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Faking It

I started faking 21 about two years before my actual birthday. Well, actually, I was faking 22, and then 23, I even made it to 24 before my alternate identity was taken away from me.

On the first night I used my fake ID, I got all dressed up, high heels and everything, convinced that an extra layer of makeup would indeed make me look my fake age. My heart was pounding in my chest as I stood in line at the bar where I was meeting my older sister. She had told me that it would be fine: “This is one of the most laid-back bars in town, it won’t be a problem.” But that didn’t stop the slight feeling of nausea that was building in my stomach. I ran over all my fake information in my head: Birthday? Check; Middle name? Check; Address? Umm … Before I knew it I was next in line. I took a deep breath and handed the bouncer my ID. He flipped the ID once over in his hand, barely glancing at the date, let alone the picture.

“Have a good one,” he said to me, handed the ID back, and ushered me into the bar. Okay, that was it? I thought to myself. That was really all it took? Of course, it was all downhill from there.

I was cautious, in the beginning. I only used my fake identity at places where I knew I could get away with it: sketchy liquor stores, low-key bars and restaurants. But with every drink I received, my confidence about my new 21+ persona was heightened. Soon enough I was getting into the strictest bars in town, flaunting my fake ID wherever I went; enraptured by the cool maturity I now possessed.

It was all about confidence. If you felt like you were 21, really felt it, then most people would feel it too. If you were nervous, had an off night, felt like you weren’t looking like your alter-ego that evening, then people would begin to doubt you. That’s like most things in life though. If you are confident about yourself, if you put yourself out there, if you believe in what you are doing, then others will too. Of course, confidence is not something that’s innate, it’s something that is learned – it can be built up and cut down. But if you only remember that confidence is about you, and no one else, then it becomes a little easier. Having confidence, embracing yourself fully, being real about who you are, and who you are not, is an important aspect of happiness. You are who you are, why not own it?

That’s the problem with a fake ID though – it’s not you.

Of course there is a line between confidence and cockiness. Everyone will reach that line eventually, and I reached mine about a month and a half before my actual 21st birthday. On my best friend’s birthday we all went out to the bars – those of us who were of age, and those who were not, but pretended to be. There were two important factors working against me that night: 1. I had just bleached my hair blonde a few days earlier, creating a stark contrast between the photo in my ID and myself; 2. We had pre-gamed before going out harder than we usually would in “celebration” of my friend’s birthday. So, I stumbled up to one of those “strict” bars where they take the law more seriously, alternate identity in hand, and I gave the bouncer my ID. But this time they didn’t simply give it a once over. My drunkenness alerted the bouncer to look more closely at the ID and the person standing before him. Of course upon further inspection, my fake persona didn’t hold up, and thus my fake life came crashing to the ground.

People are always ‘faking it’. Whether it is faking our hair color, faking our taste in music, or faking our orgasms. We live in a time when you can change anything and everything about yourself. Not only that, but we are told that we should change most things about ourselves. We are told that the road to happiness is paved with material possessions and awesome haircuts. It’s a world where it is more common to see a face covered in makeup, than the beauty of a face as it naturally is. We live in a world where faking it is the norm, and being yourself is simply a challenge.

I can’t argue that faking certain elements of your life is always a bad thing. There are, of course, instances when faking it becomes necessary: faking a smile for your boss, faking a ‘homemade’ meal when you just don’t have time to pull it off, faking a laugh, simply because it will make someone else feel good, and that’s not bad. But when we start to fake it more than we are being ourselves, that’s where we run into trouble. If you are not being you, then how will you ever learn who you are?

When you turn 21 you will hear people say: “Enjoy it, it’s the last exciting birthday you are going to have.” And perhaps that is true; perhaps birthdays progressively go downhill from here. Perhaps there is little to look forward to besides finally being able to rent a car, and after that birthdays are just a reminder of dwindling time and drooping skin. But I refuse to think about it that way. Instead I would like to think that this birthday is another step towards becoming more real. The start of a life where I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not, a new era, in which being just me is totally and completely okay.

So cheers to another year well-spent and completing another step on the journey towards becoming more me. Some things will take longer to change; my hair color is still kinda blonde and I’m certain I will fake a few more orgasms down the road, but for the first time, I am really, truly 21.


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