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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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Readers Blog: OnMilwaukee.com Intern Team: Courtney Morgan

The Art of the 21st Birthday (Midweek Musings)

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"Is this shirt too much?" My best friend questioned, tugging at a zipper attached to her borrowed blouse.

It was Saturday night. Our busy summers, which had so far made good on the Ladytron lyrics,"They only want you when you're 17/When you're 21, you're no fun," had kept us from any major shenanigans, and our birthdays - hers in September and mine in January - had kept us from any BFF nights out. This Saturday, however, was a special occasion: it was a high school friend's 21st birthday. Or at least, it was the day in which she was celebrating her 21st birthday.

The 21st birthday is filled with hidden catch-22s that make celebrating it a delicate art form. If, like me, your birthday occured in the middle of the week, you can either a) celebrate on your birthday, acknowledging the fact that you and your friends will most likely be the only ones in the bar (read: becoming "that girl") or b) save your birthday until the weekend, acknowledging that you might be missing out on drink specials and missing the novelty of drinking on your 21st (read: becoming "THAT girl").

Likewise, when your birthday falls at the beginning of the year, you have the benefit of being able to drink all year long and attend all 21st birthday celebrations that fall after yours; but if that's the case, there might not be many people old enough to properly celebrate your birthday with you. Having a birthday later in the year means that you miss out on a lot of other people going out, but your birthday has potential to be a gigantic blow out.

"Well," my room mate was replying from her designated spot on the couch, where she was selecting music videos on YouTube to set the mood for a Saturday night, "You're going to North Avenue. So ... I'm going to say no."

My 21st birthday fell both mid-year, with only a small fraction of my friends already of age (despite having a large group of fellow Aquarius friends, most of them fall in early February - way to taunt me, fate), as well as on a Tuesday. I chose, instead of a night being that girl stumbling home at bar close in the early week, to fill my day with subtle drinking for the entire 24 hours that it occured. Breakfast drinks with an old manager, afternoon drinks with a current co-worker (at Applebees - a guilty pleasure that we partake in far too often), evening dinner and drinks with my mom and boyfriend, followed by night-time bar drinks with anyone old enough (or passing enough) to make it into a bar in the first place.

This 21st birthday, our friend's 21st birthday, took a different approach. Potentially, it took a better approach; she had her cake and ate it, too. Blessed and cursed with a summer birthday, she was able to have her drinks on her 21st and partake in the beautiful weekend weather* to  partake in drinks post-big-day. And so that's where we found ourselves this past Saturday - gathering on North Avenue to experience an artfully crafted 21st birthday as a rare collection of friends - all of us seeing the others far too infrequently - descended on a bar to celebrate not only a birthday, but a reunion of all of us as adults (finally).

I sipped my way through Jack & Ginger after Jack & Ginger - as well as a few shots, brought on by familiar faces who appeared out of the woodwork in the big-small city of Milwaukee. We as a group traipsed from Vintage to the BBC to Cans for a bit of dancing, and finally to the Y-Not III to end our night belting out Del Amitri at a crowded table while somewhere a very harrassed bartender was undoubtedly praying for bar close. The next morning, my best friend and i agreed as we compared the stories of the night that it had been a fantastic birthday celebration.

Now that we've all officially been indoctrinated to the world of complete adult rights (minus being able to rent a car, that is), all we have to do is plan for our next drinking weekend: June 25th, in which we will explore, as a team, the art of the pub crawl. Wish us luck - and we hope to see you there!

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