Parties are Fun, but What About the Long Run?

June 26, 2009
By Lydia MacDougall BRONZE, Ardsley, New York
Lydia MacDougall BRONZE, Ardsley, New York
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Parties are not at all rare for kids like me who live in Westchester County. So, even though I am only fourteen, you could refer to me as an expert in this field. Most girls’ closets are filled with dresses—wearing one twice is out of the question. Whether it is a bar/bat mitzvah, Sweet Sixteen, or any type of celebration, the parties are all quite similar. There is an unlimited amount of food and drinks, and everyone has a great time. As the party progresses, everyone becomes eager to know what the theme is, and entering the main room takes most people’s breath away. But the teens attending the party do not find it breathtaking at all. This is simply the norm for them: every weekend they go to these parties and do not think much of them. They never think of how long it took to plan the party, they never think how expensive it was, and most importantly, they never realize the effects of parties like these. They have become too extravagant, damaging our youth in the long run.
Pat James, the elite party planner in New York City, has arranged some crazy celebrations. “It gets pretty competitive among the parents,” states James. “They all feel the need to publicly demonstrate their affluence.” They do whatever it takes to have their child’s party be the best. For those, a nice Manhattan club will not do, so they have the parties at places like “Yankee Stadium and Radio City Music Hall” (Segal). I know the parents are trying to make their kid feel good, but after that, will they ever be able to appreciate a simple party at home?

Most high school students look forward to the Prom, and believe it will be the most memorable night of their lives. That remains true until they attend a fanciful sweet sixteen. The sweet sixteen was in a club in New York City, and it was the coolest party of the year. And when it comes to the Prom, a year or so later, they cannot help but feel disappointed. The Prom does not even come close to the party they attended before, and now the most memorable night of your life is not too memorable. One could blame it on the school, but perhaps your perspective would have been different if you had not attended that party when you were sixteen.

According to the dictionary, a bar mitzvah is a “ceremony that recognizes a boy”, and considers him an “adult and responsible for his moral and religious duties” (Bar mitzvah). At this rate, this definition should be changed to one that more suits reality—a fun party. In New York City, “the bar mitzvah capital of the world,” a large bar mitzvahs costs anywhere from $100,000-$250,000 (Segal). They recruit the most popular bands, of course, and they have to have gourmet food. They also have to have prizes and gifts for each guest. In just a few hours, four years of an average New Yorker’s salary, $46,000, is spent on entertaining a “few dozen well-dressed preteens” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic).

Because of these tremendous parties, the religious aspect is almost completely ignored in bar/bat mitzvahs. Rabbis, the religious officials of synagogues, have come to be disappointed in the way bar and bat mitzvahs are celebrated today. In my experience, the majority of the kids attending the service are disrespectful, and do not pay close attention. They are frequently disrupting the eservice, and they even text each other throughout. According to Jon-Jay Tilsen, the Rabbi of Congregation Beth El-Keser, “these events miss the point”. He feels that “a bar mitzvah is about connection to community and connection to God, [and] accepting responsibility”. If you asked teens at the party what the person’s torah portion was, they most likely would have no idea. They would remember, however, the awesome casino theme.

Everyone knows parties are fun, but how much is too much? Having a teenager’s party costing as much as a wedding is outrageous. Furthermore, what if the girl who had the huge bat mitzvah at Radio City Music Hall lost her money, and she could now only afford a low-key wedding. Would this affect the way she saw her future? And as she walks down the aisle, everyone cannot help but notice the tint of unhappiness exposed on her face. This would all be avoidable if the size of parties were consistent with the importance of the occasion. We also must realize living a life like this can hurt many teens. If they live in this sort of fantasy land, they will never learn how to survive in the real world—they need to realize that people work to get food on the table, not to have it served to them from an endless buffet.

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