Smoko: Innocent fun? It won't wash

It does make you feel old - and a little out of the loop. Having trouble recalling when you were last invited to a foam party?

Heavens, I don't think I've even been in a Jacuzzi since the mid-'80s. And when was the last time you were refused entry to a nightclub for being too old?

That latter indignity belongs to a 39-year-old Tauranga man who turned up to a bar at the weekend and was told he was too old to enter.

What sheltered, topsy-turvy lives some of us lead.

Not so the new young generation of 14- to 16-year-olds. We learn that while many of us are angsting over the futures of our diminishing pension plans, year 10 and 11 school pupils around Dunedin are being encouraged to attend special events in Dunedin nightclubs.

Not that anyone's grooming them for a dissolute future life of partying, with its underlying come-ons to social lubricants and the promise, however distant, of that three-letter word - which at 13 or 14, one would hope, can only be feverishly imagined.

"Yeah, right!" as the booze advertisements helpfully might suggest.

And what's a foam party anyway?

Hopefully, it bears little resemblance to that which was inadvertently stumbled across while channel surfing on the television after a late shift the other night: a nightclub that appeared to have been turned into a giant bath tub. At a glance, it appeared to be somewhere foreign, like Ibiza. The habitues were over-tanned and underdressed.

In thrall to chemical or alcohol-induced euphoria, they were rolling around semi-naked in a great sea of foam. A frightening sight for the equally bemused family hound and me, which called for a quick leap to the replay of an international cricket match and a soothing cup of cocoa.

Ah, the youth of today! Playing spin the bottle, with its excruciating potential for embarrassment (having to kiss a girl in the circle - yuck! - should the neck of the Fanta bottle point in your direction when it stopped spinning) while listening to Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was about as daring as it got for some of us. Never mind a gigantic wet T-shirt party down at the local hot spot. Great for the lads, wonder what the girls think about it.

Hanging about outside school gates trying to sell tickets to such events is, it has to be said, on the try-hard, seedy side. Otago Boys' High School has raised its concerns in the form of a letter home to in some cases unsuspecting parents.

You can just imagine the conversation at the breakfast table the day after the night before as Mum and Dad quiz little Johnny Fourth-former about the pile of wet clothes left on the carpet at the end of his bed the previous evening.

Mum: I didn't hear it raining last night.

Dad: Did it rain? I didn't hear it.

Mum: I don't think it did. Did you hear it, Johnny?

Johnny: Eh?

Dad: Rain?

Johnny: Rain what?

Mum: Well your clothes must have got wet somehow.

Dad: Wet clothes?

How did that happen?

Johnny: Just did.

Dad: Come on Johnny, out with it. Are you being bullied? Did someone throw water bombs at you?

Mum: Water bombs?

Dad: It's all the rage, apparently.

Well, son, speak up. Are you having a hard time at school? Shall I talk to someone?

Johnny: No, no, no, don't talk to anyone. And I'm not being picked on.

Mum: What then?

Johnny: We went on a sort of field trip?

Mum: A field trip? No-one told us.

Johnny: Well, it was short notice; and unofficial.

Dad: Unofficial?

Johnny: Actually, nothing to do with the school.

Dad: Where was it?

Johnny: In a nightclub.

Mum: What? A nightclub?

Dad: I'm ringing your headmaster right now.

Johnny: He doesn't know anything about it.

Mum: What happened in this nightclub?

Johnny: You know, the usual.Music and stuff.

Dad: Stuff?

Johnny: Yeah, stuff.

Mum: What kind of stuff?

Dad: Yes, what "stuff" exactly are we talking about?

Johnny: Foam.

Mum: Foam?! Come to think of it you do smell rather sweet.

Dad: Foam?! Is that all? Foam? Well that's all right then. Least you got a free bath for the cost of the admission. Well done. Keeping it clean, eh? That's my boy!

 - Simon Cunliffe is deputy editor (news) at the Otago Daily Times.




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