Saturday, 16 January 2010

A new Polish studniówka fad

Wikipedia takes me aback – it gives a quite comprehensive description of Polish customary ball called studniówka, I can only add it is held in January or early February, before high school leaving exams, which are equivalent to English A-level. Other nations usually celebrate the good results of passed exams, in Poland we throw a party on a sinking boat, the last before future high school leavers knuckle down and begin their cramming spree.

For some this reversed order of taking exams and celebrating might seem weird, nevertheless this tradition has put down roots and nobody will dare to overthrow it. Studniówka, as many other youngsters’ stuff, moves with the times. Back in PRL, balls were thrown in school gyms, in independent Poland, as people have grown richer, clubs and restaurants play host to this party.

Four years ago, when had my own one, it looked quite normal. Parents from my high school decided on hall in Banking and Finance Centre in Warsaw (the former PZPR edifice), where it had been held in the previous years. The setting was a reasonable compromise between austerity and luxury, the most important thing for everyone was to have fun and we achieved it.

But when I look at (maybe exaggerated) the news depicting how it’s organised now I’m struck by how much it has changed, provided it’s true.

Venue – school corridors and gyms are passé, so how about the most expensive in luxurious hotels in Warsaw? Parents from my high school actually kept a cool head!

Budget – I read an average one this year per person is 2000 zł, some six or seven times more than mine. The price of the ball itself might not be much higher than mine (200 zł), but all additional costs inflate the total. I didn’t have to purchase a new suit or shoes, those bought three years earlier for middle school leaving exam weren’t worn out (used a few times), I had tie which suited my polonaise partner’s dress, the only new part of my outfit was a shirt. I heard now a suit but be put on for the first time, dresses for girls are generally disposable…

Hairstyle – my hair were too short to be combed, but what some girls do with their hair and makeup they wear is horrible. A session at hairdresser’s and then in beauty parlance may turn a really good-looking girl into a monster. An average boy who could take this opportunity to pick up such a girl would probably give up his plan and scurry off.

Ball – with all its consequences, it’s not enough to just fork out for it attend it, but you have to know how to behave, how to eat those exquisite meals from menu and act up to the standard.

Transport – we had a choice of three ones – some of us were given a lift and picked up by parents, some used public transport, some took a taxi. But now in some school hiring a limousine is all the rage.

How far will the world go? Does everything have to boil down to showing off? It the nineties it afflicted First Communion. I don’t consider myself religious, but it seems to me that for a child it should be a spiritual experience, but in the contemporary skewed world the climax of the day is getting the new computer, mp4 player, or, Heaven forbid, quad. The same happened to studniówka. Do we have to swank about, try to outbid one another who can afford more? Isn’t good fun more important? Isn’t, after all well-passed matura more important than lavish studniówka?

I voted in a survey:
Studniówka in a luxurious hotel:
1) sure, why not?
2) tough luck, times are changing,
3) stupidity and snobbery,
and chose the third option. The results were respectively: 28%, 9%, 63% and lifted my spirits up. Most people still keep a cool head, but if you want to ask who’s to blame for those extravaganzas, my answers will be the parents, because they agree to pay for the ball. After all, if my child was to have its studniówka and fellow parents outvoted me and pushed ahead some ridiculous ideas, I wouldn’t hesitate to shell out the money for the ball. It happens only once in a lifetime…

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