WELCOME TO EARTH-4
A Column by J. Torrey McClain
I just finished reading all six trade paperbacks for the main story of Locke & Key. (I will get to the side stories as soon as I finish Brightest Day and catch up on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, if other comics on my wish list don’t distract me first.) It is fabulous in its creativity and has a few chilling scares. One thing stuck in my mind though, and as readers know, that’s what causes my keyboard to clack and click. In this case, the question I pose to myself is, “At what age do we lose our innocence?”
Per Locke & Key and many forms of government all over the United States and abroad, the age that innocence ends is 18, or in other words, around the time a person graduates high school. In Locke & Key, the junior members of the Locke family host a party at the end of high school for the people that know about the keys because the knowledge will fade as adulthood surges into the body and possesses it. I don’t quibble with Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez on their selection of this age or time in our lives, I just wonder what makes 18 the magic age at which we become adults. Not only is 18 generally when people graduate high school, it’s when they are given the right to vote, it’s the age when they can own a gun in California and the last thing that comes to my mind is that it’s when they can enlist in the armed forces to fight and possibly die for their country. I suppose any of those things could convey a degree in adulthood or at least a grown-up GED certificate.
However, you can’t drink alcohol legally until you’re 21. You can drive a two-ton vehicle capable of killing people at the age of 16. You graduate college sometime around the age of 22. You graduate law school at around the age of 25 if you start right out of undergraduate school. Medical school is even longer. If you are still in school, can you be an adult? What if you are paying every one of your bills? What if you’re not?
As much as movies, musicals, TV and our peers would have us believe, the first time a person has sex does not delineate a child from an adult. One event does not an adult make, but I’m sure thoughts of our events mold the future adult. Anything where you can cavalierly throw out the phrase, “You lost your cherry” is not magic wisdom. It also has nothing to do with consumption like the first credit card, the first purchase of a bed or the first car purchase. It has nothing to do with a person’s first battle or firefight. I could go on, but I think I’ve instilled the idea that I believe that “adulthood” whatever that is, is more of a spectrum than a moment.
Still, all this writing and it isn’t the “exact” age of becoming an adult that interests me as much as the idea of the individual versus everyone else. As far as individuals go, the one I know best is myself. When did I lose my innocence? It’s a question I ask a lot as innocence is something that society seems to value highly and the idea of what exactly innocence is, escapes me. I don’t really know if I’ve completely lost it yet, but it’s close. After talking to a Lyft passenger last night, I really think that my innocence started to trickle away when I embraced cynicism. Being cool by not liking things is part of getting older. Even as I try to be a fan and love all the cool and fun things that we at borg.com celebrate, my innocence is mostly gone even though I can still blush with excitement at a new experience. I hope I never lose my wonder of seeing the beauty of the world, loving a sunset, the surging of adrenaline about a new road trip, cracking open a new trade paperback, attending opening weekend of a movie or kissing, but you never know. It’s certainly less enthusiasm than when I was younger. If you don’t mind, I’m going to pull a John Cougar and try to hold onto 16 (or 18, or 21, or 22 or … ) for as long as I can whatever that is.
I don’t know. Maybe innocence is uncertainty. Maybe innocence is unconditional love. Maybe it’s all of these things I’ve mentioned like age, experience and joy. More than likely it’s a combination of all of these things and while we might not forever be 18, we can make believe that every tomorrow will be the party where we forget all about the keys and the magic that can exist in the world. Lucky for us, tomorrow never comes.