december 28, 2002 / 1:13am

when i turn eighteen

there's something about turning eighteen in women that makes little girls squirm in anticipation, moms sport butterflies in their stomachs, and the poor teenagers in between, the victims, like me -- utterly, inexplicably sick.

what is it exactly with turning eighteen? what's the fuss all about?

sure, it's transition, blah blah blah, rite of passage into age of maturity bullshit. sure, now i can get a driver's license. now i can buy liquor in the store cause i'm not a minor anymore. now i can even get myself imprisoned. wow, this sure seems to have lots of potential.

hey. waitaminute. i'd just turned eighteen, and i don't even know what i'm doing to satisfy my clan's, my friends' (and in fact, everybody else's) expectations. right here, Filipino tradition dictates that one should throw a gigantic birthday bash on a girl's eighteenth birthday. girls have it at eighteen; guys at twenty-one. now don't ask me why it is so, i was born just eighteen years ago, and i'm not well-versed with all these traditions.

but, to hell with tradition. i'm not throwing a gigantic birthday bash tomorrow. (or, really, it should be, hours later..) i refuse to. hell, i didn't even want to put "happy birthday" on my birthday cake. fuck, after celebrating seventeen birthdays, i've had it with cakes and happy birthday messages. this time, i had this phrase written on my marble chiffon cake -- "you're so beautiful, divine." see? we could be different, it's just a matter of trying, i guess. hell fuck, you don't even try, you just do it.

just how many debut invitations had i received all throughout this year? i'm estimating more than five, and i believe i'd gone twice, thrice, i think. some of my friends -- yes, it is a debut year for us 84-ians... -- had their parties in hotels. as in lavish, really lavish. this other friend of mine, had her own musical play on her debut party. wow as in wow. money. but then again, she's chinese, so no problem with that.

gowns, cotillion dancing, gowns, hotels, and have i mentioned gowns?! eek, creepy factor ninety-nine, right on. which is what i hate about formal debut celebrations. GOWNS. hell, if i were forced to have a formal debut for myself, i'm betting i'd be absent because of the gown. no way. no gowns.

what i have in mind -- it's not really gigantic, as in big, as in gowns and hotels and dancing and guys in long sleeves and ties (though i would've loved that...) nothing like that... just a small get-together, family and stuff... and for my friends in University... um, an afternoon of food and booze (yeah booze!) and lots of catching up. that pretty much sums it all up. in the family, there's the videoke -- i'd never spent a birthday without it. none in recent memory, anyway. and, yes, for the first time, i get to drink with my cousins!

i knew it. i'm 30% male! whereas girls would think of ice cream and flowery cakes and chocolates (not that i wouldn't but...) -- i'm actually thinking of throwing some sort of booze party. god, i could be so male sometimes.

which probably explains the no-gowns policy. after all, i can't get drunk in a gown. it would give my little girlie cousins the nightmares of their lives. think 'sleeping beauty drunk' -- totally destroys the fairy tales, doesn't it? and for my eighteenth birthday, that is definitely out of my options.

but really... it's just a birthday. last year, i turned seventeen. and that probably explains why i'm turning eighteen this year. it's not even destiny, it's plain and simple mathematics.

so what, it's been a year... i mean, year after year has passed me by already, anyway. and i feel like nothing much has changed. i'm still me -- unbelievably deadpan, utterly helpless in the kitchen, single and desperate. see? it's still pretty much the same.

nothing has changed.

or okay, maybe some. maybe some part of me has changed. but really, right now, i so do not want to pay attention to it. because i don't like to. not yet, at least.

my mother's picture is hanging at the altar beside me, and i can't help but think about the what-if i had last february. that was the biggest PMS depression attack ever, and it just had to come on my blockmate's debut.

what if she were still here. what if she were still here to plan this. what would i have tomorrow, then? would there be flowers? would i be in a hotel, forced to fit inside this gown? i mean, if it had to be her request, me in a gown, i'd do it. i'd do it for her.

i'd do anything for her right now, you know.

i know, things haven't been the same much -- before and after she left. take christmas. there'd always been something lacking, something missing. there's always this feeling of overwhelming loneliness, right when i'm in front of noche buena, and i don't understand still, why after five years, it hasn't left.

just like my birthdays too. they'd been a lot simpler lately. we all know my mother was the one who always liked it lavish.

i never liked it lavish. but if she were here, but if she would have liked it lavish, i would've liked it lavish myself. in fact, i'd like anything she'd give me, plan for me -- even if that had to mean wearing some stupid fiery orange gown to some hotel, with all those people in formal attire, and boys in coats and ties...

i would've, but i never will now, will i?

tomorrow, i shall wake up, and smell the traditional spaghetti. i know my mother would've wanted something else, but then she could cook, and we could not. but we make do. we try to make things work around here, we try to make her proud. and really, spaghetti doesn't really cut it for a debut celebration, but hey. who's dictating what we can and cannot eat on a debut party eh?

and then, the relatives would come pouring in, and i will smile at them, one by one by fucking one, because i have to. because i'm eighteen, and i should be old enough to deal with the guests by myself. sure. and then somebody would suggest that i get married, that i give my father a grandchild as soon as possible.

oh holy fucking graciousness, how am i supposed to do that exactly?! immaculate conception!?

sigh. i just wish i bought an extra beer for this.