Image by Sistema13, Flickr Creative Commons License
Last Saturday night, I attended my first Mexican wedding. My boyfriend’s cousin got married.
For months, I’d been looking forward to this event, with one gnawing reservation. Mexican weddings famously last an eternity. It’s not that the event is several days long, like a traditional indian wedding (I know all about those! I even cut my reporter teeth on one!). The modern Mexican wedding, as I’ve heard it repeated over and over again, surges forward from sundown to sunrise and beyond. There’s even a traditional Mexican wedding breakfast meal, Chilaquiles, which fuels the dancers through the early morning hours.
If I wanted to fully and actively participate in the event, I’d need to stay up at least until 5 a.m., which wouldn’t be impressive – but maybe, not worthy of derision. Grading me on the gringa curve, the most intense partiers within my boyfriend’s family might let that hour slide.
Unfortunately, there’s no graceful way to duck out early from a Mexican bash. Other social norms cage in the party pooper. Here’s why: when you leave a party you either kiss goodbye everyone at the party, or if that’s simply impossible, you kiss everyone you’ve interacted with at the party. Only the family pariah – or perhaps a cancer patient – would receive a kiss and be allowed to leave without incredible scolding.
(And when I say kiss, I mean kiss on the cheek. Mexicans are party animals, but not party sluts! This is a Catholic country!)
So speaking of Kiss, when that band famously sang “I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day,” the group probably had no idea they were repeating many mexicans’ simple mantra. I never thought of partying as a skill, but it involves a true set of talents and habits, practiced and ingrained in an individual over time. So many people party so poorly – that’s basically what American college is all about. Coeds binge drink for two hours and then, very frequently, they’re either done for the night or they “puke and rally” or blackout (maybe a combination).
But I don’t hear too many stories like that in Mexico. I feel the most common party “foul” is simply falling asleep in an awkward place (take for example,the case of a friend who recently fell asleep outside his own apartment the morning after moving in, making a great impression on the brand new neighbor that found him 20 minutes later).
My problem isn’t alcohol-related. My problem is some kind of unbelievably consistent, internal timer that makes me eyelids start drooping around 1:50 a.m. By 2:15, it nearly chains them down. Sleeeeeeep. I neeeeeeeeeeed it.
Like so many Americans, I don’t have party stamina. I can’t keep up with Mexicans. You know what really drove that point home? Attending an 11-hour barbecue. I did that last year. Getting into a cab at 11:30 p.m. that night, after spending literally half a day at a stranger’s house, I experienced true elation, like I had just finished a 12 year prison sentence.
And so obviously, I worried I wouldn’t make it through a 10, 15, or even 24-hour wedding! I joked about finding a coke dealer. I literally planned to stock up on Red Bull and cram a few cans into my purse or boyfriend’s jacket.
But ultimately, I knew I wasn’t up for the challenge.
So, I trusted in the party! I trusted in Mexicans’ fervor and commitment to THE PARTY. If you say goodbye to people, they’ll remember upbraiding you for leaving early. But if you slyly sneak out, you’ll probably never hear a later complaint. And so…I quietly departed with my boyfriend’s mom at about 2 a.m. And we went home, and starting at 3 a.m., I fell into a deep, glorious slumber.