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Coming of Age (Sexual Maturity)

Updated on July 9, 2011


We oftentimes hear people refer to some rituals, occasions and celebrations as a “coming out” or the “coming of age”.

Earlier in my life, in a place far far away and a time long long ago, some people might mistake this term to refer to people who might have previously been “hiding indoors” or “hiding out”.


But I am not referring to some people who might be referring to those who were figuratively “coming out of their closet”.

Don’t get me wrong, they are indeed “coming out” into the open and are obviously “coming of age”, otherwise they would have no idea as to what they were “coming out” of and as to what they are “coming in” to. But so to be clear, I am not referring to this kind of coming out and I am not referring to the LGBT community.


And so what am I referring to, this “coming of age” thing?

The simplest thing I can think of is that “coming out” celebrations are there mainly to tell the world that these previously innocent kids have now moved from the PG Rating into the R Rating and even beyond.

Meaning, they have reached sexual maturity.

They are now ready to shift from dressing up their Barbie dolls to them being dressed up as Barbie dolls, or something like that.

For the boys, it could be a shift from playing with their “GI Joe” action figures into them waking up with “GI Joe” standing in attention. Again, or something like that.

Now, the tricky part, because we all come from different cultures, different traditions, different faith beliefs and just because we are all different physically or psychologically, there are some very different ages when certain people in different societies “come out” or “come of age”.

As I have mentioned people mature differently, physically, mentally, emotionally and also sexually. There is no easy way to generalize but many different societies have developed their own rites of passage rituals and more often than not, these will tell you when their kids become young adults.


And because as I have said we come from different backgrounds, in some societies kids “coming of age” will have to go through and even pass certain rituals or tests, some of which are now going to seem barbaric to civilized societies. But we are not going to delve into that.


What we might consider going into is the proper ages in which certain societies dictate or expect their children to “come out” so to speak. For that might be generally a good thing to find out or be aware of.

But anyway, in today’s world, our children seem to be maturing faster and faster because of the explosion of knowledge in their everyday life and they being exposed to more things that they shouldn’t be exposed to at such tender ages.  But  in our wired world of today, there is no escaping that.

And this is both good and bad. And it could get pretty uglier still in the years to come if you’d ask me.


Anyhow, today, we might still be able to pinpoint when certain societies could imagine or could see their kids to come of (the right sexual) age.  Although, we do know that both and girls mature differently and they vary from person to person. Some boys do not mature at all, but that’s a different matter.

We also know that when girls start to have their monthly periods, then that is a sure sign that their bodies are just about the right age. For boys it could be when they grow facial and body hair and their voices crack but it’s a good thing they do not have to have a monthly visit from you know who or else they will be even worse to deal and live with than their female counterparts. One partner in the house with painful menstrual cramps is enough.


So even though we are aware that both external and internal signs signal the age of sexual maturity, all societies have their own rituals and celebrations and they have it at different ages. And if you aren’t aware of them yet, this could be pretty interesting. Let us take a look at a few of them.


In certain Native American Tribes, I have heard that their young will go through a ceremony which is commonly known as a Rite Of Passage Ceremony or a Native Coming Of Age Ceremony, so aptly named I suppose. And after this ceremony a young girl or a young boy will then be a young adult. The age for their coming out will be when they are 13.

Generally, the young girls are “instructed” on how to act as the youngest members of the adult society, they are prayed over and they have to do certain things to fulfill their rite of passage.

Quinceaera the movie
Quinceaera the movie


Mexican and most Hispanic females go through a ceremony which they call the Quinceañera.

The only simple way to describe this ritual is to imagine an entire family and their relatives and friends treating a young girl as a princess for one day. Yes, even when they have to sell most of what they have, borrow some more or raid the cookie jar, the piggy bank and the college fund to fund these oftentimes lavish and extravagant celebrations. And then like the Native American girl who went through her traditional rite of passage, the Hispanic girl is then looked upon as a young adult, but not until the age of 15.  (The Spanish word for fifteen is you know it, quince).

The more notable parts of the Quinceañera is the Quince dance or the Quinceañera Waltz (or the El Bals) and daughter-father dance, between the Quince girl and her dad.

My Sweet Super 16 the movie
My Sweet Super 16 the movie


Okay now we move up to the north, to the North Americans, the young girls in the U.S.A. and even in Canada, they have their own Quinceañera and they commonly refer to it as a Sweet Sixteen Birthday Party.

In structure is could be likened to the Mexican Quinceañera. And we can even compare both of them to weddings in pomp and splendor. And the overheads will attest to that. For just as we have Wedding Planners, there are also Quinceañera Planners and Sweet Sixteen Party Planners out there ready to tackle this once in a lifetime big money event.

 North American girls become young adults at 16. So that’s why it’s called sweet sixteen.

The more notable parts of the Sweet Sixteen, like the Quinceañera is the Father-daughter dance and the lighting of the candles, 16 candles to be exact.  Some do light 17 candles, for good luck mostly or some other superstitious reason.


At the other side of the Pacific Ocean, there is also a big “coming out” party similar to the Mexican Quinceañera and the American Sweet Sixteen. Over there they call it the Debut. And the same as its counterparts in North, Central and South America, most Filipino families go all out for these once-in-a-lifetime celebrations.

The one major difference is that Filipino girls (or Filipinas) become young adults at 18. Filipinos or Filipino boys debut at age 21. The most notable parts of the Debut is again like its counterparts, the Father and Daughter Dance, but instead of the 16 candles they have 18 roses and the Grand Cotillion (Waltz), yes much like in the glorious olden days of European Royalty.

Grand Cottilion
Grand Cottilion


As you can see, coming outs tend to get older and older from one culture to the another.

And in other parts of Asia, such as in China, Japan, Korea and other similar societies, they come out at an older age, as their young girls tend to have their “coming out” ages at 20.

Bat mitzvah
Bat mitzvah


Aside from the Jewish communities where their young girls celebrate Bat Mitzvah when they turn 12 and 13 for boys with their Bar Mitzvah, the only other notable rite of passage I can still add will be in the Indian (Hindu) communities. It is called Ritu Kala Samskara, celebrated by Indian girls at age 13.

So there you go, different strokes for different folks, but all “coming out” parties just the same.

Hope you get to be invited at least once in all these “coming of age” celebrations.



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