Or, for something less apocryphal, let's consider bungee jumping. Now it's considered mostly an extreme sport, but originally it was a time when a boy would undergo a primal fear in hopes of proving himself a man. Of course, in the *original* form, it didn't involve a jump into mostly empty space but meant coming within a few feet of the ground, but that's because New Zealand coming-of-age rituals weren't encumbered by liability insurance.
Coming of age...it's an interesting concept. Some sort of boundary past which someone is no longer a child but a full-fledged person. Unsurprisingly, they generally happen around puberty. Unsurprisingly, they generally involve confronting a primal fear, or a look into the unknown. The idea, of course, is a moment which truly separates childhood from adulthood.
And what I have to notice is that today, we have no true coming of age rituals. I mean, you can make a very weak case for things like menarche (which happens to almost all women, and is more or less automatic), or first sexual experience (not a public event...at least usually). But there's no point in life these days when a person really has to step away from their everyday routine and do something special. And I think that's sad.
Of course, it's also rather necessary. The trouble is, no great secrets can be reasonably kept in the day of the internet: you can find all sorts of inside info on pretty much any secret society you might care to name, with only a few minutes' work on Google. So any sort of "secret passed on" scheme just wouldn't work very well, you know? Any trip into the unknown would, by virtue of tort lawyers, be nerfed to the point of not *actually* taking anyone out of their element.
Aside--I was a member of the Order of the Arrow at scout camp. One thing that happened as part of the initiation was that we all stood in a clearing in the woods and were looked over by other members...what they were looking for, we never knew. Then, once I was in the order, I got recruited to be one of the "other members" who oversaw the initiation--but we were told that one of the new members was a bit skittish, so we couldn't do the "staredown."
In fact, it rather bugs me that the only real "initiation ritual" I've ever taken place in is in the moronically homophobic world of the Boy Scouts (where, of course, I got a *lot* of my masturbation fantasies growing up). Joining the Order involved the Mystery Night in the Clearing, a day of service and no spoken communication, even a secret area near the camp...a real ritual (no, I'm actually not breaking any of my "vows" by revealing any of this). Other groups I've joined have mostly been "hey, sign here."
Why all the fuss? Well, I think that a real problem with my life in particular is the homogenization of days. One day, even a "special" day, tends to be much like any other...and I cherish "iconic" moments, moments that really stick out in the memory, individual moments that really represent more than the few seconds in time they occupy. Moments which stand out in the memory...
I've made a few special moments for myself: the time I first decided I could take a vacation to see a show just because I wanted to see it, the time I first came out to a friend, the--
Ah yes, coming out...the only real "coming of age" ritual it seems we have left. And it really does divide the men from the boys...but only some of us get it. Nevertheless, because we've had to go through it, had to reach out of our comfort zone into that world of horror stories we're always hearing about publicly gay people and the many kinds of homophobia that some have to endure...I think we're stronger and (dare I say it?) better people for it.
I have faced the fear the world put upon me, and I remain. And that's something. That's a part of the *me* that faces the world. And that, my friends, may be the most important lesson I've ever learned.