As part of a big family, I have relatives ranging from newborns to grandparents. Spending time with them this summer, I observed an interesting phenomenon that seems to explain the course of life in simple and universal terms: the relationship between drink of choice and developmental state or age.
Different age groups drink different beverages and people can often be quite accurately identified by the beverages they drink. Also, gaining access to a new, 'advanced' drink serves as a visible right of passage from one developmental stage to the next.
Each of us experiences the phases of life at different times and in different ways, so it's hard to try to explain the course of life in general terms. Until now
Fetus: Amniotic Fluid/Urine
No, really. During the 10th week of pregnancy, fetuses start to urinate into the amniotic fluid and later tap into this to drink. Even more interesting is that if the amniotic fluid is sweet, fetuses will actually drink more of it.
Newborn: Mother's Milk/Formula
Whether parents choose breastfeeding, formula or a combination of the two, the milk a newborn drinks is meant for nourishment to allow the newborn to gain up to an ounce a day for a full three months. This must be a pretty delicious drink, too, newborns are supposed to be nursed 8-12 times a day.
Toddler: Water and Juice
At this stage, babies and toddlers start to drink water and juice, often served in a sippy cup or juice box. Common juices of choice are apple, orange and cranberry.
This is also the Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, SunnyD stage if you want to get nostalgic.
Gaining the permission to order a soda at dinner is one of the defining developmental milestones of life. The crack of the can, the exciting fizziness, and the invigorating sugar rush from a Coke or Sprite is unlike anything else. It was the good old days when you couldn't even read "65g of sugar" on the can.
Elementary/Middle Schooler: Shirley Temple
These pre-teens are too cool for a lot of things, including the run-of-the-mill sodas of their youth. Yet, they aren't quite old enough to start drinking alcohol. Stuck in the in-between, tweens like to order fancy virgin drinks like the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers.
High Schooler: Beer
Everyone gets exposed to alcohol at different times, so beer may not be the definite, universal high school drink. But of all the alcoholic beverages, beer best reflects high schoolers and is often the way teens are introduced to drinking.
College Student: Vodka, Coffee
No, not together. But a college student has probably tried it. Yes, college kids still drink beer, but they're more associated with vodka, as it's often used in drinks with the same juices they enjoyed in their toddler phase.
As for coffee, a critical event occurs between move-in and Thanksgiving when people develop a loving relationship/addiction with the caffeinated drink.
20 Something: Mixed Drinks
Past the cheap vodka stage of college and more likely to have an income, legal-age drinkers often reach for sophisticated cocktails like cosmopolitans, Manhattans, margarits and mojitos.
Married Couples and Parents: Wine
With responsibilities like a career, marriage and children, people in this stage of life often sip on a glass of red or white with dinner to wind down at the end of a long day. They also often develop a deeper appreciation for the taste and quality of their alcoholic beverages.
Middle Aged: Seltzer
At this stage in life, people want to look and feel younger and healthier. To do this, many of them cut out sugary and alcoholic drinks and swap them with "not as awesome" but still "not as boring as water" beverages like seltzer or diet soda (which is not good for you either as it turns out). Although recently, seltzer has been making a come-back among the younger generations.
Grandparent: Scotch, Tea
Again, not together. By grandparenthood, one has all drinks possible at their disposal. Yet, scotch (Scottish whisky) as well as tea give off an air of sophistication, wisdom and class that can only be embodied by a grandparent.
In some ways, the drinks we consume define special times in our lives. We recall some of our fondest memories by tasting our favorite drinks and we remember some of our favorite people by their drinks of choice. If something as simple as a drink can be used to explain the chronology of life, what else can?