Costa Rica, like many Latin American countries, has a quaint custom called a quinceanera. It’s a lavish party with extravagant gifts to celebrate a young person’s fifteenth birthday. The girls wear ball gowns and tiaras and the boys wear tuxedos. It is a rite of passage into adulthood.

QUINCEANERA

QUINCEANERA

 

My family celebrated my transition into adulthood in a similar way, albeit without the party, gown, tiara or gifts. And I was thirteen.

My mother called me into her bedroom on my thirteenth birthday and told me, “You’re an adult now. You can go out drinking and partying all you want, but it’s your job to get yourself home safely”.

Harrumph. I thought to myself, what’s different? I’ve always felt as though I’ve been on my own.

I soon found out what the difference was, the next time I asked Mom for a dollar so I could go to the movies with my friends.

“You’re an adult now”, Mom growled, “make your own money”.

I had already bombed as a babysitter. I had an unfortunate tendency to only keep track of one child at a time. This was a problem living in a neighborhood where the average family had five kids. I should have asked the parents in the beginning which child was their favorite.

I asked Mom how I could make some money and she told me to get a job. But I was only thirteen and businesses couldn’t hire anyone under the age of sixteen. Mom’s advice? Lie.

I went to every business downtown, asking for a job while lying about my age. Of course, nobody believed I was sixteen, and I remained a sad little “adult” without a job for the next three years.

I would get an occasional babysitting gig, usually for a family with only one child (they didn’t know that’s all I could handle).

When I turned sixteen, I returned to the downtown movie theater and again applied for a job. The manager remembered me and asked how I could be sixteen now, when I was sixteen then. Um, I lied.

I got the job (that’s how desperate they were) and soon I was selling popcorn and candy and making $15 per week. And the best part of it all was that I could see movies for free.

Finally, adulting like an adult.

Stay tuned…