Posted On January 24, 2024

Cam spent Monday evening at a big party for a small group of twenty-one year olds. To say the least, times have changed. Here’s what he saw.


A moment after midnight on March 4th, 1990, I stood on a barstool and declared loudly to the packed bar that I had just turned twenty one years old. I was in Boulder, Colorado. A moment later the bouncer had me by the shirt and said, “That means you used a fake ID to get in”, which was true. I was nearly carried, my feet barely touching the ground, to the door and tossed into the street.

Oddly enough, the same story happened to my wife, long before we met. It was a stroke after midnight on July 13th, 1991, and she was on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her declaration was not made atop a bar stool. She was greeted by cheers from her friends and was bought a round of drinks.

In both instances, our parents were not there. And, in both instances no evidence exists that any of it ever happened.

Monday night in Oxford, Mississippi, I was with my favorite oldest daughter in a bar called The Summit. All her crowd was there plus more. She and her friends who had turned twenty-one over the Christmas break banded together to celebrate. My wife and I were invited. We were, in fact, encouraged to come. Decorators created an Instagram-able background including a balloon-arch and streamers. There was a platter of cupcakes in the shape of 21.

Picture books were created for each of the birthday girls. The girls wore bawdy signs around their necks for the night. After a couple hours, my wife and I sensed the tide turning, the energy increasing, and a bar full twenty-one-year-olds were about to begin doing what bars full of twenty-one-year old’s do. My wife and I paid our part of the tab, hugged our daughter, posed for countless photos with her, and got the hell out of there. This is a low estimate, but approximately 55 million billion photos were taken in the two hours of the party.

This is not the way I would have wanted it, I kept thinking to myself. But the truth is, I didn’t have a pocket full of magic back in 1990. While it was her celebration, the cell phone and its camera, this magical device, drove the show.

I read somewhere that today mankind takes more photos in one day than we did from the invention of the camara roughly two hundred years ago to today.

The picture books she was given were made quickly compared to what it would have taken back in 1990 – imagine developing 35mm film, duplicates, photo booths. The sign she wore was full of images, printed as a whole, and laminated. It certainly took some effort, but simple compared to what it would have taken back in the day.

As much as I wanted to flinch, she and her whole party were a reflection of what technology has created. A natural consequence. Said another way, while I’d like to think differently, had the technology been available, I would have probably wanted the same. But I am indeed happy my parents weren’t there. And I am indeed very happy no evidence remains.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

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