Birthday parties grow up, too

The lights were low but the spirits were high. There was sushi and pizza and macaroons and Pinkberry frozen yogurt. There were a hundred kids dancing and eating and chatting under the dim blue glow of the lights. There were bright white flashes from cell phone cameras, and there were kids posing in the photo booth. There was even a lounge area and a nonalcoholic bar.

“It was meant to be a clubby kind of atmosphere,” Liv Smith ’16 said of her Sweet-Sixteen birthday party.

Smith decided to have a festive birthday party like this because it had been a while since she had thrown a big one.

Some kids don’t throw birthday parties as big as Smith’s, though; some choose to celebrate their birthday in more intimate ways.

Sophie Betar ’18 likes to celebrate her birthday by doing the latter. This year, Betar plans on taking her friends to dinner and then hosting a sleepover.

“Most of my friends do the same thing as I do,” Betar said.

Birthday party dynamics seem to have changed substantially since childhood. Kyle Baer ’15 believes this is “probably because parents stop planning them and kids are lazy.”

For his 18th birthday, Baer brought some friends into the city and had dinner at a steakhouse.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal and was too lazy to organize something proper,” Baer laughed.

Jack Norman ’17 also thinks that the definition of “birthday party” matured come high school.

“When I was younger, I guess I put way more thought into the party like what we’re going to do, where we’re going to do it, when we’re going to do it,” Norman said.

Last year, Norman brought his friends to Six Flags to celebrate. But this year, he plans to go a bit smaller.

Baer also notes that high school changes the meaning of the term “party.”

“Parties usually refer to drinking in high school, while in elementary school, a party was basically any large gathering of friends, usually doing an activity,” he said.

Aside from growing up, added peer pressure is also a major reason that alcohol is often a component of a high-school birthday party, according to Teen Awareness Group Co-President Isabel Perry ’15.

“I think when you’re younger, your parents plan the party and people don’t want to disrespect parents to their faces, but teenagers think that it’s easier to get away with drinking at parties because the parents play less of a role,” Perry said. “And then it’s a circle because peer pressure leads high schoolers to believe that you need to have drinking at a birthday party to be cool,” she added.

The one thing that remains constant about birthday parties throughout the years, though, is that the birthday boy or girl is surrounded by friends and family and loved ones.

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become way more ‘throw a bunch of people I want to spend time with in the same room and we’ll have a ton of fun,’” Norman said.