It’s not a party until someone loses their pants
The party I attended on Saturday night, was punctuated by a fine Australian tradition – the nudie run.
Sometime after midnight, but while the party was still young, the birthday boy and a few of his mates set off for a swinging lap of their beloved cricket oval, while the party continued alongside at the clubhouse.
Live entertainment is always special, and the guests appreciated the show - though not as much as the runners themselves. So far so normal you may say, except this party was my friend’s 40th not his 21st.
Twenty one - what a season in the sun. For your average, young Australian the fun is unbounded and the stream of celebrations unprecedented.
It’s been a bit of a wait, but I am now in the season of 40ths and keen to see how they measure up. Unless I’m just dipping out badly in the invitation stakes, it seems there is less going on this time round. Many of us have found that time has pruned our social circle and the idea of a party for a “100 close friends” is not feasible. Some are already lying about their age, which makes a 40th tricky. A lot of us want to mark the occasion but only with our personal A list.
As guests on Saturday night discussed who had caught up with whom lately, I found myself accidentally referring to various people’s 21st parties when I meant their 40th parties. This seems a readily diagnosable and slightly pathetic case of willful delusion. But it led me to wonder what the substantive differences are between two of the biggest rounds of parties in our lives.
There is the removal of parental finance from 40ths. Though with that comes the welcome removal of parental influence. No need to invite Aunt Mary or stop Uncle John fondling your girlfriends. And no need to keep yourself nice until Gran has left – may she rest in peace.
Hearing birdsong, as you unlock the door after a big night out has always been unsettling - facing up to the fact that you really have sacrificed an entire night’s sleep. But it’s a whole new game at 40, and a high stakes game too. For parents of young children, walking down the hall in the wee hours after a big 40th feels like walking past a series of timebombs.
If any of the timebombs are school age, there is the unwelcome prospect of being woken 3 hours later by an impertinent “What time did you get home?” To which you will lie, “About midnight”, with a slick automaticity that you may have felt you had lost.
One thing that hasn’t changed since the season of 21sts is the concept of the wingman. The unspoken code amongst the friends from my youth is that if a very close buddy is having a big night, but most particularly if it is their celebration, you need to go to the distance with them. For an old person this can mean a very big and late night.
My partner scoffs at this theory and regards my friends and me as lemmings in this respect. He considers such a code means we all just stay out much later than necessary because no one wants to be the one that calls the night off. Sounds like someone defending a lack of stamina to me though.
There is also the marriage factor. Effectively everyone at the 21sts I attended was unmarried. Accordingly, there was more romance back then, or at least more random coupling. This unpredictable element did inject a certain something into the parties. A few friends are doing what they can to liven things up by becoming freshly single again in time for the 40th season - attending with tales of fearfully ugly separations. But the real wave of divorces for my generation hasn’t broken in time for the 40ths.
The biggest plus at the 40ths is that, if you’re lucky, a few of the people you are celebrating with were also at the 21sts you attended. The effluxion of time has turned something that was good into something that is gold, and we have gained an awareness of the rarity and value of these relationships.
Perhaps you always knew what your friends were like, but at 21 most of them had no idea who they were. Partying with people who have grown into themselves is something to look forward to. And watching them do a nudie run is still amusing too, especially if your eyesight isn’t quite what it used to be.
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