Monday, December 13, 2010

Longing for Some Days of Yore

There are times in life when sometimes, I wish things were a little less modern and we could go back to the way things were in earlier times.

I'm a big fan of many things in the modern world, don't get me wrong. Medicine and technology has moved us leaps and bounds ahead of where we were even a few decades ago. Modern inventions like TV and radio have given us forms of entertainment so that we never feel completely alone. In theory, transportation has made everyone reachable although flying has become far less convenient thanks to terrorism and the price of fuel.

In short, our modern world isn't bad at all. It's actually quite clever and convenient most of the times.

It's just that it moves so fast.

I watched "Meet Me in St. Louis" on Sunday for the first time. For those that haven't seen it, it's a Judy Garland musical about a family in St. Louis who may have to leave their beloved city and move to New York leaving behind boyfriends and the 1903 World's Fair.

It's a movie that's a bit silly at times as any musical is when people spontaneously break into songs that feature made up words to simply rhyme with things.

Yet it's also a sweet movie that makes you wish for simpler times in a way. There's something rather nice about watching everyone get excited about a Christmas ball. Back then, balls were a common form of entertainment. These days, if there's a ball, it's a contrived experience, manufactured to create a them instead of being a perfectly natural way to socialize.

There's something rather lovely about watching people waltz about in pretty dresses and tuxedos where finding a partner to dance with was the biggest worry.

Nowadays, we have parties and clubs. They're far less organized and structured. Parties, in my experience, usually involve a lot of standing around making awkward conversation while scoping out the h'ors d'oevres and trying to resist having another drink because you a) have to drive hom and b) don't really want another drink but it's hard to stand around at a party without a drink.

I've never been a fan of clubs. I've never been able to dress for clubbing because I'm more of a 'classical' dresser than a trendy one. Also, my form of dancing in public involves me stiffly shuffling from foot-to-foot and trying to look like I have rhythm. In private, I can be quite a wild dancer, flailing and swaying with the best of them. I look silly, I know but it's fun to 'dance it out' and let it all go. It's just that the minute I'm in public, Awkward Dancing Mode kicks in and I'm no longer able to just dance it out and, instead, become the human robot.

So, I'm all for balls. Balls involve organized dances. You don't have to shake your booty, you just need to learn the steps. Shows like Dancing with the Stars have made the dance types popular again although to me, many of them look a little too flamboyant and booty shaking to be true ballroom dances but still, I appreciate that it's not a dead form of expression.

I also liked the party scene in "Meet Me in St. Louis" where all the young folk do a rendition of "Skip to My Lou" and other popular songs and have a little organized dance. That was much easier than going to a party, standing around and contemplating if you really want one of those Pillsbury Savouring things or not because like many appetizers, they'll end up being better in theory than practice.

I used to like birthday parties when I was a kid and there were games. In England we played "Pass the Parce" which was my favourite. Basically, you take a small prize and wrap it in a bunch of layers of paper, newspaper, wrapping paper, whatever you have on hand. Everyone sits on the floor in a circle and an adult plays music on a cd player and the parcel gets passed around. Then, the music is periodically stopped and whoever is holding the parcel gets to peel off a layer of paper. If you were lucky enough to unwrap the last layer, you got to keep the prize. The best version were when there were little pieces of chocolate between each layer because that way, everyone got to have a prize of some time. There was also musical chairs, of course as well as pin the tail on the donkey.

My point being is those are my kinds of parties. I guess the grown-up equivalent is a board-game party but those tend to be more gatherings of friends who just sit around and talk and play games rather than an actual social party.

I think it would be fun to have a party where you got to dance in the way they do in movies like "Pride and Prejudice" or "Meet Me in St. Louis." They made it easier for the more socially awkward, like me. I'm ok if I know most people at a party but if I go and I know maybe one or two people, I find them tiring and slightly stressful. I've never been one to walk into a room and say, "hey, everyone, fabulous me is here! The party can begin!"

It's not just about the parties and balls, of course. It's about nifty things like having ice delivered to your house or saying hello to the milkman. It's far less socially engaging to run to Kroger and buy a bag of ice and a quart of milk than it was to know your friendly neighbourhood milkman/ice delivery person.

I'm sure that there were problems in those days. The muddy roads with horse drawn carts were probably not fun in the winter. Not having central heating was probably cold. Not being able to order supplies for a party online was probably far more time consuming than it is today.

But then again, don't you sometimes think it would be nice to live in a world where you can go out to dinner with someone and have them not check their cell phone while you're out?

I'm guilty of it too so I'm not being accusatory. It's just so easy to do and you get so much into the habit of it that manners tend to be a little secondary when you see that red light on your Blackberry blinking.

It's just that sometimes, the old fashioned way of doing things seems friendlier some how. It's nice to see people gathering at a ball or party, actually talking and working together at a dance to make it flow. Everyone had to know the dance but that was a party of society- you learned the dances at a young age.

It was a much slower world back then and as much as I appreciate the convenience and speed of our modern world, sometimes it would be nice to step back and slow down.

Just as long as it doesn't involve spontaneously breaking into song. That's one part of the old musicals I could probably live without.

Happy Tuesday!

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