What to Expect on Your 21st Birthday

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When I think of 21st birthdays, the sounds of LMFAO’s “Shots,” immediately comes to mind. Had I taken “Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!” on my 21st, I probably wouldn’t have made it very far or lasted very long.

While my birthday was a bundle of fun, complete with a pretty impressive headache the following day, I turned 21 on a Thursday night with a mandatory class and lab the following morning. Lame, I know.

I began to wonder if other students’ 21st birthdays had also been somewhat lackluster, or if they had 100 percent lived up to the hype, surrounding that long-awaited day when we can finally step up to the bar and order a drink with unabashed confidence – victory!

After asking around to students from different colleges, I got my answer: 21st birthdays are bizarre, unexpected, sometimes disappointing, and almost always, memorable.

1. Chuck E. Cheese 21st Birthday

“My parents thought it would be a great idea to throw me a surprise 21st birthday party at none other than Chuck E. Cheese because I had all of my parties there growing up. The irony of celebrating my alcohol legality at a children’s place was maddening! Nonetheless, I laughed so hard when I got there dressed in a nice skirt (assuming I was going to a fancy dinner) and it was a completely fitting way for me to celebrate. To sum it up, my birthday was a throwback.” – Nicki Halenza, media and cinema studies major at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana)

2. Casino 21st Birthday

“I was more excited about hitting the casino than the drinking part! I went to a casino called Par-a-dice with my family, boyfriend, his family and a friend. I won $90, after putting only $5 into my first slot machine! It’s like they knew it was my first time and they had to draw me in! Oh, and I had a few drinks and a crazy night afterward! My 21st was a success!” –Abby Schneider, accounting major at Illinois State University

3. Rear-Ended 21st Birthday

(Image: Flickr Member nathangibbs)

“I got rear-ended on my way home from work on my 21st! It kind of ruined my night because I had a headache and didn't want to drink much or stay out late. So lame! –Kristin Doherty, journalism major at Drake University 

4. Lost License 21st Birthday

“On my 21st, I had lost my license. – So, I tried getting served with a random photo I.D., my community college diploma and baby spoons that had my full name and birth date engraved in them!” –Thomas Joseph Syndram, former public relations major at Illinois State University

5.Conjoined 21st Birthday

“My boyfriend and I share the same birthday – May 28 – which made my 21st extra special to be able to share it with someone. We went on vacation to Las Vegas together and we also threw a conjoined birthday party with a pregame at his house with around 50 guests. We took a party bus to a club downtown! It was such a fun way to reunite with friends from back home and kick off summer. Truly thankful for a great 21st birthday!” –Kathy Natalie Ruda, advertising major at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana)

6. Military 21st Birthday

“I spent my 21st birthday at military training where we couldn’t drink, had the lights out early and spent the whole day working our tails off. It kinda sucked.” – Tommy Staudenmeier, Eureka College

7. Finals 21st Birthday

“Not an exciting story, but my birthday — May 11 — always falls around finals. For my 21st, we slacked for a night of drinking, ‘90s music and there was a rule that talking about finals was absolutely prohibited.” –Amy Fehr, graduate student (M.A.) of English literature at the University of Rochester

8. Whipped Cream 21st Birthday

“My night started at a Mexican restaurant, where the waiters gave me a shot of tequila, and after I took it, they shoved whipped cream all over my face, which I did NOT appreciate! I went to my first bar that night, which, let’s just say, should have been my last. It was so embarrassing. And, when I got home, I told my friend that I didn’t deserve to sleep in my bed and insisted that I sleep in the bathtub! Whatta night!” –Nina Folkerts, graphic design major at Illinois Central College.

9. Slushy 21st Birthday

“My 21st was on a Monday. So, on Sunday night, I spent my time drinking a slushy at Sonic until midnight, trying to pass time with my friend until I could actually get into a bar. As soon as it hit midnight and I turned 21, the Sonic lights turned off and my friend’s car wouldn’t start. We spent the first 45 minutes of my birthday stranded in the dark, attempting to get someone to jump the car. When we finally did, we drove to a bar at 1:30 a.m. and ordered the most embarrassing looking drink as a newbie 21-year-old. I had no expectations overall, but it turned out to be extremely fun in the end!” –Kendall Rodheim, psychology major at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana)

10. Pizza 21st Birthday

“I am the oldest in my friend group, so when I turned 21, I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with! And, my birthday was on a Monday, which also put a damper on things because I had to be at work the next day at 8 a.m. So, I went to a pizza place with my family and friends. Afterward, they felt so bad that I didn’t have plans – so, they took me to a pub for a drink, and I ended the night dyeing my friend’s hair!” –Kelsey Bachman, communications major at Illinois State University

For more on celebrating your birthday, check out:
21st birthdays are bizarre, but always memorable. Here's what to expect.
Celebrate like the celebrities in luxury and style–it's Vegas baby.
We break it down for you so you can snag that title of BFF
Seriously, get him these and he'll be impressed.
Don't worry, Ryan Gosling isn't on the list (as a gift idea at least).

Sophomore > News-Editorial Journalism > University of Illinois

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