A young girl sees cool teenagers portrayed on movies and television shows. She grows up aspiring to be like these characters when she is older. According to these shows and movies, the most fun day of her teenage years will be her sweet 16.
Fast forward several years later when this same girl is a high school student planning her sweet 16. She realizes now that the big party she dreamed of as a kid is not realistic, and she may not even consider it to sound fun.
For high school students, girls in particular, sixteenth birthday parties do not always live up to the expectations they had when they were younger. They realize that the examples the media had given them were not accurate, nor were they necessarily representative of what most teenagers want.
The sixteenth birthday “... was always the one that was played up big in TV shows,” Grace Johnson, a high school sophomore, said. “I thought it would be cool because I’d be a teenager,”
For her sixteenth birthday, she had a “fun night in… which honestly sounds more appealing to [her] than the big party that is always the staple sweet 16 you hear about,” Johnson said.
Another student agrees with this idea.
“Films portray it a lot bigger,” Noelle Veome, another sophomore, said. For Veome, her sweet 16 happens to be the same year as her golden birthday because she was born on December 16. “I don’t know if [what I am planning] would be classified as a party, but I still think my friends will be incorporated in my sweet 16,” Veome said.
Sophomore student Sarah Koo also says that movies influenced her opinion on sweet 16s when she was younger. However, she did not necessarily expect this from her own party.
“I didn’t really think mine would be like this because it’s too expensive,” Koo said.
“I rented out a pool and ate a lot of food,” Koo said about her party. This event, while possibly not as formal as her former expectations may have been, was still a lot of fun.
“I hope she had a good time, because I had a good time, and it looked like everyone else had fun,” Veome, a guest of Koo’s sweet 16, said.
Even when a party is big, it does not always fit expectations.
“I… didn’t have a sweet sixteen. Instead, I had a quinceañera,” Nina Melo, a sophomore at Naperville Central, said. “It actually is pretty scary because you have all the attention on you.”
Quinceañeras a very big parties, similar to what the media portray sweet sixteens to be. So, even large parties are not necessarily what they are expected to be, at least according to Melo’s perspective.
“I never thought that the person having the party would be nervous on the day of her party.” Melo said.
Similar to the significance of the age of 15 in Latina culture, 16 has become an important age in American culture. This significance may be due to a number of reasons.
“16 is a big age because you get your [driver’s] license,” Maya Dziag, a sophomore at Naperville Central, said, and others expand on this idea.
“A [driver’s] license is kind of synonymous with freedom,” Johnson said.
This freedom is what many look forward to upon turning 16.
“It’s the beginning of so much more,” Veome said. She said 16 is an age when your freedoms expand, and more opportunities are available.
In addition to newfound freedoms, teens find an increasing maturity upon turning 16.
“I think 16 is where you feel more mature” Melo said.