In the Caribbean, we love to ‘fete’ – more in some islands than in others. Trinidad is known as the party capital. They say that the people there can turn anything into a party. In other islands, like my own, we wait for Carnival, where lately, the all-inclusive fetes have been reigning supreme. That means an entrance fee that includes music, drinks and sometimes food, in a secure, theme-filled location.
I remember that when I was a teenager, ‘fetes’ were actually house parties. An invitation to one of these was like gold. In my house, I had better be able to produce the actual invite – word of mouth was not going to cut it. In other households, the younger sister was fortunate if she had an older brother with whom she could tag along. But in any household, that homework and those chores had better be done.
It meant walking on eggshells all day Saturday, because one slip up could cause your mother to call the whole thing off. You call your girlfriends to find out what they’re wearing, and wash your own hair. A nail job meant doing it yourself, maybe with a sparkly polish that might have been diluted with some nail polish remover to make it stretch, but it also made it a little dull.
Your father drops you to the party – way too early, but how are you going to tell your mother that the party doesn’t really start ‘til eleven o’clock. When you get there at nine, she’ll just say that you have four hours to enjoy yourself. Parents just didn’t understand.
You walk up to the house and that dance floor is dark. All the better not to be seen you think, but you wait outside for your friends, because back then, we didn’t have cell phones to call our BFF’s to ask them what was taking them so long. When they do arrive, we girls check out the other girls, and maybe watch as your crush walks on by.
If you’re unattached, you have to endure being asked by guy after guy about whether you would like to dance. Of course, you assess his clothes, hair and breath. If you’re lucky, the boy you’ve been watching all night does ask you to dance, and your girlfriends are abandoned while you proceed to rent-a-tile all night. And you fantasize to the sounds of Michael Jackson, the Commodores and Bob Marley.
You start to check your watch because Daddy said he would be waiting for you outside at one, but you didn’t really want to go. However, with your eyes firmly fixed on that next party, you do what you must.
On Monday, at school, the talk is all about the party. Who was there, who wasn’t. A lot of times that was me. Who danced with whom, and who’s going together now, because you couldn’t really be on the dance floor together for that long and not come back in a committed relationship.