1. Sweet Sixteen Parties
I'd never heard of one of these before I came here, but turning sixteen is a definite rite of passage in the US and often marked by a huge party. I confess to being very confused by all that. Other than legally being able to have sex, the age of 16 doesn't mean much, and how many Dads do you know who want to celebrate that milestone for their daughters?
Confusing this even further is the Latin American tradition of the Quinceanera, celebrating a girl reaching the age of 15. This marks the transition between girlhood and womanhood, although strangely, not the transition into legally being able to have sex.
Also strangely, there doesn't seem to be a tradition of a big party when someone turns 18 or 21, although those are significant ages. The ability to vote and fight for your country and then the ability to drink (legally) seem to me to warrant more celebration than 16, but then again, kids are probably doing everything at 16 anyway.
2. High School Proms
Growing up in England, we would watch movies with teenagers getting all dressed up to go to the prom and it all looked so glamorous, because we didn't have anything like that. The nearest we ever got in my school was a school disco, which, let me tell you was not the same thing at all. The ability to put on a fabulous gown, get your hair and makeup done, have a date in a tuxedo give you one of those flower bracelet thingies (oops, corsage, just looked that one up), and hire a limo to sweep you to the ball is so quintessentially American. So much so, that I think British schools now do have proms. I guess all that envy about looking great - even if it's only twice during the high school years - has crossed the pond. And without all that angst, the theme of many a movie just wouldn't exist.
Yearbooks are wonderful things to remember your school years and the friends you spent them with. It's like having a journal and a photo album that you didn't even have to compile yourself. The other great thing about yearbooks is the ability to look back on those bad photos when people become famous, so you can at least say that at one time you looked better than George Clooney or Sandra Bullock. All we had when I was at school was school photos, with everyone in their school uniform shirts and ties, which were only carried by your grandmother, if at all. I must dig out a few one day (not). With Fiona though, we can leaf through yearbooks even from Kindergarten and reminisce. Kind of nice really.
4. Bridal Showers
As if buying a wedding present isn't enough, there's the pre-gift-giving that goes on at a bridal shower. Again, I'd never heard of one of these before I came here, and this whole concept of "showering" a bride with gifts and then also giving wedding presents on the day of the wedding, I still find odd. I don't know whether this is a custom that has crossed the pond yet. My guess is yes, since anything that involves the ability to receive even more gifts is one that will probably be embraced whole-heartedly.
5. Baby Showers
6. Wedding Rehearsal Dinners
So you're about to get married, but you need all the people who'll be in the wedding to go through the motions the night before, just so everyone gets it right on the day. Fair enough. But who said that the bride (or groom) has to spring for a huge dinner for everyone that night? I mean, way to increase the cost of something that's already hugely expensive! I just googled it and sadly, this tradition is also starting to cross the pond. Yes, Brits are also now embracing this tradition for better or worse. Now, I'm not saying that it's not a lovely idea, but the pressure to do something big just becomes too much.
So all in all, it seems to be a one-way street, this spreading of rites of passage. Shame really. It would be nice to see a little more simplicity crossing the pond from the UK. And hats. Really people, we need to see ladies at US weddings wearing more hats. it's just the right thing to do. I mean, c'mon, didn't you see Four Weddings and A Funeral? And it's a great excuse to post a photo of the always-lovely Kristin Scott Thomas.
Ten points for anyone who can remember the first four words of that movie.....