Rites of Passage: A Walk Through A Philadelphian's Adolescence
Growing up in Philadelphia, most of us travelled through the typical American rites of passage: puberty, birthdays, high school, learning to drive, and slumber parties, but growing up in Northeast Philadelphia there were some not-so typical rites of passage, which I feel have been lost on recent generations. Philadelphia is a city made up of neighborhoods, no, we are not special in that way, but the experiences are special. You will find similarities in your rites of passage from your childhood and I hope you do, it is what binds us in our childhood upbringings and pulls us together in our memorieFirst kiss: Yes, agreed most children experience their first kiss on the playground or schoolyard. Most of us in the Northeast however were subjected to cute, aggressive boys who waited for you under a street lamp or behind the shed of a neighbor’s house in longing expectation of a smooch.
- First beer: Maybe this is why I don’t drink beer these days because we would have keg parties in the woods down by the train tracks and it was the only option. I’m a person who enjoys her choices and when your only option is Busch Beer from a keg, you grow a little tired of it. Eventually, the girls evolved to sipping stolen Vodka from an orange juice container.
- First fist fight: I was a complete introvert and coward and for some reason this got me “offered out” often. No, this wasn’t a date offering, a girl would approach because she didn’t like the way you looked at her, and “offer you out” which meant you had to meet said person after school for a dance with fists. I failed miserably at this and had my ass kicked on more than one occasion. Whatever. Don’t judge me.
- First cigarette: Yep, if you lived in my neighborhood, you smoked and you better inhale or you would never have heard the end of it. One friend was so determined for me to inhale that while smoking behind the library, she screamed, “Christine, your mom is coming!” My mother frequented the library and this was my worst fear. I quickly inhaled and nearly threw up afterwards.
- First shoplifting experience: Mine was at the drug store up the street. I stole a pack of Hubba Bubba and I didn’t even like Hubba Bubba. I do feel guilty about this, because the drug store was a “mom and pop” place and they closed a few years later. I still believe it was my theft, which had caused them to go into bankruptcy.
American rites of passage are often consistent throughout the country, but the interesting thing is how they differ from neighborhood to neighborhood. I’m often saddened that kids today aren’t thrown outside to play by their parents. They are often cooped up playing video games or watching YouTube videos and not enjoying the beauty of figuring out life. As a therapist, I see kids who are anxious and afraid to have experiences outside of their comfort zone. I often challenge them to have experiences on their own or with their friends so they can journey through their own passages.