Quinceanera Craze(1) - The Quinceaera Craze What is the real message of the coming-of-age bash By Liza Mundy In the time and place where I grew upthe

Quinceanera Craze(1) - The Quinceaera Craze What is the...

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The Quinceañera Craze: What is the real message of the coming-of-age bash? By Liza Mundy In the time and place where I grew upthe outskirts of Appalachia, in the late 1970sgirls didn't have coming-out parties. It was not that kind of culture or era; we distrusted any event to which we could not wear Levi's. The closest thing I can remember is a party a group of us held our senior year, the salient feature of which was a line of beer kegs. To the extent that we were commemorating anything, it was the arrival at legal drinking age. Since then, you'd think the coming-of-age party would have been rendered even more outmoded and irrelevant, as vestigial as hoop skirts and hope chests. What on earth does coming of age mean in this time and place, and when can it be said to happen? At the point that a girl turns 11, can no longer find children's clothing for sale in her size, and resorts to cheerleader shorts with "Juicy" or "Hottie" inscribed on the rear? When she leaves 12 behind, and can officially enjoy pole-dancing scenes in PG-13 movies? Once upon a time, there really was a moment when a girl left behind an actual, old-fashioned childhood and embarked on a well-defined period of preparation for motherhood and marriage. Now, childhood ends earlier than ever, while adulthood in the traditional senseof settling down and starting a familybegins much later, if at all. In the middle is a stretch of adolescence so extendedand so various, from teenage parenthood to perpetual studenthoodone hardly knows when coming of age should be celebrated, or why. Yet coming-of-age parties appear to be enjoying a renaissance. The sweet 16, the debutante bash: These stalwarts are again popular, thanks in part to a thriving party-service industry, and they may soon be eclipsed by the quinceañera, the often lavish Latina ceremony that has exploded in popularity in the United States. In her thought-provoking new book, Once Upon a Quinceañera, Julia Alvarez explores a phenomenon that now encompasses quince-themed cruises, quinceañera Web sites, and the inevitable quinceañera Barbie. Like Kwanzaa, the quince is something of an invented tradition. Many immigrant mothers never had a quincetheir families may have been too poor, or upon

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