To see my vlog (video blog) of this post, click here.
Last month a woman wrote an article in England’s The Guardian about her son who rented the 1977 tv miniseries Roots and decided that he was old enough for manhood training like young Kunta Kinte – without having his foot cut off. Because he was nearing his 13th birthday and was looking for more freedom and independence, the mom decided to create a series of 13 tests as his rite of passage into adulthood. They included tasks like cooking a 3-course family dinner, taking a train by himself, and learning a piano piece and performing it in public.
I know this magical 13 years of age is a big moment in the Jewish tradition in the form of a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, just as it was I made my Confirmation. I was now an adult in the eyes of the Catholic Church, which meant that I was really going to hell instead of just purgatory. The adulthood milestone backfired when my brother was old enough to make his Confirmation.
“If I’m old enough to be an adult in the church, then I’m old enough to refuse to go to church,” he confessed to my mother.
Other than weddings and funerals, I think that’s the last time my brother ever went to mass.
There a lot of difficult tasks that adults are expected to perform, so if an adolescent wants a later bedtime or to convince his parents that he should have a supersize rather than a Happy Meal, here are my 13 suggestions that are sure to make him a man:
Note that all these tasks must be done without an iPod, iPhone, Gameboy, or any other device 13-year olds have their noses buried in these days.
Here we go –
1. Work for a week as a customer service representative for a boss who’s a complete jerk.
2. Put together a desk from IKEA without having any unexplained spare parts.
3. Call a medical insurance company and try to get reimbursed for a payment.____________________________________________________________
4. Attend a large university graduation ceremony on a really hot day.
5. Stand outside the Reagan Library and try to get people to register as Democrats.
____________________________________________________________6. 6. Answer the front door to a Jehovah’s Witness without converting.
7. Go to the DMV without an appointment. Wait and wait and wait until you reach the front desk and ask if they’ll give you a driver’s license if your mom tells them it’s ok with her.
8. Serve one week of jury duty. More if you get an allowance and your mom & dad compensate you for it.
9. Take a bus from Union Station to the Santa Monica pier and deliberately sit next to the smelliest guy you can find.
10. Clean up a frat house after a wild Cinco de Mayo party. Score more manhood points if the tequila was really cheap.
11. Make a dinner using only vegetables, then eat the entire meal without saying “yuck” or plugging your nose.
12. Talk to a telemarketer for five minutes, then refuse to buy anything.
13. Stall your car for ten minutes on a freeway off ramp right next to a man with a homemade sign and cup in his hand. Keep eye contact with him for the entire duration.
Odds are your child will give up before he or she reaches 13 and instead return to being an obsessed Facebook and Nickelodeon fanatic.
That’s the bad news.
And the worse news:
After this ordeal, he’ll probably never leave home.