I've noticed a steady decline in participation and incline in reluctance to attend special events (since I am Air Force, namely the Air Force Birthday Ball) in the past decade. Do you think people still view these events as a vital part of tradition and commraderie or are they (as some proclaim) simply "mandatory fun" that must be endured because "we have always done it that way"? I've heard various reasons why people don't attend them or why they begrudginly participate -- e.g. my boss made me, it's all about being seen, I shouldn't have to buy mess dress, why do I have to spend all that money on babysitter/spouses's dress/tickets/etc, I can celebrate my services birthday without having to go to a birthday ball. But I don't hear very many reasons why people DO or WANT to attend. What do you think?
Edited >1 y ago
Posted >1 y ago
Yes, it is a great tradition to hold on to. I have been to numerous balls in my 12 years all with positive experiences. All the "excuses" people give (cost, dresses, child care, etc.) are just that, excuses. They don't complain about dropping money on name brand items at the PX on payday weekend or the new 2014 model when their 2009 was doing just fine. Or the single Soldier who blows his check at the club. My wife has four ball dresses that she recycles every four years and no one knows (well, until now). Childcare duties can be traded with other couples from other units (not everyone has the ball on the same date). Just about every excuse can be countered with a solution. The only ones who might need a little financial help are the new/young Soldiers/families. I have made it a point to buy two additional tickets for a young Soldier to every ball I have attended since becoming an NCO.
I was going to go to the Navy Ball one time when I was active duty, with a date (who was also a Sailor). I'll admit, I didn't want to wear a uniform. I wanted an excuse to dress up and be girly. I wanted a pretty ball gown. When we went to buy our tickets, we were told that because I was a servicemember, I had to wear a uniform.
We didn't go. I still got a pretty ball gown, and dressed up all girly that night, but my date and I went to a nice restaurant for dinner and a comedy club instead. Mandatory Fun = crap. Not that I wasn't proud of my uniform, but that was a complete deal breaker for me.
While I can appreciate the tradition and lineage of military balls of all branches and other events in general, while speaking for myself only, I believe that the decline in motivation(in the Army at least) stems largely from the fact that we've been deployed so heavily for the last decade that people have little or no interest in seeing the same people they just spent 9, 12, or 15 months together with, even if they get to dress nice and get drunk. Personally, that coupled with all of the other reasons people wouldn't want to go (babysitter finding, trusting, paying/money to assemble dress uniform, buying that special guy or gal something to wear that doesn't require a car loan, etc...) is enough to make someone feel better about just staying in.
I remember as a joe, thinking that attending a military ball with all my leadership there was something akin to getting drunk with your parents for the first time. Awkward, and condescending. So, in the spirit of having a drunken evening with my parents(so to speak), I did exactly what I would have done if I had ever been in the same situation with my real parents...I came hammered and brought a stripper. Wound up having a pretty good time, and as it turns out, a Captain from another Company had the same idea. So we sat together at a table apparently reserved for people having "too much fun."
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