Friday, 20 April 2012

WHAT IS THE NEED OF A BIRTHDAY PARTY?

Yesterday was a Thursday in this part of the world.

When I woke up in the morning, I was completely at a loss. I did not have much to do; I had given the fiction I was writing a break because clearly, I was beginning to get lost. I had one or two unread novels but there is one I need to collect from a friend to enable me complete a series before I can move on. I had nothing to do because I was also not in the mood to watch any movies or meet up a friend for a date. That's how messy my morning was.

As I contemplated how best to let the day pass usefully, one of my cousins rushed in from the bathroom.
" Daisy, come with us to a Michel's birthday. She is turning 18! Their home is not so far." She said excitedly. There are only two reasons why I did not turn my cousin down. One was the fact that she never turns me down unless it is really important that she does so. And secondly, the two of us are rarely together. We always seem to exchange destinations so that when I am 'here' she is 'there' and when I am 'there' she is 'here'. So for those two reasons, I agreed to go with them.(Another cousin was coming too)

I have to say that I am not a 'party animal' and the fact that I was going to meet strangers heightened my anxiety. So, on impulse, I decided to call a few friends and tell them about my mission. Two or three wished me luck but the rest were either too pessimistic or knew me too well. Any way, I went for the party.

The living room was packed with teenagers who all seemed to be chewing something. But I did not get tasty at that point. I took my seat and begun using my eyes... oh yeah, I greeted a few people. They were all 'dressed' and any one who has been to Nairobi and managed to interact with a 'streetwise' Nairobi teenager will tell you that an average 16 year old 'Nairobian' is more 'American' than the Americans themselves. So I continued looking at their dress codes in amusement. As a matter of fact I have no problem with what one wears as long as its relevant to the occasion. But I still remain faithful to the instructions of my spiritual mum and my dressing always reflect that anywhere. Anyway, this is not about me.

So, after idly sitting down watching the girls and boys, I walked over to the birthday girl to have a chat with her. She did not appear interested and so, I shortened my questions. What struck me about everything she said was that none of her guardians was around. It was only friends who would feast as much as they wanted and then disperse to their homes! I found that rather awkward. What then was the purpose of the birthday party? Was it simply celebration and no other meaning? Why do people hold birthday parties? I rarely honour invitations to birthdays from people because I don't get the essence. Why would you invite me for a birthday party to simply eat and drink? What then? I can eat and drink anywhere else!

The purpose of holding birthday parties is really underrated in this age, yet those who are privileged to have them can use them as opportunities to learn and get ready for the new year. I have heard stories of birthday parties that turned tragic; some I have read turn into sex orgies... all these for what? My classmates tell me very disturbing stories about birthday bashes they have been to and I hold my breath for a very long time. They proudly tell me how they drunk a lot of alcohol until they walked on their knees or how they flirted with the birthday boy. Maybe I am ancient but if that's all I am going to do at a birthday party, then I would rather count all the leaves on my favorite tree during that time, if it is true I have nothing else to do with that kind of time.

Why do people hold birthday parties? For fun? Maybe, but you can have fun on any other day. I cannot exactly say what should be done on a birthday, all I want to suggest is that one should really think of why they need a birthday party before they hold one. Age, I am told is not an achievement. You don't do anything special to clock 21 so you don't have to 'make much noise' about it except you have a reason to. And having a party that is not organized is just worse. A birthday party is not supposed to be handled like child's play. It is a serious affair and needs to be handled as such. I would rather the day was spent drumming sense into the head of the birthday girl/boy. Is it any wonder that I prefer older-responsible people gracing my birthday party?

So, after a little more than ten minutes, I was bored by the continued music and snacks and random talks and I started moving towards the door. I was on my way out.

But something caught my ears just a few centimeters from the door and I decided to sit down and listen. I was soon to discover that there were so many conversations around and I listened to whatever I could. Some two girls were arguing about the name of Lil Wayne's grandpa so seriously that I thought they would rein blows on each other. But that is not what caught my ears. A group of three girls were praising their birthdays while criticizing their friend's. I just smiled to myself. But soon, their conversation shifted to boyfriends and to my disbelief, one of them asked a very silly question.
"Can a girl get pregnant if she has sex while unconscious?"
I was utterly shocked, I mean who doesn't know the answer to that? But to my horror, none of the other two girls knew the answer. That shocked me because these girls looked all knowing. The make-up was expertly done, clothes nicely matching... Seriously, if you know how to work around these, then a question as simple as that was not supposed to have been asked in the first place.
"I am not sure, but I doubt you can get pregnant while unconscious!" One of them said.(Anyone who has been to Nairobi knows that I have tried to correct the grammar). I felt like screaming. What then do they do during their seemingly glorious birthday parties? There are things you are supposed to know by the time you are 17 for sure.

I am never good with teenagers but I took sometime to tell them facts like they are. You should have seen their surprised faces.

Something needs to be done and the sooner the better. Children should understand the basics before the non-essentials. You might be affluent all right but it is so ridiculous if your 18 year old can drive, perhaps even fly a helicopter but doesn't know the circumstances under which one can get pregnant. So basically, birthday parties should be used partly for such lessons. Need I tell you that I disappeared from the party after less than thirty minutes? I guess I don't have to.

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