Our country has a lot of things it cannot seem to straighten out -- including the age at which someone legally gains adult responsibilities. Specifically, alcohol purchase and consumption. 21 is an odd age to restrict alcohol use to, and it is especially abnormal considering some of the other things you can do before purchasing some beer.
1. Enlist in the military.
The most glaring thing you can do before drinking is to join the most prevalent and powerful military in the world. You can go across the world and risk your life for your country, but if you are not 21, then, of course, you cannot relax with a beer. That'd be irresponsible!
2. Smoke cigarettes.
This one does not apply to all states anymore, but for a long period of time, the entire country was on board with allowing teens to start a losing battle with lung cancer. A bottle of wine? Absolutely not. But a pack of cigarettes? For many places you just needed to be 18.
An entire three years before you can legally drink alcohol, you can vote for political representatives of all levels; as you should be able to do. This seems like a much bigger responsibility than drinking; yet, if you want to drink away the despair of who your country elected, you're out of luck.
4. Legally marry.
You can legally be married at 18 and even earlier with parental consent. You can make a lifelong commitment to someone else and start a family. But no, you can't go buy Bud Light for the football game this weekend. That's horribly irresponsible.
5. Take on student (or other) debt.
This is the most relevant one for people my age, as those of us that are not on full scholarships most likely have taken out some sort of student loans. The loans with interest that, if not responsibly handled by a teenager, could result in a huge financial hit down the road. If thinking about the loans stresses you out though, you legally cannot relax at a bar with some drinks. Alongside those loans, it is very easy for young people to get credit cards. Getting a credit card young has a good purpose in establishing good credit early. However, debt of any sort is a huge responsibility that seems to have not been taught well to this generation of up-and-coming adults. Credit card debt, along with student loan debt, can spiral quickly and seems like a much bigger responsibility than handling your liquor.
6. Become a pilot.
In the United States, you can be issued a Private Pilot Certificate at age 17. You can fly around and see the world at heights others cannot. If you train enough, by age 17, you can become a pilot. However, no matter how much college students practice, police will not give us a drinking license.
7. Buy a gun.
State laws on gun purchases and their different restrictions vary. However, in many states, purchasing a gun of some sort can be done as early as 16 years old. Our government is perfectly fine with high schoolers purchasing weapons, but alcohol stays at 21 as if a weapon meant for killing is not a bigger responsibility than a shot of Fireball.
Is 18 the age you become an adult? Nobody really knows, but our country would rather keep bottles of wine out of the hands of teens rather than face any of the real issues. Maybe one day the age will come down; but until then, underage people could always pick one of those other things to occupy their time with.