Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming of Age Blowouts

Lakshmi Chaudhry has an article over at The Nation, Latina America Lavishly Comes of Age, that dissects the latest cross-cultural ritual of blowing wads of cash on an Old World tradition. An English Major's Money recently did a post on attending a lavish bar mitzvah, and Chaudhry joins the fray with the quinceaƱera.
    The fiesta is less about preserving an ancestral tradition than celebrating and affirming a Latino identity that simply didn't exist in the old country. The American version of the ritual was born of the quintessential immigrant desire to give the children what the parents were denied back in the home country--in this case, an out-of-reach fantasy reserved for the daughters of the wealthy.
I haven't been to a bar/bat mitzvah in years, never to a quinceaƱera, and the last sweet sixteen party I went to was in 1986 and I discovered I was hideously allergic to wine coolers (imagine a pink frog with chicken pox). But I've had to buy presents for the gamut of graduations, from kindergarten to high school, and don't even get me started on bridal showers. Celebrations seem to have gone the way of a Tolstoyian ballroom gala before the decline of the aristocracy.
    Corporate America loses no opportunity to transform traditions into selling opportunities, and communities into market segments, but we have also colluded in our own enslavement. Be it in Tehran, New York City or Beijing, consumerism has become our antidote of choice to alienation and displacement. In conflating value with a price tag, we've allowed every meaningful aspect of our twenty-first-century life--identity, love, faith, even resistance to tyranny--to be transformed into an empty imperative to spend, our most sacred rites performed at the cash register.


Mrs. Micah said...

Even weddings are kind of ridiculous. I'm all about celebrating and having a beautiful ceremony, but Bride's magazine can make me feel ill.

The wedding was the only "real" coming-of-age party I had. When I was 10 we did go to Chuck E. Cheese...does that count?

Ms. M&P said...

Is it bad that I've spent hours of my life watching Super Sweet 16? It's like a train wreck I can't tear my eyes away from. The funny thing is that the show probably breeds more extravagance--and it's all fueled by corporate's kind of a perfect example of what I think starts all of the ridiculous parties.

PiggyBankBlues said...

micah- i love chuck e cheese! okay, maybe love is too strong a word... but yeah, it totally counts. and bride's magazine is definitely vomit inducing.

m&p-reality shows are addictive. my personal favorite is the one with the ufc training camp on spike tv. and the dwarf family on tlc. so super sweet 16 really isn't bad at all.