By Dilini Algama
I’m going to be twenty. Apparently this has to scare me. One
day I’m a boisterous teenager whose purpose in life is to
deafen the neighbours with the radio on full blast while finishing
the delectable delights in the fridge and making a mess of my room.
But the next day it’s all supposed to change forever.
become a demure young lady who’ll wear sober clothing, clasp
her hands in front when walking, (accompanied by her father or her
brothers of course, never alone) etc. From that fateful day onwards
I am not supposed to wince when those cheeky little boys next door
call me “Aunty!”
All this is
thanks to the well-meaning aunts who take me aside and graciously
offer advice. I’m lucky enough to claim kinship to a variety
of aunts, but they generally have the same thing to say.
(to soften the blow), your birthday is next week, isn’t it?
(Audible sigh follows). Now you must change your habits a little,
you know, you’re not a teenager anymore.”
“You should quieten down a bit. You have a nice little brother
(a.k.a., the bothersome 17-year-old hooligan). You mustn’t
squabble with him. You are a young lady who should busy herself
around the house. You have such a lot of things to think about.
Before long... you’ll... f... find your p... p... partner
in life...” (The latter being said in a voice choking with
Well, I can
stand this, even the “settling down” bit. Although I
don’t look forward to such homilies, for the sake of my parents
who’ll be blamed if I answer with a rude face I control myself.
I certainly can’t promise to make a habit of this, but I haven’t
But what really
sends the adrenalin tearing through my veins is that hackneyed line.
“Now you have left your childhood behind.” Back
in school, they gave us stern lectures on why we shouldn’t
waste our precious childhood and teenage years as they are the best
years of our lives.
I know what
it is like to jump up and down in rain puddles with my brother.
The taste of midnight snacks from the fridge remains fresh in my
mind. I long for the childish innocence with which I knelt down
to pray when my father was bitten by a snake. I am overcome with
unrestrained hysteria as I recall the practical jokes we played
in the A/Level class.
So now that
I’ve had all the fun and laughter I’m ‘allotted’,
I’m supposed to bundle it all up, lock it in a dark closet
and throw away the key. To be honest, I’m a little apprehensive
about my coming birthday, but I’m certainly not going to call
it quits and change overnight into a different ‘me’
who will repeat the “Now you are a grown up...” pep
talk to my nieces in another twenty years.
At least my
parents are quite happy to be the parents of their twenty-year-old
daughter. My mother finds me responsible enough to cook dinner without
blowing up the whole kitchen. My father finds it very pleasant to
have a daughter who can iron his shirts without burning them into
ashy residue. My summing up? Growing up does not mean growing old.
If you know how to grow up you’ll never grow old.