freshmen who are trying to figure out who they are. I see them start off as timid and shy, or outgoing and loud, and have them end the year being the complete opposite. It comes with the company you keep and your upbringing. One freshman came from a more conservative household and had a roommate that was more laxed even though they also came from a structured home. Eventually the more conservative freshmen ended up doing things her family would not approve of if they found out, and the other had a couple incidents that involved the police. This period of belonging in college is so prevalent because everyone wants to be liked and accepted. Men and women behave how the other expects them to, sometimes subconsciously. My parents never want me to walk to my dorm alone at night. Men are perfectly fine if they walk alone at night but not women. Its a cautionary measure that is more implicit. I would offer to walk a friend home because of the possible behavior of a man. Women are expected to come out their shell and I learned the phrase “fresh meat” to describe the seniors appetite for new girls on campus. Women are for show at parties and supposed to dote over frat boys when they go their first party and try to get with them which is more explicit.