things you can do when you turn 18

So, Kristina has been looking forward to yesterday’s birthday for some time.  I have had mixed feelings about it.

I was a little worried when I realised that she would turn 18 at the beginning of her senior year of high school.  Some time back I warned her that I did not want to hear, “I’m 18 and I can do what I want,” even once during her senior year.

And then warned her again.

Now that the day is here, I am no longer worried.  She’s matured a lot in the last year or two, and we get along pretty well without me being a hardass.  And she knows I’ll change the locks and report the car stolen if she gives me a rough time.



This year she’s in a hybrid program of high school and college courses, with a flexible schedule. She works, has a boyfriend, keeps up with friendships and clubs, and occasionally needs to be reminded to do her laundry.  It’s as if she’s at college now – but without the risk of her roommate barfing on her shoes after a frat party.

Practically, her life is not really all that different from a week ago.

But in very real ways, her rights, privileges, and responsibilities have altered significantly.  In the United States, she is an adult now.

Things You Can (Legally) Do On Your Own at 18 (in the US)

  • Vote
  • Open a checking account
  • Get an adult driver’s license (meaning you can drive at all hours)
  • Get a tattoo/piercing
  • Be drafted into the military
  • Enlist in the military
  • Serve on a jury
  • File a lawsuit
  • Be sued
  • Change your name
  • Buy spray paint
  • Work more hours
  • Pawn something
  • Get married
  • Get divorced
  • Adopt a child
  • Be on Jerry Springer
  • Go on a cruise
  • Buy a lottery ticket (*story below)
  • Get a hotel room
  • Get a Costco membership
  • Skydive or go bungee jumping
  • Sign legal documents/contracts
  • Gamble
  • Secure a loan
  • Finance a car
  • Buy insurance
  • Donate blood
  • Earn credit (and check your credit score)
  • Buy porn (or other adult material)
  • Buy cigarettes (or other tobacco products)
  • Be convicted as an adult
  • Go to adult jail
  • Work in an alcohol-serving establishment
  • Apply for a business license
  • Apply for a credit card
  • Go to a strip club
  • Work in a strip club
  • Enter a contest
  • Write a check
  • Get utilities in your name
  • Lease an apartment or house
  • Buy a house
  • Cash a savings bond
  • Buy nitrous oxide
  • Rent a post office box
  • Start a 401K plan

This is probably not an exhaustive list, but I’m exhausted contemplating all these possibilities.

*promised story:

One of Kristina’s dearest friends shares her birthday.  Yes – the same birthday, the same year, born within 30 minutes of each other.

Yesterday, they went to the 7-11 store near their school.  Kristina asked to buy a scratch ticket. Naturally, the tired woman behind the counter asked for ID.

Kristina was more than pleased to oblige.  Then repeat the process when K’s friend asked for her own scratch ticket.

On noting the same date on both state-issued driver’s licenses, the 7-11 lady cocked an eyebrow, and growled, “You have the same birthday?!?” clearly not believing it for a second.

Next stop: free beverages at Starbucks, where they had to face birthdate disbelief all over again.

And so worth it.


  • Wonderful post!
    i especially love the list of things you can do on your own at age 18 in the states. I thought that the one that says buy a house, said buy a horse and i was kinda stoked about that at first… 🙂

    my next favourite is you can buy nitrous oxide at any age? you can just buy it? awesome. hopefully peeps are using it for their cars and not playing their own brain chemistry experiments, but either way I guess you are 18 now so you be the boss of your brain and your car.


    i love you

  • Yep, I was surprised at that one, too. I love the Fast & Furious movies. Yes, I do.

    Also, I didn’t realise there was an age for spray paint, and I was going to look up fireworks, but then I didn’t and I was okay with that.


    Another also, I thought about writing that this was not supposed to be a checklist. It’s not supposed to give her ideas, but she’s pretty creative anyway.

  • Awesome! It spins my head around that you can do all this, but can’t order a beer in the bar where you work. Kids got drafted to Vietnam and couldn’t (legally) have a goodbye whiskey with their Dad.

    Also, I love the whole “I’m 18 and you’re not the boss of me!!” phenomenon. “I am the boss of my brain and car!” 😀

  • I agree. That’s one they should be able to share. Or a scotch. Whichever.

    And I figure the person driving gets to choose the music. Unless it causes physical pain to others.

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