Monday, November 06, 2006

Except they didn't end it with "Stairway to Heaven"

Maybe your office has an annual uncomfortable christmas party, and a summer barbeque, but we have both of those, times two, plus one with a DJ and a sit-down dinner: The Marine Ball.

One may suppose that after some time as a diplomat, one grows accustomed to gala evenings of tuxedos (known locally as "smokings") and ballgowns. After enough National Day celebrations and balls and such, perhaps they stop feeling silly. Maybe there is, after all, a point where one can stop referring to such things from the only frame of reference your average young Foreign Service Officer can, i.e. "It's like the Prom. Except with an open bar."

Suspecting that my slight cynical streak may have taken root early, one of my colleagues asked me not too long ago if I had attended the prom in high school. I told her that I had indeed gone to the prom, stinking of irony, because it seemed like such a corny, funny thing to do. She replied: "That's so sad." I suppose she was right, and fourteen years later, we went totally irony-free to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I didn't manage to rent a smoking, but I did manage to wear a tie that didn't have any cartoon characters on it. The Lovely Katherine even went out with the girls and got her hair did. Maybe we're older and have learned to appreciate the rare moments that pass by without keeping them at arm's length. Or maybe it's just easier to get enthusiastic about a dance with an open bar.

The event itself is celebrated at every U.S. Embassy around the world (and probably other places that Marines gather) to honor the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps. It features a speech by the oldest Marine veteran in the country, the symbolic cutting of a birthday cake with one of those Marine swords, a DJ playing salsa and hip-hop, and (did I mention the open bar?) a couple Guatemalan bartenders who stare at customers blankly when you order complicated drinks like "whiskey en las rocas." It was a fabulous time. With luck, we still have plenty of time before we slide from sneering past enthusiastic and all the way into world-weariness.


EEK! said...

Seriously ... I did Prom with all attendant eye-rolling as a kid, but when my buddy Brigid scored tickets to a gala this year? We grabbed a guy friend as our collective date, spent a day pulling together vintage accessories, primped and put on eyeshadow of all things, picked up our dude who wore a silk wiseguy suit sans irony and drank the hell out of the open bar and even danced to the wedding band with all kinds of glee. I think Prom is wasted on the young ... when I was 16 I would have been just as happy hanging out by the lake with an illegal fire and a warm hooded sweatshirt.

MsBoombastic said...

As the Holla's date at said prom, I can confirm both the irony-steeped attendance and the tie emblazoned with cartoon characters. (Or maybe just one cartoon character -- I think it was Snoopy.) I managed to ditch the ironic distance and start enjoying silly parties by law school (which is, in many varied and somewhat frightening ways, much like high school), where, at the end of each semester, they threw us a semi-formal dance party that we nicknamed "Law School Prom." Not coincidentally, the open bar also aided in the enjoyment of these events.