Bat Mitzvah. Sweet 16. Quinceañera. Three different names, three different cultures, one interchangeable concept: an introduction to womanhood—and more importantly, an opportunity to throw a needlessly lavish party. After all, why even become a woman if you can't do so with a chocolate fountain bubbling in the background? What's the point of maturing if it doesn't put your family further into debt?
On a recent Sunday afternoon, hundreds of excitable young things flocked to the Expo 15 & Sweet 16, located in the bowels of a charmless concrete convention center in Los Angeles. There, they learned (via an endless ream of brochures) about the heights of ball-gown and party technology. They watched an inoffensively wholesome teen pop star poorly, shamelessly, lip-synch. They roamed in packs. They brought their moms.
At an expo like this, girls take photos of the things they want their parents to buy them with the phones their parents bought them. They smack their gum and—with a critic's eye—judge countless gowns as they're trotted down the runway. They are courted by exhibitors who sell them the idea of an adulthood filled with taffeta and rhinestones and cake pops. They can purchase "on-call access" to their very own event planner for the low, low rate of $750 ("A $200 SAVINGS!!!"). They shouldn't get used to it.
Follow Megan Koester on Twitter.