Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wedding and Bar Mitzvah parties are not fun.

Once upon a time, a big party probably had some utility. People, in general, didn't eat very well, and household entertainments were limited so it was a genuine treat to go to a big hall and eat fine food, while a band performed. Once upon a time, dancing wasn't lame. Once upon a time, it meant something to dress up.

But all that's over.

We can agree that the dinner served at the typical bar mitzvah or wedding is always going to be less interesting and less tasty than a meal made at home or purchased at a fine restaurant. We can agree that no one is excitedly waiting to hear a simcha band perform. And, we can agree, that only 19 and 20 year-olds really enjoy circle dancing, while the rest of us find it boring and purposeless.

But it gets worse.

Attending a party costs you time. You need to dress up and you need to get there and back. It also costs you money as its rude to appear without a check. And then there's the opportunity cost. Consider all of the other, more important things, you can do with the time. Thanks to our stupid smart phones there is always work to do, and if there's no work to do the wedding or bar mitzvah cuts into valuable vegging-out time.

And for what? A plate of the aforementioned mediocre food, and the chance to see people? (Forget about talking to people; the band is often too loud.) Even a sarcastic "yay" sounds too exuberant.

I believe we make parties because we've always made parties. Its an inherited tradition, dating back to the day when parties really were a fun and appropriate way to mark a great occasion. Like all traditions, this one carries subjective significance. If we married off a daughter or celebrated a son's 13th without an old-fashioned celebration, the day would feel diluted and it would seem as if the child had been cheated.

Is there anything we, as a people can do, to get over this? If we were starting from scratch, with no inherited baggage, how would we construct a celebration? I admit I'm stumped.

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