Dat­ing scene Down Un­der match­mak­ing off screen

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

AS an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by The Myan­mar Times dis­cov­ered in 2015, the Tin­der game in Yan­gon isn’t ex­actly light­ing up. De­spon­dent sin­gles in the Golden Land have rea­son to hope how­ever – peo­ple Down Un­der have a dif­fer­ent, more tra­di­tional form of meet­ing po­ten­tial part­ners.

Pick-up trucks, cow­boy boots and a 24-hour booze-fu­elled party in the Out­back form the heart of mod­ern-day dat­ing in Aus­tralia’s bush, where swip­ing right is not an op­tion.

For sin­gle men and women on re­mote farms or in tiny vil­lages, “Bach­e­lor and Spin­ster” balls of­fer a bet­ter chance of finding love than dat­ing apps like Tin­der.

The balls, a decades-old tra­di­tion in out­back Aus­tralia, still at­tract thou­sands of young adults look­ing for love – or to get rolling drunk.

“It’s very old-school,” Emily Pitt, a 24-year-old from the for­mer gold rush town of Gul­gong, tells AFP.

“It’s how coun­try sin­gles meet each other be­cause you’re ru­ral and there’s hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres be­tween you.”

Sur­rounded by vast tracts of wheat and canola, Ariah Park, some 400 kilo­me­tres (250 miles) west of Syd­ney, is bet­ter known for grain-grow­ing than big par­ties.

It has a pop­u­la­tion of just 500 and the main street – with its row of his­toric build­ings with wide ve­ran­dahs – looks pre­served in time.

But on the last Satur­day of Oc­to­ber the usu­ally peace­ful village is in­un­dated with pick-up trucks, which roar up to a dried-out pad­dock to de­posit par­ty­go­ers.

About 1500 peo­ple showed up for this year’s out­door drink­ing and danc­ing ex­trav­a­ganza, the sec­ond-big­gest turnout in the event’s 32-year his­tory.

While the ball has a black-tie dress code, the warm-up party is a ca­sual affair, with peo­ple wear­ing scruffy T-shirts, shorts and flip flops and drink­ing heav­ily.

“It’s just fun. You meet peo­ple, you drink, you party,” says five-time B&S par­ty­goer Clau­dia Bai­ley, who trav­elled more than 200km to at­tend the cel­e­bra­tion.

“We got here Fri­day night and haven’t slept yet so it’s just com­pletely dif­fer­ent, noth­ing like club­bing or any­thing. It’s just a dif­fer­ent vibe,” the 21-year-old says.

When night falls par­ty­go­ers change into their for­mal at­tire and pack into a mar­quee where they stomp their boots and toss their cow­boy hats into the air as they dance to coun­try rock tunes belted out by live bands. Drunk and dis­or­derly The balls are no­to­ri­ous for binge drink­ing, ca­sual sex and dan­ger­ous driv­ing an­tics, and safety is a peren­nial con­cern for or­gan­is­ers.

Ariah Park rev­ellers get un­lim­ited al­co­hol for their A$120 (US$92) en­try ticket and a goody bag that in­cludes a plas­tic beer cup and a con­dom.

Pre-ball en­ter­tain­ment once fea­tured pick-up trucks – util­ity ve­hi­cles known as “utes” in Aus­tralia – tear­ing up the pad­dock in ear-split­ting “cir­cle work”.

That’s now banned but “key bang­ing” – mak­ing a ve­hi­cle back­fire – has taken cen­tre stage. Across the show­ground, deaf­en­ing pops shat­ter the air.

“Mine is pretty loud. It’s pretty good, I get flames ev­ery time I do it pretty much. I get wed­ding pro­pos­als, I get peo­ple ask­ing to marry me when I do it,” says Mandy Man­ning­ton, 22, from the nearby town of Mar­rar.

One man adds to the mer­ri­ment by driv­ing a sit-on lawn mower around in cir­cles as smoke belches from its two ver­ti­cal ex­haust pipes, at­tract­ing loud cheers from on­look­ers.

An­other rev­eller strolls past hold­ing a long walk­ing stick fash­ioned out of empty rum cans strapped to­gether with duct tape, draw­ing shouts of “Gan­dalf!”.

B&S reg­u­lar Jack Bee­hag from Syd­ney says he likes the easy-go­ing at­mos­phere of the balls.

“You just go up and talk to any­one re­ally,” the 20-year-old says, not­ing the big dif­fer­ence to the dat­ing apps pop­u­lar in the city that al­low peo­ple to chat on­line.

“Ev­ery­one gets along here bet­ter.”

‘Let their hair down’ Medics are on standby to treat the in­evitable in­juries.

“To­day al­ready some­body’s had a bit too much to drink and fallen off a ute and had a bit of a head in­jury ... You get ev­ery­thing like peo­ple fall­ing over, rolling their an­kles, hurt­ing their back or what not,” paramedic Aaron Savidge says.

As the festivities con­tinue and ine­bri­a­tion lev­els rise, pick-up trucks turn into makeshift camps with many amorous at­ten­dees en­tic­ing some­one back to their swag, an Aus­tralian-style bedroll, to spend the night.

“They used to have a sit-down din­ner, strictly black tie and closed shoes,” says or­gan­iser Ned Fisher, re­fer­ring to B&S balls of the past.

“Now it’s a mod­ern sort of thing where it’s just more of a bit of a party ... Peo­ple just come here and have a good time and meet new peo­ple and just re­ally let their hair down.”

A mod­i­fied “ute” fires flames from its ex­haust pipes be­fore the ball – talk about cre­at­ing a spark.

Photos: AFP

A cou­ple gets to know each other be­fore a “Bach­e­lor and Spin­ster” ball in the town of Ariah Park in western New South Wales. The balls are an al­ter­na­tive to the Tin­der-style dat­ing that has emerged in re­cent years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.