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Party Culture on Hold

Last Saturday night, I was returning from an improv club meeting when I stopped by Commons patio to see about this dance party that I had seen advertised by colourful posters in the dining hall and on the PAC Instagram account.  I had expected it to be similar to the Silent Disco that took place toward the beginning of the term (except with out-in-the-open sound). But despite members of the Program and Activity Council (PAC) dancing their hearts out, this event wasn’t well-attended—in fact, it appeared that the only people in attendance were the members of PAC and their immediate friends.  

I decided to return to my house for some post-election talk and a much needed catch-up with friends, with the intention of returning in an hour or so in the hopes that the party would pick up over time.  While we listened to Kamala Harris’ galvanizing voice sound out of someone’s phone, we talked about how the term was going and how it was obviously different.  Two of my friends are seniors, and when I told them about the dead party outside, one of them remarked how much she missed parties and that she would never get to go to one at Bennington again because she’s graduating next term.  I sympathized with her completely, and reflected how just the act of getting ready for a party—putting on makeup, deciding on an outfit, borrowing jewelry from a friend, gathering together in someone’s room, and finally going in a group around  half-past midnight—had become such a ritual for me.  

Without this ritual, it’s almost as if this isn’t the same Bennington College I left in March.  Now, obviously, it’s impossible for parties to return under the constant looming danger of COVID-19, and our joint sense of responsibility and conscientiousness is keeping us safe (and much safer in comparison to other colleges.)  I acknowledge our restraints and am so proud of the way we have integrated this culture of holding ourselves accountable for this shift in our daily lives. But at the same time, some of my dearest friendships began before, during, or right after Bennington parties.  

I keep thinking about the freshmen and how they have no idea what they are missing out on.  Maybe nothing much: broken windows, dancing on tables, individuals in various states of (un)dress.  Maybe they’ve dodged a bullet; or maybe I just miss it too much (even if it is now proven not to be essential to our lives).  I look at a weekend like this past one and think how this under-attended dance “party” feels like a tease for what once was, and I can’t help but be a little nostalgic for the way things used to be. 

I left my common room after about an hour and checked back in on the dance party.  It was already winding down well before midnight.  The lights they had had on were off, and there was no more music, just a handful of students dancing (or sitting) to the beat of their own drummer.  I let out a dejected sigh, and turned my head away from the scene.  And as I turned my head, my eyes found one of the trees in front of Commons.  My line of sight traveled up, and I saw a black plastic folding chair stuck in one of the boughs.  I snapped a photo and laughed to myself.  Maybe the vestiges of our party culture still live on.

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